How Did the "9/11 Wars" Change the Army?


Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Sep 9, 2006
Posted for your information and comment:

We have seen had huge changes in the way the Army fights. It isn't just the flirtation with conventional troops doing COIN. ( U.S. troop-intensive COIN has indeed gone out of intellectual fashion, but not I think a more FID-ish COIN.) It also is:
  • An Army that does indeed win first battles but still doesn't believe that war termination is its business. (See the Bacevich piece in the Moten volume.)
  • An Army whose generals frequently do not seem to be able to think strategically, and treats those who do as outliers.
  • An Army that cannot fight without the presence of thousands of mercenaries on the battlefield, subject to neither local law nor military justice, and so polluting American efforts.
  • An Army that has fought our first sustained overseas war (and in fact, 2 of them) without a draft. (The all-volunteer force has proven remarkably cohesive and resilient under the resulting stress.)
  • The one area where the Army seems genuinely comfortable is the technological, with information systems rapidly advancing, especially the use of drone aircraft for reconnaissance.
The last point about rapidly advancing technological systems is interesting. I just read an article this morning that talked about how most, if not all, of the Next-Gen military systems were scrapped due to budget cuts and that we are just using legacy upgrades to try and slap band-aids on the old systems. The article is from the WSJ, so I'm posting the whole thing so people don't miss out due to lack of a subscription:

Defense Cuts and America's Outdated Military
Yes, we spent more after 9/11—but in ways that impeded modernization.


On Thursday, the Pentagon will begin detailing its plans to cut $500 billion from the military's budget over the next decade. The reason, insists President Barack Obama, is that "since 9/11, our defense budget grew at an extraordinary pace." That's true in top-line numbers—but it's anything but true when examined strategically.

Between budget cuts, cost overruns, overweight bureaucracy, ever-growing red tape, and changing requirements, the arsenal of democracy has become a bureaucratic nightmare. In spite of itself, our military cannot build new programs anymore. Old programs might win wars, but with much higher human and financial costs.

After 9/11, defense budgets grew because they had to. The U.S. military's budget, size and force structure had been too deeply cut in the 1990s, after the anticipated post-Soviet "peace dividend" failed to materialize. So the Pentagon began quickly and inefficiently dumping dollars into the military to fund the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This made budgets grow steadily, but the money did little to increase cutting-edge capabilities for the future. Our war-related investments came at the expense of tomorrow's military capabilities. As a new American Enterprise Institute study concludes, the military over the past decade didn't modernize but rather embraced the equivalent of buying new apps for its old, clunky cellphone.

The Air Force wanted 750 F-22s to replace the F15, above, but they ultimately only received 187.

From 2000-2010, the Air Force spent $38 billion on 220 fighters—as compared to $68 billion for 2,063 fighters from 1981-1990. Air Force leaders wanted 750 F-22s to replace their F-15s, but successive administrations cut that number—to 648, then 438, 339, 270 and finally 187—before President Obama terminated production. That wasn't a coherent acquisition strategy but budget-driven politics, plain and simple.

The Navy fared little better than the Air Force in terms of true modernization over the past decade. Sure, there are three Navy programs touted as "new"—the Virginia-class attack submarine, the DDG-51 destroyer and the F/A-18 Hornet. Problem is, those programs are already the Pentagon's "Plan B."

The Virginia-class sub was designed as a cheaper alternative to the truly dominant Seawolf-class attack submarine (and the Navy has bought less than half of the Virginia class, with the majority of funding still to come). The DDG-51 destroyer was a fall-back alternative to the now-canceled DDG-1000. And the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets are only stopgap purchases until the Navy can put the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter on its carrier decks. Thus the Navy's recent spending has gone to programs that are increasingly out of date and ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The Marine Corps and Army fared better on modernization over the last decade. Though the Marine Corps saw its Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle canceled under President Obama, it successfully completed most of its ambitious amphibious docking platform.

The Army, meanwhile, completed several programs over the past decade, buying older platforms like the Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, as well as the newer Stryker and even the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles. The problem is that all these vehicles are effective in land-based operations but would probably sit out during any conflict in the Western Pacific. And few of them have so-called next-generation capabilities—meaning brand-new platforms and technologies, not simply upgrades to existing tools. Almost every truly next-generation Army program has been canceled.

The common denominator among the services since 2001 is that their investment choices were geared toward lower-end conflict. Weapons systems designed for high-end future warfare suffered as a result (notwithstanding the evolving capabilities of drones over the past decade).

Compounding the problem is the reality that the services seem to be getting worse at acquiring high-tech systems and have used upgraded legacy programs as temporary band-aids. While it's often important to get weapons out the door during a war, the unmistakable reality is that the momentum for innovative research and development seems nonexistent across the U.S. military.

What the Obama Pentagon will lay out this week is the final nail in the coffin of our national contract with our all-volunteer military—that if they fight, they'll have the very best to win. It marks the beginning of the end of America's unquestioned international military dominance. Our soldiers will increasingly go into combat with aged equipment, lacking assurance that they'll prevail against any enemy.

Ms. Eaglen, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has worked on defense issues at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
I've read Mr. Ricks' book Fiasco and thought it was very good. While I think he made some good points in his article, he clearly shows his lack of understanding concerning the US military pre- and post-9/11. He's another guy in a long list of "journalists" who may have a great deal of tree-level understanding thanks to people "not authorized to speak on the matter" but little understanding of how that relates to the big picture, historical context, and the ability to seperate fact from bullshit on the part of his sources. As a result, articles like the one above are shallow and an intellectual version of an airsofter loaded with all of the latest gear thinking he's just one pushup away from being in Delta (or ST6 is you prefer; Crossthread me).

I take issue with the "thousands of mercenaries on the battlefield...." BULLSHIT. One for obvious personal reasons, but also for the fact that the guy is talking out of his ass. He goes for an emotional bullet instead of a factual paragraph/ story on the topic and fails to exlain the "why" and "how" behind the "mercenary" situation.

Mr. Ricks should either A) do some actual research or B) go work for TMZ where journalistic standards are much lower than in the real world.
Mr Eaglen's numbers are bad, he doesn't take inflation into account when talking about procurement from 1981 to 1990. He also forgets that Jimmy Carter's plan was for a smaller technologically superior military, and technology increases costs.
Mr. Ricks should either A) do some actual research or B) go work for TMZ where journalistic standards are much lower than in the real world.
Free I can't believe you said this. Where have you found journalistic standards in the main stream media????
Mara you have answers I would like to hear.
1. How does domestic terrorism effect a Army that fights to protect foreign invasion not fighting terrorism in the US.
2. How would I seperate the damage COIN has done in my opinion VS 9-11?
3. How has two wars changed the Army?
The entire time I was in the planning and manning levels were always based on two wars in two parts of the world then all I hear is we can't sustain or fight two wars effectively. Seems planning sucked.
I tink 9-11 changed how people view the Army all for the better and how the Army fought the wars has been extroardinary.
There should be a constitutional amendment that forbids the Army doing social services work in countries after or during us blowing them up. The Army should be to fight and counquer the enemy not social services.
I understand there is a mission for the B teams to win the hearts and minds but not in the Army per se.
I put my asbestos suit on fire away.
I like the 4th bullet point about a draft. It seems America's youth has proven we still have those among us who are willing to step in the gap to prevent the spread of pure evil upon the planet. This gives me some hope for the future in spite of our governments failing efforts at all they do/don't do. With that, I don't so much look at the difference in the Army pre/post 911 so much as how the Army has helped shape some of the better parts of our nation as a whole while being at war. A bit off point I know, but the benefits to active military and Veterans at large is astronomical in comparison to pre-911's Army. The support offered, whether it be enough or not is way better I believe at sustaining strength and encouraging others to enlist. The differences between why people stay in now I believe are vastly different than before. Is it, but what I hear coming from people's mouths and the heart and soul behind it now is better than before in the way of a larger patriotic family nationwide. As always IMO I think articles like this are shortsighted when they try to compartmentalize the good and bad of a fighting force to just the battlefield.
Agree with Frees thoughts above. I'll take a long historical view with most wars since WW1 being fought with a backward look to the previous conflict. To wit, the early months of WW1 being fought in part with cavalry and lances.To overcome static defense lines then became the name of the game. WW2 had troops issued with gas masks initially.
The 9/11 wars needed new solutions which the author above mentioned as being not quite cricket. The responses may no have been perfect but an entirely new dynamic was needed to counter the asymmetry of the enemy.
Perhaps economic reality comes into it and cuts have to be made regardless.
I think part of the reason there is so much support for the military right now is that the military is an abstract concept that most of the US can "support" without real effort or personal sacrifice. The percentage of US citizens (well, I guess I should use "residents" because there are millions in the US who are not citizens) who have served in the military is very, very low. As an example, there are fewer than 1,100,000 men and women on active duty in the US, out of a population of 307,000,000+. Statistically, there are more people on "active duty" with Walmart than there are active duty military in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Assuming comparable turnover rates, it's more likely that the average US person knows someone who has worked in Walmart than it is he or she knows someone who served in the military. Let that set in for a second.

Now, you add in Reservists, the Coast Guard, veterans, retirees, etc. and those numbers start to change but they are still very telling. One of the reasons for the resistance to the war in Viet Nam was, IMO, the very real fact that the same types of young men who don't give a shit today were, during the Viet Nam era, facing the very real probability that they would get drafted. Given the numbers of servicemembers killed and wounded in that war, then it's easy to see why Viet Nam seemed to "matter" a whole lot more to that generation than the current wars seem to matter to the current crop. The draft tends to "keep it real," to use the modern vernacular. We don't have that anymore. The sacrifice of service is no borne by so small a population inside the US, to the majority of Americans it might as well not exist. Mass mourning for a football coach who fell from grace in a most public and disgusting manner, and next to nothing to the Marines who died at almost the same time, in service to their country.

I currently attend a major US university which for at least the past decade has not had much of a military presence on campus. For many of my classmates, I'm the first active duty servicemember that they have ever met, much less had a conversation with. These are highly successful an well-traveled graduate students, but our military is so small and insular, their first exposure to it is... me. It's amazing what America doesn't know about its own defenders.

Maybe I should have put this in a rant thread instead.