8 Unique Values: Why America Needs the Army
8 Unique Values: Why America Needs the Army
The business world has a term to describe core missions to customers and investors—value proposition—and it is considered crucial to every company’s business strategy. If you can’t distill what makes your organization valuable down to a few compelling points, then maybe it doesn’t have a good reason for existing. Or, maybe you’re in the wrong job.The notion of a value proposition has meaning for any military service trying to preserve its core capabilities in peacetime. That’s especially true in democracies, where political leaders don’t need to use force to stay in power. Unless military institutions can frame their message to democratic leaders in terms that have political salience during prolonged periods of peace, they risk being dismantled to a point where they invite derision, not to mention aggression.The U.S. Army knows this story all too well. In the centennial year of 1876, a service that had enrolled a million men during the final year of the Civil War had shrunk to a mere 28,565 soldiers. Clearly, the Army’s leaders had not developed a convincing value proposition for maintaining robust land warfare capabilities. Something similar happened after World War I, when the Army collapsed from well over 2 million men in 1918 to less than 140,000, even as fascists began to make gains in Europe and the Far East.No matter how important the Army may have been to national survival and success in the past (it has fought more than two dozen wars), it still needs a convincing narrative after each war ends to explain why it should not be stripped of funding. So, if you think that falling from 570,000 active duty soldiers in 2010 to 420,000 in 2020 is the worst fate that can befall the service, think again. Only one in five members of Congress has served in any branch of the military, and most of them aren’t history buffs; thus, the reasons America still needs a robust Army have to be explained clearly and persuasively.With that in mind, it is important to address two facets of the strategic messaging challenge that Army leaders face today. First, what should the core of the official narrative be? Second, how should that narrative be told? The Army has a good story to tell, but it hasn’t distilled that story into a coherent value proposition that outsiders can readily grasp. Until it does, it risks institutional annihilation in a political process that has little use for past victories and is all about getting reelected.
- The Army is the only service that can seize and secure large expanses of territory for extended periods of time. The Marine Corps is too small to conduct these types of missions, while the Air Force and Navy are more suited to standoff roles that cannot pacify local populations.
- The Army can support and sustain the rest of the joint force by virtue of the fact that it has secured territory. Among other things, it can provide basing infrastructure, logistical support, communications networks, force protection and liaison with civil authorities, all of which far exceed the capabilities of other services.
- Another unique Army competency is conducting protracted counterinsurgency operations aimed at winning the support of local populations by suppressing rebels and helping indigenous forces become more professional. The other services can contribute mightily to counterinsurgency operations, but it is always the Army that takes the lead.
- The Army has the unique ability to wage large-scale urban operations. With much of the world’s rural population migrating to big urban centers like Mexico City and Karachi, Pakistan, the U.S. will increasingly have to cope with extremists who seek sanctuary among civilians in such places. For the most part, they cannot be rooted out using bombs and missiles; they have to be confronted face-to-face on the ground. At roughly five times the size of the Marine Corps when its respective reserve components are included, the Army is the only service with the requisite numbers and skills.
- The Army is able to train the armed forces of other nations in all facets of land warfare. Most foreign militaries don’t need tutoring in antisubmarine warfare or long-range strike operations, but they do need the kinds of skills that America’s Army practices on a daily basis.
- A very different dimension of Army uniqueness is support of civil authorities in coping with disruptions—both natural disasters and disturbances such as riots. The Army National Guard has a long history of supporting civil authorities in such missions, and away from the coasts, it is often the only local military presence suitable for dealing with major disruptions.
- A seldom-acknowledged feature of the Army is its ability to reinforce global deterrence by providing proportional military responses to aggression that reduce the pressure for escalation. By enabling U.S. military authorities to cope with every conventional and unconventional threat on the spectrum of conflict, the Army makes the resort to nuclear weapons less necessary.
- Finally, the Army is unique in conveying resolve to potential aggressors. Although forward military presence takes many forms, putting “boots on the ground” is intrinsically more credible than flying over territory in expressing commitment to a country or a cause.