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What’s Wrong With FM 3-0? Lots
Tom note: Here is the second entry in our 10 Long March posts for 2018, the 9th most-read item of the year, which originally ran on May 10, 2018. These posts are selected based on what's called 'total engaged minutes' (the total number of time spent reading and commenting on an article) rather than page views, which the T&P; editors see as a better reflection of Long March reader interest and community. Thanks to all of you for reading, and for commenting--which is an important part of this column.
It appears as though we have decided that insurgents are no longer a threat and we would rather fight a near-peer enemy. In the new Army field manual, FM 3-0 Operations, the U.S. Army has apparently decided to forget past lessons learned. FM 3-0 signals a shift in military strategy and a focus back to large-scale ground combat operations against near-peer threats, where belligerents possess technology and capabilities similar to the U.S. military. Essentially, we no longer want to do the “Vietnam or Iraq thing” again.
What’s odd here is we find similarities when comparing the latest FM 3-0, published in October 2017, to FM 100-5 Operations of Army Forces in the Field, published in September 1968 while Gen. William Westmoreland was the Army chief of staff. FM 3-0 resembles the losing strategy Westmoreland used in Vietnam. He sought victory by winning a head-to-head war by “grinding down” the enemy.
If you were to compare the two Army field manuals, you would find that they are nearly identical. There are similarities in how we determine and define the following: Combat Power, Phasing, Offensive Operations, Multi-Domain Extended Battlefield (Multi-capable Forces), Conflict Continuum and the Range of Military Operations (Spectrum of War).
Another glaring similarity is how we define “winning” in FM 3-0 – and yes, we do actually define how to win in the Army field manual.
Winning is the achievement of the purpose of an operation and the fulfillment of its objectives. The Army wins when it successfully performs its roles as part of the joint force during operations. It wins when it effectively shapes an OE for combatant commanders, and when it responds rapidly with enough combat power to prevent war thorough deterrence during crisis. When required to fight, the Army’s ability to prevail in ground combat at any scale becomes a decisive factor in breaking the enemy’s will to continue fighting. The Army wins when an enemy is defeated to such a degree that it can no longer effectively resist, and it agrees to cease hostilities on U.S. terms. To ensure that the military results of combat are not temporary, the Army follows through with its unique scope and scale of capabilities to consolidate gains and win enduring outcomes favorable to U.S. interests.
One of the biggest flaws in Westmoreland’s strategy in Vietnam was that he sought to win battles through a war of attrition. He determined success by using the number of enemy kills (i.e. the "body count"). He defined winning as fulfillment of objectives, yet the objectives were never clear in Vietnam. Westmoreland sought victory through the defeat of the enemy to such a degree that the opponent could no longer resist.
So, what’s wrong with FM 3-0? It should be quite obvious. We are essentially using the same failing strategy Westmoreland used in 1968 in Vietnam. What’s wrong with this? Well, we lost Vietnam. For those who argue that we never lost on the battlefield, I will leave you with the following conversation in Hanoi in April 1975, as related by Harry G. Summers Jr. in On Strategy:
“You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” said the American colonel. The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”
Maj. Jamie Schwandt, USAR, is a student at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He is a logistics officer and has served as an operations officer, planner and commander. He is certified as a Department of the Army Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, certified Red Team Member, and holds a doctorate from Kansas State University.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.
How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.
Following a string of news reports on private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.
In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.
Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.
This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.