Sunday, January 31, 2010

Force Structure in Order to Create Partnership

Now this is interesting (p.29):

The intention is for these units to steadily grow to the point at which their staffs can sustain specialized expertise in regions and countries of greatest importance and regularly detach experts to accompany units deploying to training missions abroad. In addition, the Air Force will field light mobility and light attack aircraft in general purpose force units in order to increase their ability to work effectively with a wider range of partner air forces.
And (p.30):
DoD will double its current capacity to provide [training for partner aviation forces]. This enhancement will include the purchase of light, fixed-wing aircraft to enable the Air Force's 6th Special Operations Squadron to engage partner nations for whose air forces such aircraft might be appropriate.
These are part of the QDR section titled Build the Security Capacity of Partner States. Now, unless I'm reading this wrong, the argument seems to be that the United States needs to purchase and operate COIN oriented aircraft in order to effectively train partner states to operate such aircraft, in both an organizational and technical sense. I find this of particular interest because I wrote my dissertation on the subject of how military organizations learn from one another; one focus was the need for transfer of tacit, practical knowledge in addition to explicit, written knowledge. This is to say that the best kind of learning is learning by doing, and learning by doing is only available from those who have already learned to do. The proposal here seems to be that the USAF ought to restructure its procurement and training (if only on a relatively small scale) in order to become a better "teaching" organization to its "learning" partners in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

My second thought is this: I have long wondered what the end state expectations are for the Iraqi Air Force. During its heyday, the Iraqi Air Force was a large, capable, technologically advanced force capable (theoretically, anyway) of long range strike against a variety of opponents. Given that the political situation in Iraq remains uncertain, it has never been clear to me that the US intended to rebuild this Iraqi Air Force; the threat is too great that advanced fighter aircraft sold to Iraq in two years might be used against the US (or Israel) in ten years. At the same time, whatever Iraqi Air Force is created needs the capacity to support Iraqi ground forces against both domestic opponents and foreign competitors such as Iran. I'm wondering whether the idea of re-orienting the USAF, even on a small scale, around operational training in COIN platforms indicates that US expectations of the Iraqi Air Force will be measured, modest, and defensive. put this in a naval context, here's a somewhat similar passage (p.39):
U.S. naval forces likewise will continue to be capable of robust forward presence and power projection operations, even as they add capabilities and capacity for working with a wide range of partner navies.

Note, though, that this doesn't seem to include the idea of operating particular platforms for the purpose of being able to instruct others in their use.

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