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Brooks on RAF: 'Reconnaissance, relationships and rehearsal'

Monday, December 01, 2014

Two highly regarded national security analysts applauded the Army’s aggressive push on its concept of Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF) to build partnerships and prepare soldiers for potential deployments to future conflicts mainly in the developing world, but advised its leaders to consider other factors as they seek to shape the future Army.

In a forum at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer, now president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, drew on the Army commander in the Pacific Gen. Vincent Brooks’ view that the idea gives the Army three "Rs" – reconnaissance, relationships and rehearsal – by noting the value of soldiers knowing the physical and human terrain in which they could operate and developing relations with the host nation forces.

But he cautioned the Army to consider RAF in a broader context, including addressing possible threats in Europe with far fewer forces, the likelihood of prolonged proxy wars, such as the one Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to generate in Ukraine, and the problem of conflicts in urban environments where much of the U.S. military’s technical advantages are nullified.

He also urged Army leaders to consider more focus on air and missile defense capabilities and a strategy for conflicts in island chains, likely referring to Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Michael O’Hanlon, senior defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, saw the concept as a tool to build on the amazing array of alliances in most parts of the world, which he said was one of America’s great advantages in the increasingly turbulent world.

O’Hanlon also recommended that in the face of the declining defense budgets, the Army "jettisoned" the traditional force-sizing plan to be able to fight two major regional conflicts at virtually the same time.

In previewing the concept, Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, said the Army is going to expand it beyond the current four regionally aligned brigades and would "steal some ideas from the National Guard and develop a state partnership concept in the Army Reserve."

That would have reserve units aligned to a specific nation, Donahue said.

Those units would need a good training program on how to deal with U.S. ambassadors, how to train foreign forces and how to use interpreters.

Donahue said the Army also wanted to shape RAF so that it "not only builds capacity in our partners, but improves us."

That would include designing exercises with international partners "so 60 percent of the value comes to us."

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, stressed how much the reserves are ingrained in the concept, because what the combatant commanders often need are the assets mainly in his command – support functions such as engineering, transportation, medical, military intelligence and civil affairs.