So what is the Army’s future role in Winnefeld’s vision? “If we get in another fight – and some day we will get in another fight on the ground – I think it would be a different fight: one that’s shorter, faster-paced, and much harder,” Winnefeld said in his opening remarks. “The battlefield will be a more hostile environment than it’s ever been. The fog of war, despite all of our technology, will not clear for us, and the adversary will use the tools we have employed so successfully recently, such as quality ISR and networks and precision guided weapons, against us. We will need ground forces that can handle this.”
“Speed of deployment, whether by being there already or through prepositioning or through lift, will become more important than it’s ever become,” Winnefeld went on. Getting to the war zone quickly, by the way, has been an agonizing issue for the Army since the failure of Task Force Hawk during the Kosovo campaign of 1999. Indeed, even further back, many in the Army remember the desperately vulnerable position of the much-vaunted but lightly-armed 82nd Airborne after it flew to Saudi Arabia in 1990, only to have to wait months for heavy backup to come by sea: For a stinging critique, read the Defense Science Board’s 2006 Summer Study: Search for the words “speed bump.”
Yet Winnefeld said he wanted the Army take on even more rapid-response missions. “I’d like to see the Army place more emphasis on the growth industry… of protecting American citizens abroad,” he said. “Don’t yield that entirely to the Marine Corps.” (The Marines are famed for their role in short-notice Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, or NEOs, as well as their standard duty of protecting US embassies and consultates).