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STATEMENT BY
DR. ANDREW F. KREPINEVICH, JR.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

BEFORE THE
HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ON OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM: 
A FIRST BLUSH ASSESSMENT

OCTOBER 21, 2003   

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is a great honor to have the opportunity to appear before you today to assess the war to topple Saddam Hussein and the lessons that can be derived from the recent conflict for future strategic planning, transformation and force structure.

These prepared remarks offer a first-blush assessment of the coalition campaign against Saddam Hussein's regime that began on March 19, 2003, and was declared completed by President George W. Bush on May 1, 2003. Given the lack of comprehensive data on coalition operations and the tentative nature of much of the data thus far made public, many of the "lessons" or implications that follow must be regarded as preliminary. I cannot emphasize enough how important a thorough independent assessment of the conflict is, similar to the Gulf War Air Power Survey commissioned by the US Air Force after Operation Desert Storm. Moreover, any assessment of Operation Iraqi Freedom should focus on how the experience of this war will influence future military competitions. The following are among the war's potential implications for US military planners:

Strategic Implications

The United States Is in the Regime-Change Business

If there ever was any doubt that the United States is in the regime-change business, the Second Gulf War should dispel it. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States has, directly or indirectly, deposed the regime of a foreign state roughly once every three years. But those who practice regime change incur certain responsibilities as well as moral and political consequences. The United States must stabilize Iraq, lest it incur a significant setback in its efforts to make progress in the war against hostile Islamic regimes and radical Islamic terrorist movements. Success, however, will likely involve a protracted occupation of Islamic states (i.e., Afghanistan and Iraq) and exact substantial human and material costs. This means the US military's preference to do what it does best-defeat enemy forces in the field and then quickly depart-must be overcome. The practice of crafting quick exit strategies must yield to a willingness to develop a comprehensive strategy for winning both the war and the postconflict period that follows. In short, the American military-the Army, in particular-must create a significant capability for conducting stability operations.

Divergence, Not Convergence

Although it comes as no surprise to most military observers, Operation Iraqi Freedom again demonstrated the wide-and expanding-gap between the US and all the world's other militaries in conventional operations. The implications for those who consider themselves actual or potential enemies of the United States are clear: they must avoid taking on the American military in conventional war. Rather, they must move to the extremes along the spectrum of conflict. For rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, this means acquiring nuclear weapons or pursuing more ambiguous forms of aggression through support of terrorist organizations. A third option is to develop anti-access and area-denial capabilities. 

The Anti-Access Challenge Is Real and Growing 

Operation Iraqi Freedom provided a clear lesson for what has been a growing trend: denying US access to overseas bases. Moreover, the Bush Administration's increased emphasis on preventive strike and preventive war could make it even more difficult to secure forward base access. Foreign governments would be more likely to grant access in response to an act of aggression than when the United States is contemplating initiating military operations. This fact highlights the need for the United States to develop and field military forces capable of conducting large-scale power-projection operations independent of access to forward bases. 

Precision Warfare Comes of Age


The Second Gulf War found coalition forces in the position of trying to protect the people of Iraq and the nation's infrastructure from the regime in Baghdad. In recent years the United States has waged war against regimes, not nations. Consequently, the US military had the mission of defeating the enemy regime without alienating the population, so as to facilitate postwar reconstruction and stability operations. Key to achieving this objective was limiting noncombatant casualties and damage to the target state's infrastructure. To do this, the US-led coalition had to strike with discrimination and move with great speed. Advanced intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities proved critical to identifying military targets. The widespread use of precision guided munitions (PGMs) enabled discriminate strikes, minimizing the loss of noncombatant lives and sparing much of Iraq's economic infrastructure. 

Compressing the Engagement Cycle

Time is becoming an increasingly precious asset on the modern battlefield. To offset the remarkable accuracy of PGMs, adversaries can become mobile, compressing the time US forces have between identifying and striking a target. The US military's ability to compress the engagement cycle during Operation Iraqi Freedom represents an important step forward in the transition to a new age of precision warfare.

Precision Strike


The Second Gulf War witnessed the widespread use of precision bombardment on an unsurpassed scale and intensity. Of great importance was the fact that these munitions enabled the US military to wage a campaign that was both ferocious and discriminate.

Joint Integration

The close integration of precision air strikes and ground combat operations-known in military parlance as "joint" operations-proved essential to another critical element of the campaign: the need for ground forces to move quickly to seize Iraq before Saddam could destroy it. Air and ground forces, which had fought essentially separate wars in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, were integrated to a higher degree than ever before.

Friendly Fire

The maturing of precision warfare may reduce substantially the percentage of casualties inflicted by friendly forces upon one another. Preliminary data show that US forces made progress in the ability to minimize mistakenly attacking each other, a phenomenon known as "friendly fire" or "blue-on-blue" engagements. During Operation Desert Storm, 25.6 percent of those killed in action died as a result of blue-on-blue engagements, versus only 6.5 percent during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

The Battle over the Lessons of Iraq

The battle for Iraq is over. The battle among the Services for pride of place and budget share has begun. This report offers some preliminary observations on these issues. 

Persistent Surveillance: UAVs and SOF

The US military's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) continued to grow in importance, and their role seems certain to expand in the future. However, if and when enemy air defense systems become more formidable and the anti-access threat matures, the US military will likely require a significant number of stealthy, extended-range UAVs to maintain the kind of persistent surveillance it found so valuable in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the basis of early reports, it appears that special operations forces (SOF) played an important role in enabling the persistent surveillance that made it so difficult for Iraqi forces to move without being detected and engaged. The role of SOF may increase if the anti-access/area-denial threat precludes the rapid movement of ground forces into a threatened region. 

Bombers 

Bombers have performed impressively in all major recent US military operations, and the Second Gulf War proved no exception. Operation Iraqi Freedom saw bombers accounting for less than 3 percent of the strike sorties, but dropping approximately 28 percent of all munitions. The Air Force was able to orbit bombers overhead to provide on-call precision firepower. Operating this way assumes an environment in which enemy air defenses have been neutralized. While this proved to be the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, it may not always hold true. As the anti-access threat grows, the need for extended-range, stealthy strike platforms-be they bombers or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) -seems certain to increase. 

Tankers


Just as the difficulties in securing forward base access increased the US military's reliance on bombers, the need to operate short-range tactical aircraft at more distant bases increased the need for tanker aircraft to extend their range. The tanker-to-total-sortie ratio in the Second Gulf War was double that of Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force's tanker fleet, however, is showing its age. Clearly, the tanker fleet must be modernized. The argument is only made stronger by the Air Force's expanding emphasis on short-range strike aircraft. Yet tanker modernization has not achieved the necessary priority in the Service's budget. 

Ground Forces: Conventional and Stability Operations

Operation Iraqi Freedom was undertaken with just one heavy Army division, and it is difficult to imagine what prospective adversary would seek to challenge US supremacy in armored warfare. One clear lesson that has emerged from the coalition operation in Iraq is that stability operations are likely to prove more challenging for the US military than the war itself. Given the number and scale of stability operations in which the Army is involved, the protracted nature of these operations, and the Service's other commitments, the support of allied forces will likely prove more crucial in this decade than in the last. 

Tactical Aircraft

The maturation of the US military's precision strike capabilities threatens to make tactical strike aircraft a victim of their own success. Over the past twelve years, the US military's aggressive fielding of PGMs, and the modification of nearly every strike aircraft to employ them, have greatly enhanced the strike force's effectiveness. Thus, while Operation Desert Storm employed some 1,600 American tactical strike aircraft, Operation Iraqi Freedom required less than half that number. The reduced reliance on tactical aircraft can also be attributed to the difficulty in obtaining access to forward air bases. Yet more than 2,000 new tactical strike aircraft are scheduled to be procured, with the overwhelming majority requiring fixed, forward-base access.

 Meeting Tomorrow's Challenges


Familiar Threats

Genuine transformation of militaries transcends merely becoming more effective in the existing warfare regime; rather, it entails progress toward competing effectively in an emerging warfare regime that promises to be quite different from previous experience. Yet the remarkable US-led coalition campaign in the Second Gulf War was essentially waged against an Iraqi force whose composition would have been familiar to the German Army that introduced blitzkrieg to the world more than sixty years ago. Indeed, the Iraqi military might not have been a match for the Wehrmacht circa 1940, let alone the American military of 2003. 

Emerging Challenges

A measure of just how far the US military has yet to go in terms of transforming to meet emerging threats can be seen in the changing face of conflict. The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missile technology will eventually enable even small states to hold at risk the forward air bases and the major ports used to resupply US troops. US power-projection forces increasingly run the risk of confronting adversaries with land-based military forces such as missiles and aircraft and coastal forces such as advanced antiship mines, submarines and small combatants (perhaps masquerading as commercial vessels) equipped with very lethal high-speed antiship cruise missiles. Americans are all too aware of the threat of catastrophic terrorism to the homeland. Access to space is becoming ubiquitous. How will the US military deny an enemy access to space capabilities in the event of crisis or conflict? Nuclear weapons are proliferating. How might a collapsing state's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) be secured before it falls into the wrong hands? The United States has the world's most advanced information infrastructure and, by some accounts, apparently one of the most vulnerable. How will it be defended? Operation Iraqi Freedom offers few clues as to how to prepare for these emerging challenges.

Recent conflicts like the Second Gulf War offer some tantalizing hints about where the US military could be headed along its transformation path. Yet the war in Iraq appears more reflective of old threats than new challenges. Remarkable as the recent developments in US military capabilities have been, they do not suffice to dominate the very different kinds of threats that are emerging. Despite its recent successes, the Pentagon's motto must be, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Thank you for your attention.  I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have.


House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515