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US Army to Disband Asymmetric Warfare Group and Rapid Equipping Force

Ever since the Army moved the Asymmetric Warfare Group and Rapid Equipping Force under Training and Doctrine Command, General Paul Funk has been working to disband the units, even go so far as to deactivate elements within AWG before the Army had made a final decision.

This week, the Army made their announcement. The decision is short sighted. The Army talks of transitioning from counter-insurgency operations to large-scale combat across multiple domains but then fails to acknowledge how the Russians are currently conducting operations globally.

The threats continue to remain asymmetric and require agile acquisition to rapidly identify requirements, assess niche solutions and field them. Just look at the subterranean work these two units have done.

There are several other commands within the Army where AWG and REF would have been more effective and adapted to changes within the Army. For example, the easy button was to move them to Army Futures Command to accomplish the tasks set forth above. That’s right in AFC’s mission.

Alternatively, they could have been moved to USASOC and adapted slightly to more adequately support SOF missions. Or, they could have been moved under the fledgling Security Force Assistance Command.

Any of those courses of action would have ensured that the US armed forces had organizations dedicated to assessing new threats and working to rapidly mitigate those threats.

America is more vulnerable without both AWG and REF.

Below is the Army’s announcement.

Army to discontinue AWG, REF efforts next year

By Devon Suits, Army News Service October 2, 2020

WASHINGTON — Army senior leaders announced plans to discontinue both the Asymmetric Warfare Group and Rapid Equipping Force, as the service shifts funding and resources from counter-insurgency operations to large-scale combat across multiple domains.

For more than 14 years, the AWG and REF have provided Soldiers with rapid materiel solutions and operational advisory support to close capability gaps during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Both organizations fall under U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and are slated to close no later than Sept. 30, 2021.

For the next year, AWG and REF leadership will prioritize a seamless transition of personnel, all while simultaneously moving programs and equipment to other agencies throughout the force, TRADOC officials said.

Mission

The REF bridged gaps between tactical-level requirements for materiel solutions and the long-term Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System process across most commodity areas.

Established in 2002 out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the REF provided Soldiers with non-standard equipment solutions to support mission demand, said Steven Sliwa, its deputy director.

Later in 2006, the Army established the AWG, headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland. During operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the AWG provided operational advisory support to develop rapid solutions to enhance Soldier survivability.

At the time, the AWG helped the Army avoid “tactical surprise” and fight back against an emerging improvised explosive device threat throughout the area of responsibility, said Lt. Col. Morgan Southern, the AWG Charlie Squadron commander.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army identified many institutional shortcomings. It was incumbent of both agencies to respond to these capability gaps, which led to the development of new doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities, or DOTMLPF, throughout the ranks — specifically for counter-insurgency operations, according to TRADOC officials.

In a targeted effort to streamline the materiel process, the Army granted REF leadership the authority to approve urgent requests, Sliwa said. Soldiers could fill out a “REF 10-liner” — a 10-question form — to identify a tactical problem and various characteristics, and request REF to find a solution.

“The goal has always been speed,” as the REF worked to equip Soldiers within 180 days of receiving a 10-liner request, Sliwa added.

Similarly, AWG stepped into an operational advisory support role to assist formations across a broad range of missions at the point of need, Southern said.

Counter-unmanned aircraft systems

The AWG and REF both focused on a range of Army challenges, working closely with other Army and Defense Department agencies, along with academia and commercial research, development, and technology communities.

Some accomplishments include developing solutions to counter unmanned aircraft systems and preparing the Army for underground operations.

The growing threat of unmanned aircraft systems, coupled with the speed of innovation of off-the-shelf UAS technology, all supported the need for counter-UAS policy.

“We identified the emerging threat and conducted a variety of global scout activities to help the Army understand … before it materialized on the battlefield,” he said.

The AWG focused on requirements to help fend off an opposing UAS, all while informing commercial solutions to ensure the survivability of Army-owned assets. The Army’s counter-UAS response pushed the development of doctrine and helped improve training, Southern added.

The REF also played a role in bolstering the Army’s counter-UAS capability, Sliwa said. The agency organized the first counter-UAS experiment at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

The result of that experiment led to REF’s procurement of the DroneDefender counter-UAS system, Sliwa said. Visually similar to a rifle, the defender system allowed Soldiers to disrupt an adversary’s UAS through directed energy.

The Army’s counter-UAS response “is a good example of how both organizations worked closely to identify a materiel solution … because the AWG had a full understanding of how [UASs] would be employed,” Sliwa added.

Today, the Army continues to lead a joint effort to align counter-UAS systems by enabling more “plug and play” technological capabilities, as part of the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems office.

Underground operations

The AWG and REF also helped close a capability gap tied to subterranean operations. Research on underground operations started in Afghanistan, where units encountered increase use of water-management channels, known as a Karez, by enemy forces, Southern said.

“The AWG had operational advisors on the ground with companies and platoons in Afghanistan,” he added. “When Soldiers started to encounter this challenge, AWG personnel begin to assist them at the point of need.”

AWG quickly developed techniques, tactics and procedures, and later shifted Army operations in the subterranean environment.

The REF also provided a wide range of solutions to maintain operational effectiveness while operating underground. Solutions included compact and secure network communications; personnel tracking; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear interface upgrades; relay nodes; and wireless video capabilities, REF officials said.

Moving on

As the former director of REF, Sliwa said he is incredibly proud of all the hard work the organization did to support the warfighter.

“We believe our best always came after we partnered with other agencies and organizations,” he said. “I am excited to see how the Army takes [the REF] on in the future.”

Similarly, Southern is humbled to have served two tours with the AWG. He is a former deputy commander of AWG, troop commander, and officer-in-charge of the operations and research analysis cell, he said.

“I am extremely proud to have served in this unit and witness all that this unit has done for our Army,” Southern said. “AWG’s contribution has been tremendous” as it maintained its primary mission — help others succeed.

To ensure the value of the organization’s work over the past 14 years is not lost, all lessons learned will be maintained by the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center via the Center for Army Lessons Learned, Centers of Excellence, and other TRADOC enterprise stakeholders.

18 Responses to “US Army to Disband Asymmetric Warfare Group and Rapid Equipping Force”

  1. Kho says:

    That does appear short-sighted. As you point out, Russia (and I’d add China) are very much running assymetric warfare that perfectly justifies those units’ existence.

    Apparently theylly be shipped down in 1 year. So perhaps there might still be time to raise that with the Senate Armed Forces Committee and/or the Presidential campaigns? A change in administration might open the door to a change in course for those.

    • iggy says:

      this.

      It’s what you get from years of having chickens in the Whitehouse and ignoring commanders.

      • James says:

        How so? Is this coming from the Admin or is this the Admin following Funk’s wishes for his command. I mean the Marines don’t seem to be having the same issues. Funk’s Armor and that’s probably all the explanation necessary.

      • E. says:

        Hey “Squiggy”, your TDS is showing again. Go research decisions our DoD has made in the last 25+ years and see how many fuct-up things the military has done that the congress/Admin had no say or input (Ass Carter/Obutthole not withstanding)*.

        Here’s a hint! look into history of Army UCP and the original pattern Caleb Crye developed back in early 2000’s. Next look up that dinosaur POS, the late Sen. John Murtha and the only good thing he’s ever done was told the US Army to pull it’s collective head out of it’s ass and get REAL camo for AFG and sinilar terrain!

  2. Brando says:

    This feels so…short sighted, but historically consistent.

  3. rob371 says:

    Terrible decision. I guess asymmetric/hybrid warfare could never possibly happen in near-peer LSCO?? They should have never been a part of TRADOC beyond handing down lessons learned to implement into doctrine and training. What a shame. I probably wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t received counter-sniper training from AWG in early OIF.

  4. Israel Hoffman says:

    Out of all the dumb things the Army could do, this ranks pretty high on the list.

  5. GoBlin says:

    Ahahahahaha! I mean… “oh, so pity”.

  6. Mark Wolf says:

    one generation of Funk is just as Funked up as the one before

  7. Bm says:

    Just wait until they cut SF battalions because they now have SFAB…

  8. Sommerbiwak says:

    The Cold War was just so comfortable in his youth.

  9. Strike-Hold says:

    As you say SSD, they should have moved to Futures Command and focussed on advanced concepts and needs, as well as studying and addressing new and emerging threats.

    Shinseki, Moran, and now Funk… grrrrrr

  10. mudd says:

    Disband who?

  11. SGT Rock says:

    Another reduction in proven effective units, smooth move big Army. Once again we’re being given the green weenie. This time by a tread head that prob spent his formative years in an APC somewhere in Europe, being jealous of “real units”. This decision is extremely myopic and short sighted and will come back to bite us in the ass. Hybridized warfare is the future, but instead we’re going backwards while our near-peer adversaries continue to adapt and advance this concept. Hope that bullet point on his OER is worth the American lives it will potentially cost.

  12. orly? says:

    Who’s bright idea was this?

  13. JB says:

    This is the end result of four years of snake-oil salesmen in DC pushing the fantasy that future peer/near-peer conflict is going to look like World War 2 with robots and AI in order to sell weapons systems that will never be used in combat.

    Future conflict will almost certainly look incredibly similar to the past 20 years…the only thing that will really change are the drivers of the asymmetric conflicts we will be engage in at the ground level.

    Short sighted to say the least.

  14. Attack7 says:

    I’ll give the servicemembers perspective from the senior leader level as well as an industry professional working with the organizations to the help the Army.

    AWG and the REF personally helped me while serving my last couple of years on active duty…..but what was sad to see most didn’t hold them in regards as I did. Here’s a breakdown of some truths I witnessed myself and through friends and subordinates who worked at both.

    1. There was nothing RAPID about the Rapid Equipping Force. I wrote a 10 Liner for equipment two months before a deployment…. that didn’t show up to Iraq until our last two months in country.
    2. Unit commanders thought they could circumvent using their own funds with the REFs funds for shortages and COTs procurement = NOT.
    3. AWG wasn’t used by unit Cdr’s as you’d think. How many people remember being taught CATC at Basic and OSUT?
    4. AWG trained over 17 BCTs in Sub-T, with only 2 battalions actually trying to procure the recommended equipment by AWG. BCT Cdr’s weren’t willing to spend the $ for something they probably wouldn’t execute on their watch.
    5. AWG taskers like cUAS testing that led to zero procurement vehicle by Big Army or SOF.

    I valued what they brought to the table, but I couldn’t see the larger problem until I was retired and working in industry to see the larger Army problem….which is the Army itself. The people (leaders) and the organization (Army) aren’t ‘about it’ as you’d think. Ask how many people served past CPT/SFC on SSD and you’ll understand the problem.