Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, head of the DOD Office of Force Transformation, says the military is considering creating a military force that would be dedicated to stability and reconstruction operations:

Although it may be some time before a final decision is made on whether such a force becomes reality, Cebrowski — one of the department’s chief architects in the effort to transform the military — said the ever-changing post-Sept. 11 security environment, as well as the lessons of history itself, make a strong case for stability and reconstruction operations.

“We’re going to need this capability. And we’re going to need it repeatedly,” he said in a recent interview. “Just because we need it today in Iraq doesn’t mean that’s the only time.”

In its broadest sense, a stabilization and reconstruction force most likely would be used under conditions that now exist in Iraq–between the end of major combat operations and the formation of a stable government, although Cebrowski was quick to point out that the need for such a force would not be limited to just that one scenario.

“The need for stability operations could happen at any time, and in places we haven’t necessarily considered,” he said.

The transformation chief said a stability and reconstruction force would include such elements as combat arms, military police, civil affairs, military intelligence, psychological affairs, engineers and explosive ordnance teams. But he emphasized that the heart of the force would be the combat arms element.

“Stability operations are difficult, are very important and very dangerous,” he said. “This is no place for a pick-up team. This is meant to be part of the broad combat arms capability of the military. This is not the place where you put other than your best people and best equipment, because these are the people who are going to wrest victory and wrest our political objectives from an enemy dedicated to defeating us.”

While pointing to the importance of the combat arms elements, Cebrowski said such a force must include the long-held belief that “everyone’s a rifleman.”

I chatted briefly with Adm. Cebrowski before his talk at the Fletcher Conference earlier this month, and this largely echoes what he said at the time. I hope this is indeed the direction the transformation takes; many of us have been arguing for precisely this reconfiguration for more than a decade.

The lead-in had me a bit worried: I feared they had dredged up the old idea of creating a separate force that was devoted to peace operations. That idea has many advocates but would be exceedingly dangerous. As our experiences in Somalia and Iraq, most notably, demonstrate, military operations in these environments are incredibly fluid. Our force needs to be able to move between full-on combat operations and traditional peacekeeping–and all the variants in the spectrum between those extremes–instantaneously.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.