Sweeping Changes Ahead in Military Doctrine to Meet Current Threat
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2004 - Military doctrine needs to be less detailed, more
adaptable and less rooted in Cold War mindsets to guide U.S. military forces
confronting new challenges, particularly global terrorism.
That was the synopsis of Army leaders, who gathered this week at U.S. Army
Training and Doctrine Command headquarters at Fort Monroe, Va., to describe
sweeping changes they envision in military doctrine - that shared way of thinking
about the way the military approaches a problem and carries out missions.
Lt. Gen. William "Scott" Wallace heads the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth,
Kan., and commanded the Army's 5th Corps in leading Army forces during major
combat action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said much of the combat phase
of the campaign followed closely along age-old doctrinal principles.
But other aspects of the operation diverged significantly from traditional
doctrine, he said: the lack of clear-cut distinctions between the phases of
operations, the increased blend between conventional and special operations
forces, the emphasis on joint operations at increasing lower levels, among
Perhaps most significant, the Army leaders agreed, was the nature of the
enemy himself and the way he fights.
Under Cold War assumptions, which guided military doctrine for decades, the
adversary was relatively steady and predictable, explained Brig. Gen. David
Fastabend, director of concept development and experimentation at U.S. Army
Training and Doctrine Command's Futures Center.
Not so with the estimated 30 million to 60 million people in the world who
Fastabend said are "violently and irreconcilably opposed" to the concepts the
United States and much of the world has embraced: globalization, free markets
and the free exchange of ideas.
This enemy, Fastabend said, lacks the structure of the U.S. military as well
as its traditional adversaries, so it's able to adapt quickly to suit the circumstances. "Its
weakness is actually its strength," he said. In addition, these adversaries
simply don't think the way most other people think, making it difficult to
understand what motivates them or predict how they'll act.
These uncertainties, the Army leaders agreed, turn many doctrinal principles
rooted in the Cold War on their head. "Both the predictions and outcomes have
changed," Wallace said.
In response, Wallace said doctrine must become more streamlined so it's more
of a playbook than a textbook and gives commanders more flexibility on the
battlefield. "If you're looking for specificity in doctrine, you're not going
to get it," he said.
Similarly, as the enemy constantly adapts, so too must military doctrine,
the leaders agreed. Gone are the days when doctrine required little more than
periodic tweaking to stay current. More appropriate for today's military, they
agreed, would be a "living" doctrine that regularly incorporates new, proven
tactics, techniques, procedures and other lessons learned.
Fastabend said doctrine needs to be detailed enough to help military leaders
think and reason through an issue, but general enough to prepare them for "more
dimensions of uncertainty" than they faced in the past.
As the armed forces face these uncertainties, the military leaders agreed
the fundamentals of warfare - being able to shoot, communicate and move on
the battlefield - become more important than ever.
"When you've got that, you can deal better with uncertainty. It makes it
easier to do things nonstandard and unusual," Wallace said. "If you have the
fundamentals right, you can deal with the broken play."