Services Have Learned Irregular Warfare, Leaders Say

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — The mil­i­tary has insti­tu­tion­al­ized lessons learned from the past decade of non­con­ven­tion­al war­fare and will work to main­tain doc­trine and skills that allow the ser­vices to bal­ance readi­ness for tra­di­tion­al defens­es as well as irreg­u­lar fight­ing, ser­vice lead­ers told a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee today.

“In 2002, the nation effec­tive­ly went to war with two armies,” Maj. Gen. Peter Bay­er, the Army’s direc­tor of strat­e­gy, plans and pol­i­cy, told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “One, com­prised of gen­er­al-pur­pose forces, was pre­pared to excel against tra­di­tion­al adver­saries in direct com­bat. The sec­ond, com­prised large­ly of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, was pre­pared to pre­vail in an irreg­u­lar envi­ron­ment.

“The Army quick­ly learned that suc­cess on the bat­tle­fields of Afghanistan and Iraq required adap­ta­tion in both gen­er­al-pur­pose and spe­cial oper­a­tions forces,” Bay­er said. The Army has adapt­ed since then by insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing irreg­u­lar war­fare capa­bil­i­ties and capac­i­ty across the force, he said.

Bay­er was joined by Rear Adm. Sin­clair M. Har­ris, direc­tor of the Navy irreg­u­lar war­fare office; Brig. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue, direc­tor of the Marine Corps’ capa­bil­i­ties devel­op­ment direc­torate; and Brig. Gen. Jer­ry P. Mar­tinez, direc­tor for joint inte­gra­tion in the Air Force’s direc­torate of oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty require­ments. All four said readi­ness for irreg­u­lar war­fare is crit­i­cal to future oper­a­tions, and they described how each of the ser­vices has blend­ed con­ven­tion­al and irreg­u­lar warfight­ing doc­trine and skills.

The Navy has lever­aged its Navy Expe­di­tionary Com­bat Com­mand and estab­lished mar­itime part­ner­ship sta­tions and mar­itime head­quar­ters with mar­itime oper­a­tions cen­ters to meet demands, Har­ris said. “The evo­lu­tion of intel­li­gence and strike capa­bil­i­ties has enabled the Navy to meet urgent com­bat­ant com­man­der require­ments for coun­tert­er­ror­ism and coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions,” he said.

The Navy Irreg­u­lar War­fare Office, cre­at­ed in 2008, has led the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of irreg­u­lar capa­bil­i­ties, Har­ris said.

The Marine Corps has designed a readi­ness force for post-Afghanistan oper­a­tions � beyond 2014 � “that mit­i­gates this hybrid threat, cre­ates options and pro­vides deci­sion space for senior lead­er­ship” that con­sid­ers joint, inter­a­gency and allied respons­es, O’Donohue said.

That force will be fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from the cur­rent or pre-9/11 force, O’Donohue said. “It draws on a rich his­to­ry of inno­va­tions in irreg­u­lar war­fare, but is recast as a scal­able cri­sis response force ready to counter com­plex irreg­u­lar, con­ven­tion­al and hybrid threats � and the gray areas in between,” he said.

“Above all,” O’Donohue added, “we pre­pare to oper­ate in and adapt to unpre­dictable, uncer­tain, com­plex envi­ron­ments at a moment’s notice.” He not­ed that irreg­u­lar war­fare is not new, and had the same def­i­n­i­tion in the Marines’ Small Wars Man­u­al of 1940 as it does today.

As for the Air Force, Mar­tinez said, the ser­vice is part of a larg­er, joint, coali­tion effort, and that works to sup­ple­ment or improve host-nation and region­al capa­bil­i­ties. “Air pow­er direct­ly con­tributes by estab­lish­ing a secure envi­ron­ment in which the part­ner nation can flour­ish, ulti­mate­ly with­out direct assis­tance,” he said.

By assess­ing, train­ing, advis­ing and equip­ping a trou­bled part­ner air force, air­men can con­tribute to that nation’s sov­er­eign­ty and legit­i­ma­cy while cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for eco­nom­ic growth, polit­i­cal devel­op­ment and sta­bil­i­ty, he added.

Like his coun­ter­parts at the hear­ing, Mar­tinez said the Air Force’s chal­lenge going for­ward will be how to bal­ance the require­ments for irreg­u­lar war­fare with those of tra­di­tion­al fight­ing, although he added that an increase in capa­bil­i­ties in one area usu­al­ly helps the oth­er.

The most impor­tant thing the Army can do to advance the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of irreg­u­lar war­fare is to con­tin­ue edu­cat­ing its lead­ers, Bay­er said.

“By devel­op­ing adap­tive and cre­ative lead­ers, the Army ensures its abil­i­ty to respond to a wide range of future tasks,” he said. “Main­tain­ing a high­ly pro­fes­sion­al edu­ca­tion sys­tem is cru­cial to insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the lessons of the past decade and ensur­ing that we do not repeat the mis­takes of post-Viet­nam by think­ing that these kinds of oper­a­tions are behind us.”

Future bat­tle­fields will be pop­u­lat­ed with hybrid threats, Bay­er said, with com­bi­na­tions of reg­u­lar and irreg­u­lar tac­tics against ene­mies that include ter­ror­ists and crim­i­nal groups. The Army must remain flex­i­ble to oper­ate against “what­ev­er the threat” and in all types of set­tings, he said.

“As pres­sures for cuts in defense spend­ing and force struc­tures increase, the Army must assess which capa­bil­i­ties to empha­size, how many of each, and at what lev­el,” he said. “Find­ing the right mix will be a chal­lenge.”

The key to advanc­ing the Army’s abil­i­ty to respond to irreg­u­lar threats will be to ensure the nec­es­sary force struc­ture to sup­port a ver­sa­tile mix of capa­bil­i­ties in an uncer­tain future, he said.

The Army demon­strat­ed flex­i­bil­i­ty in Iraq and Afghanistan with mod­u­lar brigades that includ­ed a host of irreg­u­lar war­fare spe­cial­ties, includ­ing infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions, pub­lic affairs and civ­il affairs, Bay­er said.

All of the offi­cers said for­eign lan­guage and cul­tur­al train­ing will grow as a require­ment for ser­vice mem­bers.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)