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The US military is preparing for the wrong future | Daniel Davis | The Guardian

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According to the 8 July edition of the Army Times, senior leaders have announced they will reduce the US army from the current level of approximately 535,000 down to 490,000. The unequivocal result: a smaller and less capable army. Many military leaders warn that these cuts will have a hollowing effect "putting our national security at risk", (pdf) as General Odierno told a Congressional panel in February 2013, and imply there are no other alternatives.

That is not correct.

In 1997, then-lieutenant colonel Douglas A Macgregor publishedBreaking the Phalanx: a New Design for Landpower in the 21st Centurydescribing a military transformation that would result in a smaller, less expensive force which would produce greater combat capability than the larger formations it would replace. Unfortunately, US officials rejected those new ideas, opting instead for incremental changes, which left the field army little changed from the version that won Desert Storm in 1991. One nation, however, did not reject Macgregor's ideas.

In 1999 two colonels from the Chinese people's liberation army (PLA) published a strategic analysis called Unrestricted Warfare. In this essay, they discussed the changing military environment and ways China could modernize its force for future war. Regarding force design and operating methods, they wrote: "In his book, 'Break the [Phalanx] (sic),' [Macgregor] advocated simultaneously abandoning the systems of divisions and brigades and replacing them with … battle groups of about 5,000 men each… [The book recommends the adoption of] building-block methods according to wartime needs and put into practice mission-style group organization."

These views apparently heavily influenced PLA modernization theories, as one year later Breaking the Phalanx was translated into Chinese. A decade after that, the US army's Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) reported the PLA had incorporated many of Macgregor's concepts. In the SSI's 2011 study Chinese Lessons from Other People's Wars (pdf), the author noted

The nature of war has changed. Smaller, decentralized blocs are the new normal.

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