Armor: June 13, 2000


: More and more of the Army's generals are privately expressing concern about, and opposition to, General Shinseki's plan to transform the Army into a wheeled force able to reach war theaters within days instead of months. They note numerous problems: 

@ Congress has failed, indeed refused, to fund the conversion of the Army, telling Shinseki to take the cost out of the Army's own resources. The programs canceled to pay for the new mobile force have more supporters in the Army than the medium brigade concept.

@ The generals oppose the idea of transforming the heavy armored divisions into light armored car divisions, doubting that the lighter forces can stand up against tanks. Some might accept the conversion of one or two of the heavy divisions, but none want to convert all of them.

@ The generals say that Clinton-appointed officials know so little about the military and are so enamored about airpower that they will not hear and cannot understand the Army's concerns.

@ The generals want to see more thought and money expended on ways to transport the existing force rather than building a new unproven force. 

@ The whole idea of a lighter force winning against a larger and heavier force is based on the "digital battlefield" concept, in which the lighter force will know so much about the heavy force it will be able to exploit its weaknesses and avoid decisive engagements. The digital concept is yet to be proven, and the generals want to wait until it is completely ready before giving up the current proven heavy tank force they have.

The generals prefer to stop the current experiment after converting three or four brigades. These would then form an emergency rapid reaction force, holding off a crisis until heavier units could arrive. Conversion of other units (focused on existing light, not heavy units) would proceed when Congress provides money and the digital concept is proven.--Stephen V Cole


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