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By Cadet Christina Plumley

This past January, Professor William Braun wrote an op-ed article for the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College that sparked an interest for further reflection and research.  He focused on the premise that “the Army must embrace the execution of non-threat based operations as a vital way to achieve [a vision for pursuing peace as an enduring international security condition between conflicts].”[1]  As we enter a period of relative peace after nearly thirteen years of conflict, the other service branches are better equipped to prove their relevancy and justification to preventing massive budget cuts.  Such is the case for many reasons, one of which is our respective mission statements.[2]  To ensure adequate recognition of the roles and functions the Army performs, I support Braum’s assertion and believe the Army needs to include a peacetime role in its mission statement.

 First, consider the mission statements of the Air Force and Navy.  The Air Force mission is “to fly, fight, and win…in air, space, and cyberspace,” while the Navy’s is “to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”[3]  Consider how the Army’s mission “to fight and win the Nation’s wars through prompt and sustained land combat, as part of the joint force” differs.[4]  When comparing the statements of the strategic purposes for each of these military branches, both the Navy and Air Force specifically identify their roles during peacetime.  The Army does not because it is focused on combat.  Braun points to this reason as to why the Army faces difficulty with the current drawdown because of the “budget fight that is governed by defense guidance and budget priorities that only acknowledge arguments focused on the Army’s traditional mission.”[5] 

Although any change at the moment would not alter the decisions of current policymakers, perhaps a modification of our mission statement is in order, to recognize the different facets of landpower.  Landpower is “the ability—by threat, force, or occupation—to promptly gain, sustain, and exploit control over land, resources, and people,” where one aspect is to “impose the Nation’s will on adversaries—by force if necessary.”[6]  This definition, used in Army doctrine, supports the idea that maintaining influence does not always require using force in its reference to threat.  It is important to note that considering the uncertainty that prevails in the international system, threat can be perceived or provoked and direct or indirect.  Ancient war strategist Sun-Tzu did remark, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”[7]  Going to war typically is a strategic decision from an inability to do what Sun-Tzu described as the most exemplary sign of success, seeing how there are many measures taken and precautions set before using force.

To suggest an adjustment in order to accommodate the Army’s role during peacetime is not unheard of because the Air Force has recently modified its mission statement twice since 2005.[8]  Although it may not actually change what the Army does, it could potentially have a perceptual effect to both spectrums of the civil-military divide.  By removing sole focus on combat, Soldiers may view their service and self-worth as beyond a cycle of fighting then waiting for the next fight.  Additionally, this could allow civilian counterparts unfamiliar with the military to perceive the Army more as a protector of the peace rather than acting as an aggressor.  Landpower also involves addressing “the consequences of catastrophic events—both natural and manmade—to restore infrastructure and reestablish basic civil services.”[9]  For both domestic national emergencies and international humanitarian crises, the Army provides manpower, logistical support, and resources to facilitate aid and development.  Though there is a history of such responses, it is not always a function of fighting and winning the Nation’s wars.  Therefore, the Army already functions in many diverse facets that go beyond its traditional mission; why not ensure everyone recognizes that.    

When the Air Force and Navy so evidently have relevant peacetime roles as specified in their mission statements, not overtly specifying the Army’s role of equal importance during peacetime results in Congress overlooking its relevance.  The nature of the Army places emphasis on using technology to support the Soldiers and so during a budget deficit, it is believed the military can afford to shrink the Army, especially as we leave two wars.  Rather, if the Army included a phrase that alluded to its ability to protect peace, perhaps there would be more consent to maintaining higher levels of manpower readiness than currently proposed. 

The infamous phrase “perception is everything” stands true in this case.  There is always discussion about the civil-military gap and methods to bridging that separation.  The mission statement is step one because it is a direct reflection of what the Army itself believes to be its purpose.  By looking only at that, it is reasonable to believe that all the Army thinks about is combat.  I remember once having a conversation with a friend who questioned why I would join the Army, regarding the sacrifice of life involved during war and her advocacy for peace.  I explained to her that it was my opinion that Soldiers are the biggest proponents of peace, because we do not want to go to war but understand that there are evils necessitating a response to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  We would always prefer peace.  She was taken aback and was frankly surprised by my perspective, having formed her own assumptions as to why people join the military.

Reading Braun’s article made me stop and think of the perception of the Army to our civilian counterparts.  Of course, there are some things we cannot control as to how we are perceived, like free press, personal biases, etc.; however, for what we do control, we should place great effort to improving civil-military relations through more exposure to what the Army does in non-combat operations.  One proposal is to modify our mission statement because the Army provides the Nation more than just a combat role.  By helping the public understand, we inherently help ourselves.  If there are no changes, fighting for relevancy after a conflict ends will continue to be an infinite loop of reality the Army has to face for years to come.    

               

1.  William Braun III, “Op-Ed: Between Conflicts: An Army Role That Sticks,” Strategic Studies InstituteJanuary 17, 2014. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/index.cfm/articles/Between-Conflicts-An-Army-Role-That-Sticks/2014/01/17 (accessed April 2, 2014), 1.

2.  Ibid, 2.

3.  U.S. Air Force, “U.S. Air Force Posture Statement.” Accessed April 2, 2014. http://www.posturestatement .af.mil/main/welcome.asp; U.S. Navy, “Mission of the Navy,” Accessed April 2, 2014. http://www.navy.mi l/navydata/organization/org-top.asp.

4.  U.S. Army, Army Doctrine Publication 1.0. Washington, DC: HQ Department of the Army, 2002, 1-8 

5.  William Braun III, “Op-Ed: Between Conflicts: An Army Role That Sticks,” 2.

6.  U.S. Army, Field Manual 1.0, Washington, DC: HQ Department of the Army, 2005, 1-1.

7.  Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963, 77.

8.  Air Force Print News, “Air Force Releases New Mission Statement,” Schriever Air Force Base: Satellite Flyer, December 15, 2005, http://csmng.com/wp-files/archiveissues/satelliteflyer/satelliteflyer_2005-1215.pdf (accessed April 3, 2014), 1.

9.  U.S. Army, Field Manual 1.0, 1-1.


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