Services Have Learned Irregular Warfare
Services Have Learned
Irregular Warfare, Leaders Say
By Lisa Daniel,
American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFPS)
-- November 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
“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,
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,
“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
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.