General Mark A Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army gave an interesting talk at a recent Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the U.S. Army. General Milley emphasized that he wasn’t talking about tinkering around the edges. ““The structure and organization of our Army, both operational and institutional, may change drastically” … [he warned, because] … Milley is convinced that war, especially ground war, is “on the cusp of fundamental change.” The character of war—how and where it is fought and with what weapons and tactics—is undergoing “fundamental, profound and significant change” … [and] … Wars of the future will be “very highly lethal, unlike anything our Army has experienced since World War II,” Milley said. It will be hard for formations to hide on battlefields flooded with sensors, meaning survival could depend on having fast-moving, smaller forces. “If you stay in one place for longer than two or three hours, you will be dead,” Milley said. “That obviously places demands on human endurance and on equipment.”“
“Wars,” General Milley said, “are more likely to be fought in dense urban areas with more robotic weapons and with a large civilian population in the middle of the fighting, a situation that makes the enemy elusive and combines conventional warfare with terrorism and guerilla activities. This requires “significant change in our current methods of thinking, training and fighting,” Milley said. “Army operations in complex and densely populated urban terrain are the toughest and bloodiest form of combat, and it will become the norm, not the exception, in the future,” he warned … [and] … Wars in the future are unlikely to include the comfort and stability of operating out of well-equipped bases, Milley said. “Life will almost certainly be extremely austere,” he said. “Learning to be comfortable without being seriously miserable every single minute of every day will have to become a way of life for an Army on the battlefield that I see coming.”“
Some Canadian soldiers, mostly from our Special Operations Forces (SOF) units are already coping with this sort of thing in places like Iraq, but it appears to me that the Canadian Army, the big, institutional army, is much like the bigger, even less adaptable American Army that General Milley is warning to get ready for big changes.
““Every assumption we hold, every claim, every assertion, every single one of them must be challenged,”” General Milley said, and “Adjusting to the future envisioned by Milley is complicated by ongoing missions and constrained resources. “We find ourselves in a difficult place. Our readiness to fight a war against a high-end, near-peer adversary has eroded in the last 15 years as we have 427 Special Ops Squadronfought, and continue to fight, terrorists and guerillas in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere,” Milley said. “We mortgaged our future. We mortgaged our future readiness and our modernization in order to adapt and sustain the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq.”” Canada did the same. And Canada, like the USA is now facing a broad spectrum of potential missions running the gamut from so-called peacekeeping to combat against modern, sophisticated enemies and our army, too, is in urgent need of modernization.
Fighting in complex but austere environments using high tech weapons and systems is going to put sever strains on logistics support ~ supply, transport and maintenance and we may need to quite fundamentally rethink how armies are organized. Should we, perhaps, re-examine the 19th century where we had paramilitary, contractor operated supply, transport and other logistic services? Ot should the “regular” army be heavy on engineers, signals, aviation and logistics while the combat soldiers will be found, primarily, in the short service reserve forces?
The most obvious course of action is to increase the number of “special operations” forces ~ people like the men and women in Joint TaskForce 2 (JTF-2), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) and 427 Special Operations Sqnuadron. But this is not as easy as it looks. Special operations people are just that: “special.” They need to be drawn, in relatively small numbers, from a pool of already excellent people. They are the crème de la crème of the military. The few hundred of soldiers in the CSOR are, already the best of the several thousand in regular force units and the people in JTF-2 are the best of the CSOR. If we want more “special” people we must both:
- Have a bigger pool from which to draw; and
- Ensure that new, larger pool is well trained and experienced.
Both those courses require more money for defence ~ not something that is high on Team Trudeau’s sunny, feminist and green agenda.
We, citizens without accurate, up-to-date, insider knowledge on defence and military matters ought not be telling the government, our government, or the military how to structure themselves in any great detail. But, we, citizens, ought to tell the government that we, unlike Team Trudeau on the campaign trail, understand that the strategic situation is changing and that we expect and are willing to pay for the military establishment to keep pace with the needed changes.