NEWPORT, R.I. - More than 150 students and faculty attended an optional panel discussion on the topic "The Shape of Things To Come: Transforming the U.S. Armed Forces for Conventional Warfare and COIN/Irregular Warfare Operations," Jan. 28, at the Naval War College (NWC). Sponsored by the National Security Decision Making (NSDM) Department, the panel debated the new administration's challenges in creating a way ahead for our future national security strategy and the appropriate force structure to support that strategy.
Defense Secretary Gates recently signed a policy memorandum that elevates the importance of Irregular Warfare (IW) to make it co-equal to Conventional Warfare for planning purposes. In light of this new policy, and recent experience by the Armed Forces in fighting counter-insurgency (COIN)/IW operations, the panel felt it essential that senior decision makers consider the implications as they shape requirements to organize, train and equip the armed forces for future conflicts.
Dr. Charles Neimeyer, Director of the History Division of the U.S. Marine Corps, represented the Marine Corps perspective, while Army Col. Gian Gentile, Academy Professor at the United States Military Academy, advocated the importance of focusing more on conventional capabilities. Lt. Col. Bruce Floersheim, an Army student in NWC's College of Naval Warfare and this year's West Point Fellow, advocated greater emphasis on COIN and IW requirements.
The panel addressed questions such as whether ground forces should be designed around a more constabulary or COIN role or designed to field a force against a peer competitor in open, conventional warfare and whether air forces should be designed primarily to defeat peer competitor combat air/ground forces. Another option discussed was whether more resources should be applied to procure transportation and logistical aircraft to support the numerous movement requirements during IW and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations. The panel also considered the risks associated with greater emphasis on the IW role should a peer competitor emerge and how the new administration might answer these questions.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Tom Nichols of the NSDM Department, answered numerous questions from students, demonstrating the range of opinions that exist on these important issues as the services look to the post-Iraq security environment.