Reducing Logistic Vulnerability and Drag

It is a curious thing when warfighting becomes easier, it tends to happen more often. Conflicts today are of lower intensity, happen more frequently, and may be called by different names, humanitarian (and "democratic") interventions & "military operations other than war" to name two. The point is using military force to implement policy has noticably incresed.

The calculas of using force by politicians has many inputs. Some may use their personal experience in the armed forces. However, that element has taken a steep drop in recent years. Most of the politicians -- no longer do we call them statesmen, I don't think it was because of political correctness -- have not served and do not have family that served. Many, like VP Cheney, had "other priorities". Critical to the deployment decision and thus the ability to use force is water. It is one thing to insert troops and another to supply them. As the saying goes, wars are not won by the generals but by the quartermasters.

On the eve of World War I, when the Kaiser asked Moltke to stop the trains from rolling west, Moltke (with sadness, as he wrote in his journal) stated it was too late. After the war, however, when this story came to light (without the teardrop enhancement), the chief of the railroads wrote a scathing rebuke stating flately his operation was so efficient it could easily have halted or reversed. Today, we do not have this problem. Troops can be -- and have been -- en route and a mission scrubbed or changed at the last minute. Advanced communications allows sat. images & video to be provided and studied while in transport or on/near site. Advanced transportation deployment through air, land, and sea means provides the global reach that has defined American foreign policy in the last few decades.

Recently, a system entered evaluation in the US Army to address the problem of getting water to the troops, made especially more difficult in conflicts without frontlines. As with much of the technology developed for war, it is likely a civilian application will follow the military down the road, possibly resulting in replication's of Luke Skywalker's uncle's farm. In the meantime, development of a system on the Humvee

weighs just under 500 pounds and can filter only between 75 and 200 gallons of water before the filters must be replaced. And of course it produces water only as long as the vehicle is burning fuel. The water-from-air system makes about 600 gallons of water a day, compared with 600 gallons an hour for a traditional machine that purifies water from a river or pond.
Associated Press from Military.com

This is a great development and I hope for its success. It is hard if not impossible to deny success to this project or the implementation of this technology in both civilian and military area, but the consequence is even less resistence in deploying in hard to supply locations.

Training and technology for self-sufficient forces, in the model of the Future Combat System (FCS), will result in a more efficient fighting force. However, the inherent drawback of easier to deploy troops -- logistics are easier and figure less in planning -- will mean an increasing use of the military as a political tool.

Madeline Albright once lamented the value of our first-rate military if we don't use it, to paraphrase. Modernity has taken away or reduced diplomatic discourse and replaced it with communiques issued through the media. Modern communications and transportation and weapons, including obedient weapons, have given rise to Shock and Awe. This tactic, which may have a greater long-term impact on domestic audiences than on the enemy it is used against, is increasingly used in favor of soft power to accomplish our wishes. Combined with the 72hr self-sufficiency requirement of FCS, decision makers will be more likely to order punitive or "surgical" strikes with the hope of ending the conflict before it begins. Contrast the Gulf War's 100 hours versus the FCS requirement versus the reality of Mission Accomplished.

Systems like water-from-air or water-from-exhaust are great, however in the context of the current military strategy, it is an incremental deepening of the civil-military gap as the civilian leadership sees yet another restraint breakaway.  There is no getting around technological advances, and we should not avoid their use. It is important to keep these in perspective and modify our decision making appropriately.