WASHINGTON (ARMY NEWS SERVICE, May 4, 2015) – Cyber, electronic warfare and anti-satellite operations are just a few of the threats facing the United States in the Pacific, said a “futurist,” who spoke recently at the Pentagon.
Addressing a standing-room-only audience of largely logistics Soldiers and civilians from Army G-4, Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, spoke on the sustainment and logistics challenges facing the future force, April 23.
“You’re lucky if you can predict the future, that’s what you are,” he told the crowd. “A good futurist – quote, unquote – basically tries to narrow the range of uncertainly about what’s going to happen and tries to give you a better sense of what is more likely to happen than less likely to happen.”
Krepinevich, a West Point graduate, spent 25 years in the Army, serving on the personal staffs of three defense secretaries and in the Office of Net Assessment and along the way earned his doctoral from Harvard University.
He also published “The Army and Vietnam,” an influential book in which he argued, the United States could have won the war had the Army adopted a small-unit pacification strategy in South Vietnam villages, rather than conducting search and destroy operations in remote jungles.
In 2009, Krepinevich published “7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century,” which presents seven hypothetical scenarios that would severely challenge the U.S. military. His recent work has frequently addressed the challenges posed by the modernization of China’s military forces, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the proliferation of precision-guided munitions.
“We have a need to become an expeditionary [force] because it boils down to this – what are the future challenges in this world and how can we in the Army plan a strategy that mitigates those risks,” he said.
Addressing the dimensions of strategy, Krepinevich said they were comprised of the operational, the technological, logistical and social and gave examples of each.
“When you look at the German approach to the invasion of Poland in 1939, and more strikingly the German operations against France and Britain in the low country of 1940, you find the Germans didn’t have much in the way of technological or logistical advantage and in terms of support for the war among the population, they didn’t have much there either,” he said. “What they did have was a secret sauce called ‘blitzkrieg’ and they figured out how to use the material they had at hand, better than the British and French and they won in six weeks.”
Technology came home with the nuclear age and the information technology revolution, he said, adding that when the country developed nuclear weapons in 1945, it became a critical factor, a huge source of advantage and the United States was able to prevail and has had a greater advantage due to the technological dimension.
“Logistics – well, our tanks certainly weren’t better than the German tanks in France in 1944, although we had a lot more of them,” he said. “We had a lot more of just about everything you could count: planes, ships, so the logistical dimension is an important factor,” he said.
Showing a slide with a World War II poster of factory workers building war machines and a photograph of protesters carrying signs demanding “Uncle Sam” to leave Vietnam, Krepinevich said the measure of popular support, either high or lack thereof can have an important effect on victory or defeat.
He said during the Napoleonic Wars (1805-1809) operational and social trumped logistical, while during the American Civil War and World War II logistical trumped operational and during Vietnam, social trumped logistical and technical.
“It wasn’t for lack of high technology against the North Vietnamese Army or the Viet Cong,” he said. “Our logistics were a marvel in the early years of that war… it wasn’t a lack of materiel or skills… it was a lack of social support.
“We have emerging challenges which we try to identify to our security, our survival and well-being – vital interests,” Krepinevich said. “The military takes steps to preserve those efforts to secure our liberty, freedom and well-being… and logistics has to function to support those however the military decides [how] it’s going to go about performing its mission.”
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“Today, we are faced with three revisionist powers – Russia in Europe, Iran in the Middle East and China in the Far East that do not like the existing international order and are working to change it in significant ways – in ways that clash with our interests and we have a strategic choice to make as to how we’re going to deal with that,” Krepinevich said.
“Are we going to accommodate these changes or are we going to practice appeasement… are we going to try to resist and, if so, how are we going to try and resist to maintain stability and how are these people competing with us?”
According to Krepinevich, it is not just Russia, China and Iran competing with the United States – it is China competing with India and China competing with Japan. He said several of his Japanese associates are keen on knowing how the United States plans to deal with the growing military balance in the Far East.
“The competition is geopolitical, economic and ideological in character… the scale of the challengers has increased, where it was Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea,” he said. “A lot of those hardy perennials are still there, but now we have countries that can compete on a scale that dwarf those countries… and not only that… they are shifting the form of competition which makes it doubly challenging for us.”
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Krepinevich said China is actively engaged and well into its second decade of essentially trying to shift the military balance in the region progressively in its favor and it’s doing so in what he thinks is a “very strategically sound way.”
“I was once in a meeting with Henry Kissinger and he opined that the Chinese were the best strategists that he thought he had ever come up against — so that’s pretty high praise,” Krepinevich said.
There are several areas the Chinese seem to be placing an emphasis on, he said – one would be to go after the U.S. nervous system, the battle network with anti-satellite capabilities … “it was just reported they conducted an anti-satellite test just last year with both kinetic and directed energy, certainly including cyber operations against us upon a rather grand scale in terms of economic warfare and espionage,” he said.
He also said he suspected China would have a cyber campaign, adding that the Chinese had taken pages from radio-electronic combat during the Cold War when the Soviets really began using electronic warfare.
“The Chinese talk about high-tech warfare and they are looking at integrating the effects of cyber, electronic warfare, jamming and so on as a major part of their maneuver if you will… maneuvering on radio-frequency terrain… going after the nervous system,” he said.
“The other area is that we have many eggs in few baskets and so you see ballistic missile forces being built up – cruise missile forces,” he said. “We have a major air base in Kadena, in Okinawa and a major air and naval base in Guam. We have carriers and of course, they’re building submarines, anti-ship cruise missiles carried by submarines and by aircraft.”
The Chinese are also building the DF-21 ballistic missile, which is designed to become an aircraft-carrier killer, he said, noting that some experts think it looks to fall short of its mission.
“But think about it – if you’re one of the commanders of one of those carriers that takes how many years to build – are you going to sail it in there and see just how good the DF-21 is,” he asked rhetorically.
Turning to the idea of blockades, both on the part of China and the United States – if it were to come to that – Krepinevich said there are those in the “off-shore crowd” who believe a blockade would be enough to “win” logistically.
“I’m skeptical about that,” he said. “My concern is if we try and blockade China, China will blockade Taiwan and Japan – and they won’t do it with a bunch of sailing ships sitting outside harbors, they’ll do it with missiles, submarines and mines and smart mines, and we’ll have to figure out a way to win that logistics battle between reinforcing and sustaining our allies and our forces forward.”