Ground Forces in the News - June 5, 2014

Jun 5, 2014

Bumpy Ride Ahead for Military’s Future Helicopter Program
June 5, 2014
Real Clear Defense
By Sandra I. Erwin

"The Pentagon's plan to acquire a new family of helicopters once again is up in the air. The military intends to continue to fund rotary-wing research and testing programs, officials said, but it cannot yet predict if or when it will have funds to buy new aircraft to replace the current fleet. Like every other modernization program in the Defense Department, new helicopters have to compete for funding within a pool of shrinking dollars. Officials said the military services are having to trade off new weapon systems to fund their payroll.

'The budget environment is very difficult,' said Jose M. Gonzalez, deputy director of land warfare, munitions and tactical warfare systems at the Defense Department.

The helicopter modernization effort known as 'future vertical lift' got under way in 2009. The goal is to design and build a family of helicopters that would replace the current fleet of Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks by 2030. Analysts have estimated the program could be worth up to $100 billion."

Congress to Delay Controversial Army Aviation Restructure Plan
June 5, 2014
National Defense News
By Valerie Insinna

“The debate over the Army’s aviation restructure initiative is only the opening bell for what will likely be a long, painful struggle to define the roles of the service’s active and National Guard components, experts said.

Despite opposition from Army leadership, the result will likely be a congressionally mandated commission to study the proposal to reshuffle aircraft, they said.

Under the Army’s plan, the National Guard would transfer its entire fleet of 192 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the active force in return for 111 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters. The active component wants additional Apaches to take over reconnaissance missions currently flown by the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior — an aging scout helicopter that will be retired because the Army does not have the money to either refurbish it or buy a new platform.”

Ground Forces in the News - June 3, 2014

Jun 3, 2014

RIMPAC to include experiment on small-unit operations
June 2, 2014
Marine Corps Times
By Gina Harkins

“About 700 Hawaii-based Marines and sailors will deploy across three widely dispersed training areas in Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific 2014, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. This year’s five-week-long RIMPAC exercise on and around the Hawaiian Islands includes 23 nations and roughly 25,000 U.S. and allied troops.

Members of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, will split into three company landing teams and cope with the challenges of self-sustainment. But they won’t be completely on their own; they’ll be taking an assortment of robots to help carry the load and other gear to provide their own water and power.

In addition, one of the company landing teams will arrive ashore aboard a prototype of the Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector, viewed as one possible solution to the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault needs. The ship-to-shore connectors the Marine Corps has now are not a good fit with its blueprint for amphibious operations.”

Navy Considers Commercial Technology for New Amphib
June 1, 2014
DoD Buzz
By Kris Osborn

“Navy leaders have considered implementing large-scale commercial components into a new amphibious assault ship as a way to both achieve performance goals and lower construction costs.

Called the LXR, the new amphibious ship could be a new design or configuration of several existing ships such as a version of the existing LSD 41/49 or a modified version of the Navy’s LPD 17 San Antonio Class amphibious transport dock, service officials said.

Weighing the need to keep costs as low as possible and still build a technically capable new ship, the Navy is considering using a commercially-designed ship propulsion system for the LXR, said Vice Adm. Willy Hilarides, Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command.”

A May 2014 conversation with LTG Poffley OBE, UK Army

Jun 2, 2014

On May 12, 2014, Ground Forces Dialogue staff had the opportunity to sit down with LTG Poffley, Commander Force Development and Capability. LTG Poffley recently assumed responsibility for future concepts for the UK Army, and will be crafting the Army’s input for the UK’s 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review.  

We had a wide-ranging discussion about some the ongoing changes for the U.S. and UK armies, both of which are downsizing. From the UK perspective, LTG Poffley argued, the most important attribute U.S. forces must retain is an architecture into which UK forces can nest in order to conduct operations at scale. The UK’s challenge, he said, is that it needs to maintain the capability to conduct operations across a broad spectrum independently, but with a relatively small force. Thus, they need the U.S. to bring mass in areas that require advanced technologies, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and aviation, and, increasingly, cyber.  This is why, he said, the interoperability agenda between our two nations remains so critical.
 
When asked about whether these enablers will likely extend into the logistics realm, LTG Poffley said that the UK is always looking to ensure they do not become a burden in this regard. As a result, he said, they have been seeking an independent sustainment capability. He thinks that much of this could come from private contractors, as they provide a cost-effective solution provided appropriate assurance was in place. The same holds, LTG Poffley noted, for some communications and equipment support capabilities. 
 
LTG Poffley acknowledged that a greater reliance on contractors carries some risks, but that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated that it can also create opportunities (e.g., when contracts can be let to locals in ways that enhance operational objectives).  What the UK has not yet done, he suggested, is to calibrate the desired amount of risk for the coming expeditionary era. 
 
LTG Poffley said that despite such approaches, the plain fact is that the UK will continue to find it difficult to match the US mass.  If the US wants UK participation in a given operation, the UK may still need to draw on US capabilities. He noted that the basics of strategic transportation, for example, remain a real issue for UK forces. In addition, recent operations have created a greater expectation for various strategic enablers than existed prior to the Iraq and Afghanistan operations.
 
LTG Poffley also discussed recent changes in UK forces, noting that the UK has decided to pare back support structures in order to preserve combat capabilities across the operational spectrum. The challenge going forward, he said, was to consider whether forces are more likely to be tactically surprised in the land rather than air or maritime domains. If so, he said, then being able to see and respond very quickly helps to mitigate the associated risk.  
 
Going forward, LTG Poffley stressed the criticality of UK and US forces staying closely linked in their research and development and science and technology efforts. To do so, he argued, the two countries will need to work through ways to better share sensitive information and technologies. “If we are going to help provide early warning,” he offered as one example, “then we need to be able to benefit from it too.” He cited past examples of mutually beneficial collaboration, such as the use of high end technologies to help overcome threats from improvised explosive devices. LTG Poffley offered armor as another area of potential future collaboration, where the UK has some ideas that might also help address U.S. ground force needs.  Truly leveraging such potential will require overcoming existing bureaucratic impediments: LTG Poffley noted as an example one case in which the UK had asked for source code in order to address operator qualification, but because of difficulties with intellectual property rights they were forced to spend time and money retesting the code for use. While bilateral agreements often work well at the highest levels, he summarized, fighting through the bureaucracy at lower levels could be problematic.

CSIS’ Sam Brannen on How the Military Should Approach the Manned/Unmanned Teaming Concept

May 22, 2014

Duration: 00:01:53

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In this March 19, 2014 interview, CSIS Senior Fellow Sam Brannen describes the Army’s innovative concept to experiment with manned/unmanned platforms. He describes the benefit of exploring making greater use of what each of the services already owns, which, while it would involve some limited expense, could result in a huge payoff.

CSIS’ Sam Brannen on Unmanned Systems' Contributions to Military Roles and Missions

May 22, 2014

Duration: 00:01:47

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In this March 19, 2014 interview, CSIS Senior Fellow Sam Brannen discusses the need for the Department of Defense to create a joint office specifically focused on articulating the most appropriate roles and missions for unmanned systems. Mr. Brannen states that many Pentagon leaders lack information about how best to evaluate unmanned contributions, and that such an office would help the defense enterprise better leverage the technology in the most appropriate ways.​

CSIS’ Sam Brannen on the Future of Autonomy for Unmanned Systems

May 22, 2014

Duration: 00:02:41

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In this March 19, 2014 interview, CSIS Senior Fellow Sam Brannen discusses the idea that future unmanned platforms will be able to operate independently. However, he cautions that claims that autonomy will lead to systems with human level intelligence are overstated. Brannen argues that autonomous systems' greatest promise may be when applied to discrete tasks such as landing or take off, for example, and in other bandwidth-intensive activities.

CSIS’ Sam Brannen on the State of Unmanned Systems

May 22, 2014

Duration: 00:01:38

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In this March 19, 2014 interview, Senior Fellow Sam Brannen discusses the scope and findings of his recent study on unmanned systems. That work found that the technologies allowing the removal of the operator from various platforms have already been transformational, but that their future potential is truly revolutionary.

Sustaining the U.S. Lead in Unmanned Systems:
http://csis.org/files/publication/140227_Brannen_UnmannedSystems_Web.pdf

Ground Forces in the News - May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014

Crisis response Marines positioned closer to Africa
May, 14 2014
Marine Corps Times
By Gina Harkins

Nearly a quarter of the Corps’ Spain-based crisis response force has been prepositioned in southern Italy at the request of the State Department to respond more quickly to diplomatic crises that might break out in northern Africa. About 180 members of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response moved from their base in Morón, Spain, to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, on Tuesday. Moving a portion of the force to Sigonella was done in coordination and consultation with the State Department in order to be prepared to protect U.S. personnel and facilities on U.S. installations in North Africa, said Master Sgt. Chad McMeen, a spokesman with Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. Although based in Europe, the unit is responsible for responding to crises in Africa

Senior Advisor Dr. Maren Leed Quoted in Breaking Defense

May 14, 2014

There are already 26 megacities, defined as urban areas with over 10 million population, including such hives of instability as Karachi, Pakistan and Lagos, Nigeria. Worldwide the urban population now exceeds the rural for the first time in history. While megacities are the flavor of the month, they’re hardly the only potential trouble spots.

“It’s not just megacities,” said Maren Leed, a ground warfare expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We weren’t fighting in megacities in Iraq.”

Nor is the problem going to wait for 2035. “It’s not something, unfortunately, that’s 20 years away, so there’s some degree of urgency in thinking about this more deliberately,” Leed told me. “Both the Army and the Marine Corps are doing that on their own, but it ought to be something that the Joint Staff and OSD [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] are leaning forward on.”

Full article can be found here

Ground Forces in the News - May 13, 2014

May 13, 2014

10K soldiers must go this year, 20K next year
May 12, 2014
Army Times
By Jim Tice

“Nearly 30,000 soldiers must be removed from the active rolls in the next 17 months if the Army is to make the first waypoint in a drawdown that eventually will reduce the force to 450,000, or even 420,000, soldiers. As of April 1, there were 519,786 troopers on active duty, according to the most recent accounting of Regular Army strength by the Defense Manpower Data Cnter. The personnel total includes 4,000 West Point cadets and several hundred soldiers who are processing for separation because of physical disability, and several hundred others who have been identified for involuntary separation or retirement because of indiscipline or selection by force reduction boards.”

Dempsey Wants to ‘Rebalance the Use of Military Power’
May 12, 2014
Defense One
By James Kitfield

“At the top of the United States military’s vast, global bureaucracy sits the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the land and the president’s senior military advisor. The chairman sits between the four-star service chiefs on one side, and the four-star combatant commanders on the other. The chiefs are responsible for developing, training and equipping the armed forces for the future. The commanders are responsible for deploying those forces, and their focus is on the application of military power to mitigate crises of the day. Between them in that “supply and demand” equation sits Gen. Martin Dempsey mitigating disputes and fashioning tradeoffs”

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