29 OCT 99 [updated March 2002]


SUBJECT: "Motorized" Experience of the 9th Infantry Division

1. PURPOSE: To assess the experience of 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) as a precursor to the current LAV-III/IAV IBCT Medium Weight Force (MWF) being considered by the Army's leadership.

2. RECOMMENDATION: Senior leadership must use every opportunity to define the "problem" that is driving the MWF effort in order to avoid the failure experienced by 9ID (Motorized). See "Conclusion," below.

3. BACKGROUND: The book, Motorized Experience of the 9th Infantry Division, 1980-1989, was written and released at Fort Lewis, WA, under the signature of MG John M. Shalikashvili, then the division commander. Its purpose was to document the lessons learned for future efforts in operational, force, and materiel development.

[Please note that the titles "9ID (Motorized)," "High Tech Light Division (HTLD)," and "High Tech Motorized Division (HTMD)" are used interchangeably.]

4. DISCUSSION: The book presents the overall concept of the motorized division favorably. This is understandable, given the perspective of the commander(s) who devoted so much effort executing the directions of the Army Chief of Staff. A reader can readily perceive the writers' sense of frustration with "the Army bureaucracy" and the deep regret of being unable to "fully demonstrate" the capabilities of the motorized division. Unfortunately, the entire effort was critically flawed, as explained below. For brevity, I have limited this paper to two portions: Executive Summary and Part I, Evolution of Motorized Concept.

Executive Summary.

(1) Page 5, "Refining the Motorized Division," describes the Joint Readiness Exercise BORDER STAR '85 at Fort Bliss, TX, against 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The claimed result was that a motorized brigade could fight on equal terms against a reinforced armor brigade.

ASSESSMENT: This is incorrect. The exercise demonstrated that a mobile force with advanced technologies (Position Locating and Reporting, Maneuver Control System, extensive night vision, RPVs (UAVs) downlinked to the brigade, etc.) and new doctrine (AirLand Battle) could avoid decisive engagement (and subsequent defeat) against an armor force operating with "primitive" equipment under old doctrinal concepts. Since the same advanced capabilities could be made available to the armored opponent, this exercise failed to demonstrate any advantage for the rubber-tired, motorized force.

(2) Page 9, "Engineer," summarizes that a full assessment of the full mobility and survivability of the division is not possible due to shortages of engineer equipment. During the 1988 and 89 NTC rotations, GEMMS (as a substitute for Volcano) and SEE were the only items that approached objective capability.

Part I, Evolution of the "Motorized" Division.

(1) Page 12, bottom paragraph, defines the requirement thus. "(T)here was a need for additional infantry in order to have a more balanced force structure between straight infantry and mechanized infantry divisions, especially because it appeared neither the Navy nor Air Force would fund the sea or airlift to move heavy forces to contingency areas such as the Middle East."

ASSESSMENT: The deficiency was the lack of combat power of light infantry. The intent was to increase the combat power of infantry divisions. There is no mention of trading off (reducing) the combat power of armored divisions.

(2) Page 14, top paragraph, clearly states, "The CSA directed HTTB to place "more emphasis on force structure and concepts", not just physical equipment testing that has to produce tangible results in the real world but to use a "concept-based approach" (make believe) which envisioned the development of the Organizational and Operational (O&O) concept as the first step in the process." This approach is perceived as contrary to the traditional model of development, focused on equipment and very structured physical testing. Accordingly, "The HTLD's plan for "testing" surrogate equipment to validate O&O concepts caused great confusion and consternation on the part of some test evaluators... who saw only the hard data of the tests conducted, not how valid the overall concept was."

ASSESSMENT: At face value, this is a scathing indictment of the testing and development community and the Army's leadership in general. However, it is just as likely that the abbreviated tests were poorly conceived and the results were misleading or altogether invalid. The problem with cutting through formal test protocol is that the result depends on "best military" judgement, which varies with each individual. It should also be noted that surrogate testing is nothing new or unfamiliar. The U.S. Army trained for WWII with sticks for rifles and machineguns, logs for cannons, and trucks with the letters T-A-N-K, and got the job done because in the end the need for actual, physical tanks was not forfeited by make-believe.

(3) Page 16 through 18 describe how the division O&O was built around the nine basic tenets of AirLand Battle.

ASSESSMENT: This was obviously advantageous, but other organizations would also conform, so the relative advantage was short-lived.

(4) Page 20, bottom paragraph, describes efforts to downsize the division. Cooks were reduced by consolidating food services and introducing new field rations. Religious, legal, postal, personnel, and band personnel were reduced.

Even M198 155mm towed howitzer crews were reduced from 11 to 10. "Soldier Support Center raised strong objections to the reductions, and the Logistics Center complained the combat service support units had been cut to dangerous levels."

Page 24, third paragraph describes the situation about a half year later. "Because of shortages of cooks, legal personnel, chaplains assistants, and PAO staff in the MTOE to cover garrison, peacetime requirements, the garrison Tables of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) were increased so that the division's Soldiers could be properly cared for in day-to-day garrison operations."

Page 25 describes, "The intent was to advantage firepower and mobility as a trade-off to save spaces. This meant a decision by the Army to reduce infantry strength and thus the HTLD ground-holding capability.

ASSESSMENT: The up front objective of personnel reduction is counter-productive.

(5) Page 26, bottom paragraph, describes how the lack of a suitable Assault Gun was "one of the absolutely key problems in the development of the division." "Originally conceived to be a wheeled light armored vehicle armed with a hyper-velocity missile (HVM)..." Armor School later supported a tracked, lightweight, highly agile kinetic energy gun with enough armor to protect against artillery and small caliber weapons. As a surrogate, 9ID considered the LAV-25 with a TOW added, but none were available. "Congress...had directed that all production go to the marine corps, as the Army had previously dropped out of the program. The Infantry School took the position that the LAV was unsuitable, even as a surrogate. The Infantry School solution was to use the M551 Sheridan..." Finally, "The debate over the key Assault Gun System was to continue for years and was never resolved."

ASSESSMENT: No change in the decade since this book was written.

(6) Page 27 describes successful testing of new equipment and organizations. Palletized Loading System (PLS), High Mobility Materiel Handling Equipment (HMMHE), and the new field feeding systems worked well. "The Logistics Center gave enthusiastic support to the forward support battalion concept, with far-reaching impact on the Army."

ASSESSMENT: As discussed above, concerning page 5, these successes are independent of the HTLD concept and are applicable to all units.

(7) Page 28 describes the November 1983 external assessment of the objective O&O (assuming development of an AGS and other components). "TRADOC determined that the 9ID O&O was indeed compatible with the AirLand Battle concept and would be effective in open, desert terrain [ie: a "Desert Storm"]. In short, this new type of division would be a credible deployment alternative to a more conventionally equipped light division." "Only one significant weakness was identified-the lack of a kinetic energy (KE) anti-armor system."

ASSESSMENT: This is where GEN Meyer's guidance to follow a concept based requirement process breaks down. Focus appears to be locked onto "what is immediately available" instead of "what is needed" and nobody would begin a formal materiel development and acquisition effort.

(8) Pages 28 through 30 describe the Quick Reaction Program, or QRP. Intended as a shortcut procurement system, it was not funded and had to compete against established formal efforts. "The Army bureaucracy did not understand that GEN Meyer had given the 9ID the mission of designing its own structure using the best of new high technology equipment. The result was great frustration all around. In 1984, program lines to support the HTMD and ADEA projects were finally being established, but were not yet in place to be able to buy the amounts of new technology needed."

ASSESSMENT: This is probably the single greatest dilemma in all the various streamlining efforts of at least the past two decades, and the point cannot be overstated: The problem is not with the acquisition process, but with its funding. When you procure equipment to be tested in the hands of Soldiers, then, by definition, that equipment is a "prototype" to be further developed. Accordingly, production and procurement funding is difficult to justify, since it is still "developmental." To be successful with a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) procurement, there must first be a firm materiel requirements document and an acceptable, ready-to-purchase solution. Placing a COTS item into the hands of troops for the purpose of testing, with the intent of then "militarizing" it based on the test results, is self-contradictory.

(9) Page 31, third paragraph, describes the problem of personnel rotation. At that time, two of the battalions were COHORT units, but their "sister" battalion was conventional infantry, making it impossible to rotate units. In 1984, the answer was to delay transitioning the two battalions and continue to try to work a solution.

ASSESSMENT: Eventually, COHORT was disbanded, but the point remains valid with low-density and specialized organizations.

(10) Pages 31 through 34 describe evaluation and certification. The testing was highly instrumented and TRADOC supported the O&O concept, but statistically valid assessments could not be made due to the lack of appropriate MILES equipment to replicate proposed systems; ie; no active enemy was shooting at the 9ID as even a token "reality check" to reign in the O&O make-believe. "...the deciding factors would be better command control and communications, more timely intelligence, [alleged] tactical mobility, and firepower massed at critical points and times [WWI French methodical battle]. The 3rd Brigade probed for assailable flanks and took advantage of greatly improved night vision devices and navigational aids. Deception and enhanced tactical intelligence further supported the motorized operations."

ASSESSMENT: As mentioned earlier about pages 5 and 27, the "reported improvements" are independent of the 9ID organization and could be readily applied across-the-board to other existing Army units.

(11) Page 34 and 35 describe the Final Design Review briefed to the Chief of Staff of the Army on 20 December, 1984. "The evaluation's summary report was favorable in all regards. In the area of firepower, the HTMD's ability to integrate the long-range firepower of its combined-arms battalions, coupled with its [alleged] superior maneuverability, enabled the motorized force to dominate the enemy over an extended area. It embodied the principles of [motor-driven infiltration] maneuver warfare [though the latter concept has only worked with tracked vehicles in actual combat]. Tactical mobility also received high marks. Of special note was the conclusion that the motorized division's combat service support units had compatible [wheeled] mobility with those of the highly mobile maneuver units. Survivability was also rated satisfactory [How? who was shooting at it? Even with MILES, there are no sensors on rubber tires]. The summary report also stated that the "flexible" operational concept, alleged superior tactical mobility, and the fact that the motorized division would fight with a "robust combined-arms team" [ie: cover up for its weaknesses] meant that it was supposedly more survivable than "conventional" units. Although it lacked armor-protected fighting vehicles, it would rely on "dodging" enemy thrusts and rapid displacement to survive. That this obviously failed in the 1973 Yom Kippur desert war less than a decade earlier didn't seem to factor into the Army leaders' thinking. The motorized division's "enhanced" air defense artillery capability (materiel and C3I initiatives), engineer and NBC capabilities designed to support dispersed, "highly mobile" combat operations were cited as further contributors [again note vague language of innuendo that 9ID could survive] to a survivable force on the AirLand battlefield. In the area of sustainability, motorized division initiatives were found to be very effective. Predictive supply management and the Palletized Loading System (PLS) greatly streamlined logistical movement. Large, highly mobile materiel handling equipment complemented a logistical support concept which emphasized pre-packaged unit throughput from support base directly to the user.... The forward support battalion concept of "one stop shopping" was rated extremely effective in support of the fluid operations of the non-linear battlefield. As for deployability, the downsized motorized division (objective) would require 1200 sorties of USAF C-141B aircraft. Planning for 100 sorties per day, the entire motorized division could reach its deployment destination in 12 days, well within acceptable parameters. In miscellaneous comments, the report also highlighted the strength of the motorized division's C3I capabilities. The use of the integrated command post (ICP) vehicles and tactical command, control and communications vehicles (TC3V) developed jointly by the 9ID and ADEA, and the division and brigade commanders' ability to control their forces on the battlefield were rated excellent and survivable. The "multi-dimensional" intelligence effort embodied in the MI battalion with its HUMINT, COMINT, ELINT, advanced target acquisition, Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV), and PLRS capabilities was considered outstanding."

ASSESSMENT: The objective HTMD is definitely better to the contemporary light infantry division in mobile operations, but not such a unit equipped with light tracked M113A3 Gavin AFVs as advocated by several Army officers in official Army publications but ignored. However, most of the technical, organizational, and doctrinal advances listed in the report are applicable to any type of unit, and many have been incorporated since then, they are not attributes that are sole possession of a rubber-tired wheeled unit. To insinuate that these technologies can only be applied to rubber-tired wheeled units is dishonest and not true.

(12) Pages 35 through 37 describe Joint Readiness Exercise BORDER STAR '85 at Fort Bliss, TX, from 18 March to 6 April 1985.

"The results of the motorized brigade's operations against the well-trained and professionally-led Armored Cavalry Regiment clearly reflected the motorized brigade's potential.... The motorized brigade showed it could fight on equal terms against a reinforced armor brigade."

"Problem areas that arose during BORDER STAR offered more significant concerns. The major vulnerability of the motorized force was its lack of a kinetic energy gun capable of delivering high rates of fire to destroy armor at ranges of 2000 meters and less. That shortcoming left the motorized units dangerously weak during meeting engagements or surprise armor attacks at close ranges."

"Other problems included a need for improved battalion and brigade tactical command posts, preferably fully tracked for unrestricted mobility. An over-dependence on Army attack helicopters as primary anti-armor systems was evident. At BORDER STAR Army aviation assets were frequently grounded by high gusting winds, hot weather, and high altitudes. Ground maneuver units depending on attack helicopters were destroyed when the helicopters could not fly."

ASSESSMENT: It is significant that even with all of its advanced capabilities, the motorized brigade could only claim "equal terms" against an armor brigade, and that depended on long-range supporting fires and high mobility to avoid engagement. Failure resulted in destruction. Without armored fighting vehicles, especially the AGS, the division O&O concept did not work.

(13) Pages 38 and 39 describe the effort at operational readiness (as opposed to a test unit). The result was a HMMWV-equipped interim division without the Fast Attack Vehicle (FAV), Armored Gun System (AGS), Mk-19 Grenade Machinegun (which was encountering production delays), etc. The "interim AGS" was to be a HMMWV-TOW, and surrogate FAVs were also replaced by HMMWVs. As DA and TRADOC began to become uncertain about the overall capabilities of the motorized division, it was decided to conduct an instrumented evaluation. The recommendation to the Army leadership was to send a CAB(H) [combined arms battalion (heavy)] to Fort Hood, TX, to oppose a regimental-sized force from an armor division. The fully instrumented evaluation would then be followed by a full rotation through NTC to confirm the data. "The decision from HQDA, however, was that such an undertaking was too expensive, and the motorized division lost an opportunity to prove its capabilities beyond a doubt."

ASSESSMENT: The O&O concept was based on yet to be developed systems and was developed using surrogates. Surrogates were employed in accordance with their ideal, or theoretical, capabilities. Now, however, the division was to be equipped with interim vehicles, which would have to operate until replaced by objective systems. To put it bluntly, a battalion of HMMWV-TOWs and HMMWV with .50 cal MGs or 40mm GMGs was to be pitted against an armor brigade. The exercise was never conducted.

(14) Pages 40 through 42 describe ongoing activities as the division continued conversion and became fully operational in its "interim" configuration. Battalions and brigades continued to participate in various exercises and demonstrated their capabilities. "The advantage the motorized units had in mobility, command and control, firepower, and combat service support reinforced tremendously the capabilities of the motorized force and greatly enhanced the confidence the motorized Soldiers had in their ability to fight and win."

ASSESSMENT: The significant merits of the motorized units can actually be considered as an illustration of the deficiencies of the contemporary light infantry division. The "confidence of the motorized soldiers" is expected of an elite unit, but the actual "ability to fight and win" remains hypothetical.

(15) Pages 42 through 44 describe MG Shalikashvili's tenure as Commanding General, 9th Infantry Division (Motorized), beginning 10 June 1987. "The new commander's mission was to take the recently operational motorized division and train it to a fine edge in order to support contingencies worldwide. No longer was equipping the new division the primary activity. Practical, functional, intensive training was the new goal. This was especially tough because there was no doctrinal literature anywhere but at Fort Lewis." Training was intense. "Near-term readiness and warfighting were the focus. The 9ID was no longer a test bed. It was written in to more war plan contingencies than any other division in the Army."

In October and November 1987, Congress directed defense budget cuts. Accordingly, the Secretary of the Army ordered a cut in end strength. The 2d Brigade Combat Team (2532 authorized spaces) was inactivated on 26 August 1988. Concurrently, one tank battalion was transferred to 9ID. [The 1-33 AR, under its designation of 2-77 AR, had been the 9ID's divisional tank battalion until transferred to I Corps in October 1986. It never physically left Fort Lewis.]

In December 1988, DA sent a warning order to convert one combined arms battalion (CAB) into a mechanized infantry battalion. As a possible interim structure, consider one active heavy brigade, 1st BDE [likely 1 tank and 2 mech battalions]; one active motorized brigade, 3rd BDE; and one reserve component heavy brigade (81st Sep IN BDE, WA NG).

In February 1987, Army leadership decided to terminate the Armored Gun System. "This key weapon system, around which the motorized O&O was designed and developed, would not be procured for the Army. The whole concept of a highly deployable anti-armor division was again up for debate."

ASSESSMENT: The 9ID evolved into a quasi-mechanized infantry division. The experiment effectively ended.

5. CONCLUSION: Parallels with the LAV-III/IAV IBCT "Medium Weight Force" are plain to see.

Regards "Vision," the flaw in the efforts, then and now, is that the Army starts with a top-driven "vision" or "goal" that is too-quickly wickered out into a strawman tactical and operational level solution without ever really staffing the strategic implications. The urgent focus on warfighting tends to obscure the logistics and personnel issues. MANPRINT is missing.

Regards the Combat Development process, specifically, GEN Meyer clearly directed a "concepts based" approach, but it prematurely shifted into a COTS effort. COTS works well if there is a clear definition of the requirement and an available system satisfies that requirement. In trying to expedite (circumvent) the acquisition process, the HTTB (later ADEA) created a Quick Reaction Process (QRP) of putting COTS equipment into the hands of troops for "hands-on testing." While this sounds good, it means, by definition, that the COTS is expected to be improved upon, so this is in reality an operational test portion of an undefined, unfunded developmental program. The result is unaffordable cost growth, first for procurement of the "interim" system, and then for subsequent upgrades to and/or replacement by the objective system. In the end, decision makers are forced to decide on objective systems while having only interim system results.

Regards testing, there was significant overlap in doctrine, organization, and materiel capabilities. The "quick and dirty" testing and evaluation lumps overall results but does not clearly discriminate the merits of the individual contributors. For example, were the fast attack vehicles (FAV) really important, or was it the situational awareness (today's terminology) offered by "high-tech C4I", precision fires, RPVs, etc., that made the difference? If the latter, then one should consider the possibility of providing the same advances to "conventional" units.

Finally, the baseline must be determined. The motorized division was an alternate to the light infantry division, which was (and still is) deficient in mobility and anti-armor capability. In its best efforts, the 9ID (Motorized) could only claim rough parity against equivalent armor units.

To compare with today's MWF effort, what, specifically, is the deficiency of heavy divisions? Is it predeployment preparation time, lack of available shipping, lack of suitable airframes, or poor deployment planning? What are the critical measures of effectiveness? Is it more critical to get the first brigade into the fight in 24 hours, or to get five divisions into theater in 30 days? Each solution set is radically different.

In the end, completely inadequate interim systems were substituted and the original O&O was ignored. The 9ID (Motorized) was declared operational and given "real world contingency missions", and was then quickly disbanded.