The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats

I won't knock the decision to relieve SECDEF Rumsfeld. And as you know I am not particularly a fan of the administration either. But...

So many people are outwardly hailing the decision, blaming Rumsfeld for countless operational SNAFUs in Iraq. I'm no admirer of his, nor a firm believer in his command abilities. But there often seems to be much confusion about what the SECDEF's job actually is and what the Pentagon actually does. Many are blaming Rumsfeld for problems running the war. But operations in Iraq aren't run by Rumsfeld. They aren't even run by the Pentagon. They are run by CENTCOM in Tampa, FL.

Since the DoD reorganization in the early 1990s, combat operations have run through the Unified Combatand Commands, by a 4 star general or admiral who is ultimately responsible for the combat operations in his or her geographical area and reports directly to the Commander In Chief. The chain of command runs to each of those Generals in each geographical location - The Pacific, Europe, The Middle East, South America, and North America. The SECDEF, then, acts generally as an intermediary or an observing authority on the operational end. Any choices on troops force levels, for example, are determined by the combatant commanders (Generals) on the ground based on what is needed for the mission and what resources and capabilities the Pentagon has to give them. While they are doing this, those in the Pentagon are busy raising the force, training the force, and putting together think-tanks of field grade and flag officers to generate OPLANs for future conflicts. In a nutshell: the Unified Combatant Commands run the wars in the present, the Pentagon raises and equips the military for the future.

While there have been plenty of planning and operational SNAFUs, people often don't realize what SECDEF Rumsfeld has really accomplished in his actual job. He is personally responsible for what has essentially been a revolution in the affairs of the Department of Defense - DoD Transformation - which will allow the US Military to do what it wasn't originally designed to do: respond to terrorism. Important examples of his masterwork include: The reorganization of Army Divisions into highly responsive Brigade Combat Teams, the creation and strengthening of new combatant commands such as Special Operations Command and the up-and-coming Unified Medical Command (which will be crucial for the success of the vastly increased amount of humanitarian and civil-relief missions that the military is now taking part in). Not to mention that he is also wholly responsible for the new Rapid Fielding Initiative, which allows new equipment to be tested quickly, on the ground and in the conflict and gets needed equipment (eg. advanced body armor, stryker vehicles, &c) where it needs to be as soon as it is battle ready. Before him, the military did not have anything close to that capability.
It is because of Rumsfeld that the Armed Forces are positioned to respond to a multitude of asymmetric threats that they did not have the capability to defend against only 6 years ago. Just remember that as you cheer his resignation.

An interesting conversation below:

Exactly how has the military changed to respond to these new challenges? I guess I don't see what you're claiming reflected on the nightly news.

I also seem to recall our clueless president hailing Rumsfeld's decision to send in reduced troop levels, the logic being that with our advanced technologies, less troops could control more territory. Much to the consternation of various generals and military advisers. Ring any bells?

Oh, and one more thing - the under-armoring of troops...seems like a Rumsfeld legacy too.

Yeah, he sure accomplished a lot in 6 years. If by accomplish you mean putting a lot of young men and women's lives at risk with nary a second thought.

First to the under-armoring of troops. The truth of the matter is that any time we enter a conflict, the military that we fight with is the military that built many years before. We try to do our best to predict what kind of conflict we will be fighting in the future. But it does not always work out. We took a military that was designed for force-on-force cold-war-type conflict into an asymmetric conflict. Every unit entering the conflict was equipped with the resources that unit was designed to be equipped with. When they got to the ground they found themselves being tasked by the COMBATANT COMMANDERS (not Rumsfeld, who is an administrator, not a General) to do missions they were not designed to handle. They were working with what they had. Some, for example, did not have the necessary armor on their Humvees. It was because of this fact, the necessity for these units to be able to adapt their resources to new and varied missions, that Rumsfeld created the RAPID FIELDING INITIATIVE. This initiative's purpose was to allow new equipment to be fielded quickly in response to the ever varying needs of the units on the ground. So the under-armoring of troops was a legacy of the Cold War Military that we went into Iraq with, not of Rumsfeld. The Rapid Fielding Initiative, however, is certainly a legacy of his.

Other massive changes that have been made include:
The complete and utter reorganization of the Army from Divisions to highly versatile and responsive Brigade Combat Teams. The full equipping and manning of Special Operations Command and charging them with all assymmetric warfare and counterterrorism planning and analysis. The full implementation of Network Centric Warfare, and the creation of the Global Information Grid - which, for example, give Battalion Commanders on the ground access to intelligence, information, and communications resources that used to be available only at the level of Army Divisions or Corps.

Or what about the creation of the Army's Battle Command Knowledge System, a "lesson's learned" resource which allows the Army to collect, analyze and incorporate the lessons from its operations and training into its doctrine and operating procedures in a matter of HOURS rather than months or years.

Or how about the planned creation of a Unified Medical Command which, as I mentioned, will crucial for the success of the vastly increased number of humanitarian and civil-relief missions that the military now takes part in (eg. Katrina, the Tsunami, Subsaharan Africa, Eastern Europe, &c).

These are just a few examples...

Further on under-armoring of troops
And you might ask, why didn't they just get the armor they needed before they went, or why when they found out that they needed it didn't they get it right away?
The answer to that is that we have a set amount of resources, for a military that was procured many years ago. It is the responsibility of commanders on the ground to use wisely the resources that they are given. That is why we give them officer commissions and pay for their education. To think.
Thankfully many do. And thankfully, many in the Pentagon do to. They realized that there has to be a way to get newly procured equipment to the ground quickly. To learn what critical deficiencies existed in the tables of organization and equipment (the list of what equipment is authorized to each unit), modify the TOE, contact the supply manufacturers, generate new supplies from the factory and ship it directly to those units that are most in need of it in a matter of weeks or months. So they created RFI. Keep in mind that they could not do this before. No military in the history of the world has had that ability. It is quite a logistical feat that they have been able to do this.



  • At 7:09 PM, Blogger Wang said…

    My criticism of Rumsfeld largely stems from what I know about him through his interviews and his portrayal by Bob Woodward. I think most military inclined folks would agree that Rumsfeld went in with a strong goal, and that was to make the military stronger, faster, better. In the wake of major terrorist threats, he tried to, like Sean said, to make us better able to respond to threats.

    His faults as I have observed in reading everything I can get my hands on is that Rumsfeld was a notorious micro-manager, who in his quest to modernize the military, did not utilize the best people suited to the job. He took no criticism and ousted those who did not share the exact path and vision that he was taking. Surrounded by military members who did not present any opposition, he tried to stifle the military under DoD control, did not give two shakes about the Joint Chiefs, and let his own politics get between him and transforming the military, OFTEN to his detriment.

    Noble goal, HORRIBLE execution, for that reason, I'm more than glad he's gone. His poor execution in planning post war Iraq has really put service men and women and American policy between a rock and a hard place.

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    I agree with you Wang definately re: Planning for Post-war Iraq (entering with a smaller force &c). You are 100% correct. Hence why I am not a great fan of his.

    But I don't think anyone has ever been able to make changes to the military like he has. At no time since the Post WWII reorganization has this much change been able to occcur.

    You say he often "let his own politics get between him and transforming the military." What examples do you see of this, out of curiosity?

    And as for Execution - that isn't Rumsfeld's job at all. Again that is the job of the Generals at CENTCOM. So any problems with execution should be brought up with them, not with Rumsfeld.

    So for Planning Rummy gets an F. Transformation I would give him a B or B+. Execution - well thats not in the job description.

  • At 1:30 AM, Blogger Wang said…

    When I said that Rumsfeld let politics get in the way of transforming the military, I did not mean democrat/republican sorts of politics, but office politics. Rumsfeld had a history from the last time he was secretary of defense with Ford, of having a general disdain for working with the military. In his current stint, this seemed to again be the case. He saw the Joint Chiefs as completely useless and wanted the chain of command to be Bush-> Rumsfeld-> Military advisers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs is supposed to provide independent military advice to the President and Rumsfeld thought they should be subordinate to him. When came time to find a new chairman, Admiral Vern Clark, who has been credited with transforming the Navy, was not given the job, despite being the top candidate because he was not rank and file with Rumsfeld.

    Other examples, when DoD was putting together a taskforce to figure out how to prepare for war and post-war, State Dept people like Tom Warrick who were tapped as being the foremost experts on the subject were ousted off the team because of his affiliation with the Clinton administration. Despite being the most qualified, Rumsfeld made no effort to try to retain him when Cheney wanted him yanked.

    Rumsfeld wanted everything to be planned by DoD with no substantive involvement by military and State Dept. When they were planning for post war leadership roles for Iraqs cabinet positions, Jay Garner who was in charge of Iraq reconstruction assembled the best team he could possibly have put together, but Rumsfeld cherry picked people from DoD (despite huge gaps in experience and qualifications). Rumsfeld eventually brought in Bremer to replace Garner when I guess it became obvious to him he was stirring the pot too much.

    So not politics in the sense of Washinton DC partisanship, but the politics of doing things exactly his way and squashing dissent. That's called poor management.

    P.s. I meant execution in terms of getting his job done, not being a field general and telling troops where to go.

  • At 10:24 AM, Blogger Gavin Ford Kovite said…

    Yeah - the JSOC and CENTCOM did the actual warfighting, but clearly the major combat phase of the war was the only phase in which things went right. The RFI is great, but he's remembered for his role on pushing the president to direct his generals to move into Iraq with a scaled back strike force instead of an army of occupation. That makes it hard to blame the JSOC for the "execution" part, especially after Sec. Rumsfeld famously went over the cooler head of Gen Shinseki after the army chief remarked that a functional occupation would require a force much larger than Rumsfeld's.

    One of the biggest thorns in the side of the body politic right now is the memory of the war being sold on the cheap to the public. I have a feeling that years of occupation by hundreds of thousands of troops, costing hundreds of billions, would not have glided past congress so easily.

    My point is that if our project in Iraq wasn't DOA, then it sure was flatlined by the time the Jay Garner and the CPA left the table. I think that to lay the sucess or failure at the "execution" part of this war at the feet of the JSOC is to exaggerate the importance of tactics to the outcome of this war. The failure was strategic.


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