Harold Hutchison / October 6, 2020

Maintaining Our Military Readiness

The disbanding of two key innovative groups is the wrong decision for countering threats.

When our nation has gone to war or faced a crisis, we’ve often brought in the innovators — those who can either develop new ways to tackle a challenge or move quickly to get new gear and technology to the people who need it. During the Global War on Terror, for example, the Army established the Rapid Equipping Force and the Asymmetric Warfare Group to help beat jihadist insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, according to a report by DefenseOne, these instrumental groups are being shuttered as America tries to refocus on defeating near-peer powers like Russia and China. This is a huge mistake, though, and one that should be corrected ASAP by a presidential order. If anything, these innovative groups are even more important in a fight against a global power than against Jihadistan.

Both Russia and China have been playing catch-up, militarily speaking, to American technological superiority. For Russia, this became a major concern when it saw Iraq’s military, and its Russian-built equipment, fare poorly in conventional battles against American gear. How bad was the disparity? Let’s just say that when a T-72 tank fires its 125mm main gun at another tank from 400 yards away and scores a hit, it should do more than leave a dent.

Why might Russia be seeking more advanced gear? According to a Globalsecurity.org estimate of Russia’s force of nearly 22,000 tanks, almost 10,000 are T-72s, and another 7,500 are even older designs (T-64, T-62, or T-55). But the acquisition of that advanced gear, like the Armata family of armored vehicles, requires time and money — and until Russia can come up with the cash, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is smart enough to stay out of a direct conflict with the U.S, opting instead to fight asymmetrically, in ways that will neutralize American advantages in technology.

China is doing things a little differently — including the use of technological advances in areas like hypersonic weapons to neutralize American naval superiority. Beating China’s hypersonic weapons will likely require the U.S. to come up with countermeasures — and deploy them rapidly — and that means finding ways to get around the old bureaucratic processes. The good news is that the Trump administration already has a next-generation fighter flying.

If Russia continues its trend of using asymmetric warfare, we’ll need to counter that, too. We’ll also need to be able to rapidly deploy new equipment to counter not just the asymmetric threats, but also the new technologies that Russia and China will be using against our forces. And, of course, while the jihadists have been on the receiving end of some very lethal American intention for close to two decades, they haven’t simply closed up shop and gone home.

Given these threats, the question is whether it really makes sense to shut down our Rapid Equipping Force and Asymmetric Warfare Group. And the answer is simple: “No.”

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