Newly-arrived Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) asks a question close to my heart: How can Gates institutionalize the counterinsurgency lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan?

"Two broad approaches," Gates says. One is "to institutionalize the thinking about counterinsurgency, particularly in the Army." That means "putting people in the proper places," like Gen. Marty Dempsey at the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. David Petraeus at U.S. Central Command, Gen. Peter Chiarelli as U.S. Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno as Iraq commander — "all those people really get it." An institutionally bureaucracy "might be able to beat one or two people," Gates observes, "but it’s really hard to beat four or five."

Second is "support for the warfighter in the… development, acquisition and procurement process" that usually favors future combat. "Why did I have to go outside the regular Pentagon bureaucracy to build additional MRAPs?" — the anti-IED vehicle developed for Iraq and Afghanistan and other asymmetric, ground-based combat. In other words, it’s time to look more carefully at existing U.S. war needs, not just those of the future. And right now, those are overwhelmingly about support to the counterinsurgent.

Crossposted to The Streak.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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