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U.S. Weapons: The Low-Intensity Threat Is Not Necessarily a Low-Technology Threat

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United   States   General   Accounting   Office




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               Representatives


March   1990

               U.S. WEAPONS
               The Low-Intensity
               Threat Is Not
               Necessarily a Low-
               Technology Threat
                    United States

GAO                 General Accounting  Office
                    Washington, D.C. 20548

                    Program Evaluation    and
                    Methodology  Division

                    B-236947

                    March 2,1990

                    The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
                    Chairman, Committee on Government Operations
                    House of Representatives

                    Dear Mr. Chairman:

                    This report responds to the Chairman’s request for information on three
                    questions concerning low-intensity warfare (LIW): (1) What are the LIW
                    threats and contingencies US. armed forces face? (2) What are the LIW
                    lessons to be learned from the recent past? (3) How is DOD addressing
                    technology requirements for fighting IN? This report is an unclassified
                    summary of our work; a more detailed description of our findings can be
                    found in the classified version of this report, which we are delivering
                    concurrently to your office. Appendix I contains a summary of our
                    objectives, scope, and methodology.

                    A brief explanation will suffice to distinguish the term “low-intensity
                    warfare,” which is a significant aspect of our focus here, from the more
                    broadly used term “low-intensity conflict” (IX). Current U.S. LIC policy
                    places primary emphasis on indirect measures-such as economic and
                    military aid, training and advice, and information policy-to address a
                    range of political-military operations focused on instabilities in the
                    Third World. These operations include counterinsurgency, antiterrorism,
                    peacekeeping, peacetime contingency operations, and counter-narcotics
                    activities. In the event that indirect measures fail, the U.S. armed forces
                    can be called upon to become directly engaged in combat in pursuit of
                    the same political-military objectives, as was recently the case in Opera-
                    tion Just Cause in Panama. We were requested to confine our inquiry to
                    low-intensity warfare, which is that subset of low-intensity conflict
                    where US. armed forces are directly and substantially engaged in com-
                    bat in a low-intensity environment. According to the Department of
                    Defense (DOD), LIC and the LIW subset together are a form of conflict
                    highly likely to occur in the future.


                    To identify the LIW threats, we reviewed DOD LIC threat assessments and
LIW Threats U.S.    MC-related reports from the State Department and the Arms Control and
Armed Forces Face   Disarmament Agency, all for the year 1988. These official threat assess-
                    ments and reports identified a large number of countries where domestic
                    instability, terrorism, insurgencies, regional war, narcotics trafficking,



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5236947




and other LIC problems are occurring or are likely to occur. These coun-
tries are located in every inhabited region of the world and present a
broad range of differences along climatic, political, social, economic, cul-
tural, and religious dimensions. The LIC problems that occur can
adversely affect U.S. interests, and a wide variety of threats can occur
in multiple forms, often simultaneously, in individual countries. Thus,
the potential exists in many locations for complex situations to develop
in which U.S. interests are in jeopardy, peaceful measures do not suc-
ceed, and U.S. armed forces consequently are called into direct action.

From the same official sources, we identified a second, more limited
group of countries described as potentially or actively involving them-
selves in, or materially supporting, even unintentionally, activities that
contribute to various LIC problems by virtue of their external relations
with others. These countries’ activities-carried   out by governments, or
groups or individuals associated with them-either      were characterized
by official sources as having negative impacts on certain U.S. interests,
or evidence was presented to make that implication clear. While this
group was not generally considered in official documents to be the fun-
damental cause of MC-related problems throughout the world, their
activities were described as contributing to or exacerbating them.
Because an identification of these countries and their activities helps to
establish the global parameters of the LIC problem, we focused on them
particularly. We define them here as countries that have tended to exac-
erbate external LIC problems.

The DOD threat assessments and State Department reports identified a
range of activities associated with these countries, as follows: support
for international terrorism occurring in other countries; active involve-
ment in illegal international narcotics-trafficking; promotion of domestic
instability in other countries through activities such as subversion, sabo-
tage, assassination, and other hostile intelligence actions; active involve-
ment in insurgencies or civil wars contrary to U.S. interests;
participation in regional war or cross-border military operations the
United States does not support; Third World possession or possible
development of chemical or nuclear weapons; the possession or transfer
to others of conventional weapons with adverse regional-security or
generally destabilizing effects; and threats to U.S. transit or base rights
or the provision of base rights to the Soviet Union.

 Those countries and activities that exacerbate external LIC problems are
 listed in our classified report. The documents we reviewed did not
 always explicitly describe the activities of many of these countries as
                          .

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constituting LIC threats to the United States. However, they did describe
activities by them as posing specific problems for US. interests. The list
shows the diverse activities that these countries have undertaken.

In addition to the broad spectrum of potential LIW locations, there is a
wide variety of weapons that U.S. armed forces must be prepared to
confront. This speaks not only to an expanded, highly diversified threat
but one in which the types of weapons likely to be encountered may
differ in major ways from country to country. Prominent in this diver-
sity is modern, sophisticated military hardware. In fact, the official doc-
uments we reviewed stated that advanced military technology has been
distributed throughout the Third World and is easy to acquire. Accord-
ing to these sources, the military-technology gap between the major
powers and the Third World is rapidly narrowing . Some exporters from
Western countries reportedly have been transfering ever more sophisti-
cated technology in order to compete in the Third World arms market.

The cumulative effect has been arms deliveries to and transfer agree-
ments with the Third World by certain governments totaling $38.4 bil-
lion in value over the 1983-87 period. This dollar amount roughly
approximates the combined annual defense budgets of France and the
Federal Republic of Germany. These arms sales have included 52 major
warships, 242 supersonic combat aircraft, and over 2,300 surface-to-air
missiles. Recipients of these weapons have included Libya and Iraq, as
well as other countries identified as exacerbating external LIC problems.
As a result of some of these arms transfers, recent LIW events have seen
U.S. armed forces confronting both modern Soviet weapons (which also
commonly appear in the arms inventories of many of the countries that
exacerbate LIC) and modern French aircraft and guided missiles (such as
Mirage F-l fighter aircraft, Exocet antiship missiles, and Crotale sur-
face-to-air missiles).

In addition, in LIW in the Persian Gulf, U.S. armed forces were required
to prepare for threats from, or actually to engage, U.S.-built systems
that had been sold to Iran in the 1970’s or more recently. These included
Maverick and Harpoon missiles, F-14 and F-4 aircraft, and other U.S.
systems (such as TOWand Stinger missiles) that had been provided to
Iran directly by the United States or by retransfer from other parties.
Clearly, when the United States sold these weapons to Iran in the
1970’s, there was no expectation on the part of the United States that
these weapons would ultimately be used as they actually were.


                         .


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An important aspect of the threat posed to U.S. armed forces by the
presence of Western weapons in the hands of potential or actual LIW
opponents is that such systems often possess operating characteristics
different from those of Soviet-designed systems. Generally, while Soviet
and Western weapon systems perform similar overall functions, specific
examples of Western systems- such as antiship guided missiles-may
in fact possess electronic signatures, radar cross-sections, flight profiles,
and other operating characteristics different from those of Soviet sys-
tems, which can lessen the effectiveness of U.S. detection and counter-
measure systems.

While recent experience demonstrates the substantial volume and diver-
sity of international arms transfers, it is entirely possible that future
sources of supply might grow even larger and more diverse. For exam-
ple, if substantial Warsaw Pact forces are demobilized as current trends
progress in Europe, a large quantity of surplus, but quite modern, mili-
tary equipment may become available for transfer to the Third World.

Because potential US. LILVopponents possess such a wide array of
weapon systems, thereby proliferating the technical challenges U.S.
defense equipment may face, we examined the official threat assess-
ments to identify where US. armed forces are most likely to be used in
combat in a low-intensity environment, or, in the absence of any such
explicit statement, where LIC problems are stated to be most severe and
important U.S. interests most seriously at risk. We searched the threat
assessments for these priorities because DOD described these documents
as (1) providing guidance to U.S. armed forces to accomplish their
responsibilities to plan and carry out missions; to develop and acquire
equipment; to train units; and to formulate strategy, doctrine, and tac-
tics; and as (2) the principal intelligence basis for planning strategy,
force structure, budgeting, and contingency planning for short- and
medium-term periods.

While there is evidence that DOD has written contingency plans for a
multitude of scenarios, in the documents we reviewed we found no evi-
dence that DOD has attempted to identify the ones most likely to occur-
except, of course, in those cases where the National Command Authority
has ordered that an actual operation take place. We found few meaning-
ful specifics to indicate priorities established in the threat assessments
that would assist planners to determine what specific scenarios, tactical
situations, and weapons to prepare for. In only a very limited number of
cases was a specific location identified in the context of the possible use
of U.S. forces in combat, and, in all such cases, the statements of


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    probability were either vague or indeterminate. In the official documen-
    tation available to us, we found little, if any, guidance to help U.S.
    armed forces determine what specific weapons U.S. forces are most
    likely to meet and, therefore, what specific technical challenges U.S.
    defense hardware should address.

    Several important points emerge from the foregoing information.

l   First, the range of potential situations and locations where U.S. armed
    forces may be called on to take direct action is global.
l   Second, U.S. forces are confronted in potential LIW with an array of
    weapons that can have substantially different operating characteristics
    from the Soviet weapons that they have been preparing to face in a
    major war in Europe.
l   Third, the so-called low-intensity threat is not necessarily a low-technol-
    ogy threat. The weapons that US. armed forces may encounter in future
    LIW span the range of military technology that exists throughout the
    modern world; that is, it is not just poorly equipped opponents we
    confront.
l   Finally, the weapons we face may be our own.

    Thus, while there are some similarities, it becomes quite clear that the
    LIW threat is more than just a lesser version of the high-intensity, Soviet
    threat. The technology available to the LIW threat goes beyond the
    Soviet threat at both the high and low ends of the spectrum. The contin-
    gencies U.S. armed forces may face also include combinations of weap-
    ons from Western, Soviet, and other sources-a factor that can
    potentially complicate the technical challenges even further.

    This makes it all the more important for planning to occur that examines
    the particular configurations of the weapon systems we are most likely
    to face in given locations, under different contingencies. Yet, the threat
    assessments we reviewed did not identify in a meaningful manner either
    the most probable scenarios or associated opposing weapons from a
    global range of possibilities. It is therefore unclear how the armed ser-
    vices can determine their most pressing hardware needs for LIW. This is
    a critical problem, since DOD has determined that this form of conflict is
    one our military must expect to confront in the future, and since the
    experience of recent years indicates some serious problems in the use of
    US. hardware.




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                       To examine the LIW experience of the recent past, we reviewed four LIW
LIW LessonsFrom the    combat events: the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Grenada in 1983
Recent Past            (Operation Urgent Fury), the Marine Corps peacekeeping mission in Leb-
                       anon from 1982 to 1984, the Navy and Air Force air strikes over Libya
                       in 1986 (Operation El Dorado Canyon), and the deployment of naval
                       forces in the Persian Gulf beginning in 1987 (Operation Earnest Will).’
                       We further selected four categories of hardware to review within the
                       four LIW events: joint communications equipment, precision-guided
                       munitions, unguided munitions, and helicopters. Our findings concerning
                       this hardware are summarized in appendix II and are discussed below.


Joint Communications   For joint communications, significant problems were demonstrated in
                       each LIW event. For the Grenada operation, communications hardware
Equipment              was described as outmoded, heavy, unreliable, and maintenance-inten-
                       sive. Operating procedures were also problematic; common codes and
                       radio frequencies were not always distributed among service units, caus-
                       ing interoperability impediments even when the equipment was physi-
                       cally compatible. The nature of joint communications problems was
                       somewhat different in the other LIW events.

                       The planning for Grenada was tightly compressed in time, and the oper-
                       ation was short in duration. As DOD discussed in its lessons-learned
                       reports, time constraints and inadequate planning meant that needed
                       alterations were not made to bridge joint communications hardware and
                       procedural gaps. For the three other operations, time before or during
                       the operation was used to make adjustments to compensate for pre-
                       dicted or discovered communications problems that were both signifi-
                       cant and directly relevant to the operation. Before the airstrikes against
                       Libya and during the Lebanon and Persian Gulf operations, hardware
                       and procedures were modified and added, as needed, to enable commu-
                       nications that would otherwise have been impaired. These operations
                       demonstrate that sufficient time and planning are necessary to establish
                       efficient joint communications. However, DOD doctrine points out that
                       LIW contingency operations can be expected to be both short notice and
                       short duration. The Grenada experience illustrates that, under these
                       conditions, reliance on case-specific preparatory and compensatory mea-
                       sures for efficient joint communications can lead to problems. In impie-
                       menting the recommendations of the lessons-learned documents to

                        ‘Operation Just Cause occurred in Panama after we completed our field work. However, as your
                        office requested, we are seeking DOD documents regarding this operation to enable us to assessthe
                        effectiveness of US. hardware in this most recent occurrence of LIW.



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                    acquire reliable, interoperable joint communications equipment, it will
                    be important to ensure, once the critical performance and other criteria
                    have been achieved, that such equipment is fully deployed to those
                    forces called on for short notice, short duration contingencies.


Precision-Gu.ided   The LIW events demonstrated a variety of limitations to the effective-
                    ness of certain precision-guided munitions. (For further details, see our
Munitions           classified report.) However, these limitations are not always factored
                    into the analysis of specific engagements.

                    For example, DOD itself has characterized the failure of ship antiair
                    defense systems in the Persian Gulf (the Stark and Vincennes incidents)
                    as due to fundamental failures in the Stark crew’s leadership and train-
                    ing, and as an “accident” in the case of the Vincennes’ shooting down of
                    a civilian airliner. However, the DOD (and other) reports addressing these
                    incidents discussed operating and design characteristics of the associ-
                    ated physical systems as possessing inherent limitations that we believe
                    should be included in the summary explanations of the failures. For
                    example, under various circumstances, radars and certain other warning
                    systems have significant difficulty in distinguishing between hostile,
                    neutral, and friendly targets. These hardware limitations should be
                    included, along with the human errors DOD has identified, in seeking to
                    derive the overall explanation of the failures.

                    We also found cases where guided munitions were effective. (See appen-
                    dix II.) And, in some cases, assessments by us were not possible or were
                    tentative. Laser-guided bombs were used in the Persian Gulf and Leba-
                    non, but the data we received from DOD on their employment in those
                    two operations lacked sufficient detail for us to make any assessment of
                    this weapon’s effectiveness in the Persian Gulf and anything but a ten-
                    tative assessment for Lebanon, where only one instance of use was
                    briefly recorded. Similarly, in Libya, guided antiradiation missiles were
                    used, but the documents made available to us provided no data to com-
                    pute the ratio of weapons launched to targets hit.

                    Overall, we found various precision-guided munitions to have a poor
                    success ratio and a significant number and diversity of limitations relat-
                    ing to availability, weather restrictions, ease of employment, inherent
                    technical constraints, and other factors.




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Unguided Munitions        The instances we reviewed where unguided munitions were used
                          showed these munitions were effective slightly more frequently than
                          not. Guns and unguided rockets from aircraft and helicopters were
                          effective in Grenada (except for two significant cases in which U.S.
                          forces or civilians were attacked), and in the Persian Gulf against small,
                          fast gunboats. In Grenada, antiquated 90-mm recoilless rifles were effec-
                          tive; our assessment of a different unguided munition has been classi-
                          fied. Large-caliber naval gunfire demonstrated a mixed record, at best,
                          in Grenada and Lebanon and, in most instances of its use in the Persian
                          Gulf, could not be assessed because the data provided did not indicate
                          any ratio of hits versus misses.

                          In Grenada, guns and unguided rockets were used effectively for close
                          air support missions that laser-guided bombs were unable to perform.
                          However, conditions where unguided and precision-guided types of
                          munitions were used sometimes varied considerably. For example, cir-
                          cumstances (such as weather and time of day) and restrictions (such as
                          rules of engagement) were often different. Accordingly, a direct compar-
                          ison of relative effectiveness would require further data and analysis.
                          Overall, we found unguided munitions, as employed, to be more fre-
                          quently effective than ineffective; however, some significant problems
                          were also demonstrated.


Helicopters               Helicopters were useful for a variety of functions that other equipment
                          could not readily perform. However, in Grenada they proved to be
                          highly vulnerable, even to unsophisticated gun systems ranging from 23-
                          mm antiaircraft guns to 7.62-mm infantry assault rifles. While limited,
                          information from Lebanon and the Persian Gulf tended to support an
                          assessment of helicopters as versatile yet vulnerable in the presence of
                          light, unsophisticated defenses. Clearly, the vulnerability of helicopters
                          is an important factor when considering how and when to use them,
                          how to design future models, and how much they should cost.


Problems in Facing         In our earlier discussion of the LIW threat, we addressed certain
Unsophisticated Threats    problems relating to modern sophisticated Western weapons in the
                           hands of LIW opponents. During the course of our lessons-learned
                           review, we identified an additional area of concern: Unsophisticated
                           hardware-some      of it Soviet, some of it Western-has presented signifi-
                           cant problems to certain current U.S. systems, some of them the newest,
                           most technically advanced equipment available. For example, in the Per-
                           sian Gulf, small, fast motor boats and slow commercial aircraft were


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found to be a threat to major US. surface warships. Existing, sophisti-
cated cannon-and-missile ship defense systems were said to have limited
utility against these threats, and, as a consequence, machine guns and
grenade launchers were added to the armaments of major surface war-
ships. The joint communications problems that were encountered
occurred in the absence of electronic jamming by opponents, and it is
possible that in a more stressful, jamming environment additional
problems could be experienced. In sum, significant performance
problems have occurred-not      only against modern sophisticated West-
ern weapons but also against unsophisticated systems, from the Soviet
Union and elsewhere, and in the absence of a highly stressful environ-
ment for the hardware.

Some of the specific problems in the use of U.S. hardware that we identi-
fied are not unique to LIW. Joint communications problems can be pre-
sumed to exist for U.S. armed forces in high-intensity warfare as well.
The limitations of radars in distinguishing friends, foes, and neutrals
apply to the use of radar in any form of warfare. Helicopters that expe-
rience vulnerability problems against the armed forces of Grenada will
surely have equally serious problems against Soviet air defenses. What
is important here is (1) the documentation that all of these specific
problems have been encountered in LIW against unsophisticated oppo-
nents, and (2) the recognition that the more general problem of a wider
weaponry threat is unique to LM~-U.S. and Western European weapons
do not constitute part of the high-intensity warfare, Soviet threat.

In addressing various problems and limitations regarding hardware,
DOD'S lessons-learned documents sometimes derived recommendations on
the use of such hardware that, if followed, would obviate or lessen the
problems encountered. For example, based on the Marines’ difficulties in
communicating with allied forces in Lebanon, one report recommended
that new procedures be planned and rehearsed. In some other cases, the
lessons-learned documents pointed out the need to modify or replace the
hardware in question to resolve problems identified. For example, a
major Army lessons-learned report from the Grenada operation recom-
mended that the Army consider procuring off-the-shelf, up-to-date com-
munications equipment and making it available to the 82nd Airborne
Division as soon as possible. Thus, the resolution of the types of hard-
ware problems we identify here might as often be found in changing
operating techniques as in actual hardware alterations.




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Quality of the Lessons-   Although some relevant details were lacking in some of DOD’S lessons-
                          learned reports, we found that they constitute an important and useful
Learned Documents         body of information, In many cases, problems were openly addressed
                          and assessed in accord with the data presented. These reports can effec-
                          tively warn military and civilian planners and operators of previous pit-
                          falls and allow them to build on past successes. The production,
                          dissemination, and assimilation throughout the military services and
                          civilian leadership of these lessons-learned reports comprise an essential
                          part of the effort to avoid the repetition of past mistakes, especially if
                          that leadership translates the various report recommendations into the
                          needed actions.


Summary                   Overall, we see in the LIW events of the recent past a number of exam-
                          ples in which U.S. defense hardware demonstrated significant limita-
                          tions and lack of effectiveness. Fully adequate, interoperable joint
                          communications equipment was not on hand unless special measures
                          were taken, and they were not always taken. Various precision-guided
                          munitions demonstrated a poor success ratio and a significant number
                          and diversity of limitations. Unguided munitions were more frequently
                          effective than ineffective, but significant problems did occur. Helicop-
                          ters, while versatile, demonstrated unacceptable vulnerability against
                          even weak opposition. In addition to the difficulties noted earlier in
                          operating against modern, sophisticated Western weapons in LIW, we
                          found that some problems have also occurred against unsophisticated
                          weapons and in the absence of severe stress on the hardware, even
                          when U.S. forces were using the newest U.S. equipment available. Over-
                          all, the variety and significance of the hardware problems encountered
                           in the LIW events we reviewed comprise a range of vulnerabilities that,
                           unless effectively addressed, could seriously impede the success of U.S.
                           military operations in future LIW. Finally, DOD lessons-learned reports
                           constitute a body of information we found to be important in planning
                           and preparing for future contingencies and in identifying potential alter-
                           natives to resolve observed hardware problems.




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                   To assess how DOD is addressing equipment requirements for LIW, we col-
How DOD Is         lected data from each of the military services, both for general purpose
Addressing         forces and special operations forces. The new joint special operations
Technology         command has developed an Integrated Priority List for its requirements.
                   The same command is currently conducting a joint mission-area analysis
Requirements for   to consider, among other things, the assets available to accomplish mis-
Fighting LIW       sion requirements. However, the baseline report for this joint mission
                   area analysis is not scheduled to be completed until the end of fiscal
                   year 1990. With regard to the Integrated Priority List, its prioritization
                   of hardware requirements does not discriminate between special opera-
                   tions force requirements for low-intensity as opposed to high-intensity
                   warfare, and, in fact, t,he special operations representatives we spoke to
                   do not consider it useful to make such distinctions. General purpose
                   force representatives also did not see the necessity of distinguishing
                   between weapons intended for low- and high-intensity warfare. We were
                   told that, while current hardware requirements are generally driven by
                   the Soviet high-intensity warfare threat, U.S. weapons are nevertheless
                   expected to be effective across the spectrum of conflict.

                   We did find some isolated exceptions to this generally expressed view.
                   For example, the Army is currently studying its requirements system
                   with the stated intent of giving low-intensity hardware needs an oppor-
                   tunity to be considered. (These Army studies were not completed at the
                   conclusion of our review.) Navy representatives stated that the priority
                   of certain Navy weapons has been adjusted upward because of their
                   applicability to LIW. The Marine Corps has recently completed a Marine
                   Air-Ground Task Force Master Plan that gives emphasis to low-intensity
                   conflict, and Marine Corps representatives stated that their amphibious
                   forces are currently being equipped and trained for warfare across the
                   spectrum of conflict. Air Force representatives stated that they design
                   systems primarily for the Soviet threat and that to design aircraft sys-
                   tems for other threats would be prohibitively expensive. However, the
                   Air Force also identified a small number of individual programs cur-
                   rently being pursued specifically for LIW.

                   DOD  representatives stated that in other areas not included in our
                   work-such     as training, doctrine, and force structure-there  has been
                   substantial activity. Although those topics were outside the scope of this
                   report, GAO has done work in these subject areas in the past and will
                   continue to do so in the future.

                   As noted earlier, our analysis of the LIW threat and the lessons-learned
                   documents showed that if our weapons are to be effective against the


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equipment available to potential LIW opponents, they need to be
designed to operate against sophisticated Western European- and U.S.-
designed hardware, not just Soviet hardware. In addition, we found that
current U.S. hardware has also encountered problems against unsophis-
ticated weapons and in a less than stressful environment. Further, our
analysis showed that the likelihood for encountering these problems is
real, not hypothetical. It seems quite clear-and various DOD representa-
tives agreed-that    the spectrum of technology in the LIW threat extends
beyond that of the Soviet high-intensity warfare threat.

Nevertheless, the Army’s ongoing Lrc-related requirements studies are
not intended to focus on the non-Soviet-supplied or -trained LIW threat,
and current Army exercises at major training centers do train against
Soviet doctrine and equipment for LIW but not against the U.S.- or West-
ern European-trained and -equipped threat. Navy equipment intended
expressly for LIW scenarios is provided not to Navy forces in general but
only when a specific need is identified. While some Marine Corps repre-
sentatives stated that the Marine Corps is fully trained and equipped to
fulfill its responsibilities in relation to non-Soviet as well as Soviet-
equipped forces across the spectrum of conflict, other Marine Corps rep-
resentatives have argued, unofficially, that the Marines are not ready to
conduct counterrevolutionary operations because of their incomplete
understanding of the political and social problems involved. The Air
Force designs equipment primarily against the Soviet threat, and not
necessarily against technology from other sources. Finally, the priority
lists of hardware requirements we reviewed demonstrated some priori-
tizations that we found consistent with our analysis of the LIW lessons
learned, some that were not, and some where the lessons appeared to
have-been imperfectly learned.

As a result of the military services’ various approaches to hardware
requirements, U.S. equipment employed in past LIW has not always been
appropriate to the threats encountered. Furthermore, and not unrelat-
edly, U.S. equipment has not been generally or consistently effective.
Overall, most of the military services concern themselves primarily with
the high-intensity Soviet threat, arguing generally that equipment
designed for that threat would normally address the low-intensity
threat adequately. Our review did not show this to be necessarily the
case, largely because of the proliferation of sources and types of weap-
ons technology US. armed forces have had to confront.


                      .


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                      Despite the military services’ appreciation of the non-Soviet-equipment
                      threat in LIW, we found no indication that such equipment was systemat-
                      ically considered in DOD'S current requirements process. However, it is
                      premature at this point to assess whether ongoing DOD studies will ulti-
                      mately recommend that such considerations be more fully addressed.
                      We believe that reliance on equipment requirements that do not system-
                      atically take into account the types of problems encountered in recent
                      uw-such as that of limited effectiveness against Western weapons
                      with different operating characteristics from Soviet weapons and
                      against certain examples of unsophisticated opposing hardware-
                      increases the risk of continuing U.S. equipment vulnerabilities against
                      an extremely multifaceted threat.

                      We noted earlier that the LIC threat assessments we reviewed did not
                      indicate which contingencies and configurations of technology U.S.
                      armed forces appear most likely to face among a global range of pos-
                      sibilities. However, it is clear that DOD faces an imposing task in ensuring
                      that its forces are adequately equipped to face the various LIW contin-
                      gencies. And, without identifying what scenarios and weapons are most
                      likely to be encountered in specific locations, DOD cannot show that its
                      current approach to equipment requirements is adequate, nor can the
                      military services optimally employ their limited resources and funds to
                      develop and acquire the most appropriate equipment for future LAW.

                      In sum, we found some evidence of DOD initiatives designed to address
                      LIW technology requirements, but these initiatives were either incom-
                      plete or lacked a concerted plan or concept to address the full range of
                      demonstrated problems. The lack of comprehensive efforts to address
                      the Western, U.S., and other military technology US. armed forces may
                      face in LM~,the ineffectiveness of some U.S. systems against unsophisti-
                      cated weapons, and the failure to incorporate the other technology les-
                      sons learned lead us to believe that the kinds of significant problems
                      encountered in the past could well occur again.

                      It is also important to keep in mind the fact that the problems we have
                      discussed occurred against generally poorly equipped and/or trained
                      adversaries. Against more competent, highly motivated, better equipped
                      LIW forces, additional and more severe U.S. problems and shortcomings
                      could occur.


                      Subject to the limitations and constraints identified in this report, our
Overall Conclusions   conclusions are as follows:
                                               .

                      Page 13             GAO/PEMLNO-13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
        B-236947




        1. The potential LIW scenarios and weapons that US. armed forces face
        are diverse and pervasive. Prominent in the LIW threat are weapons sup-
        plied by some Western countries, including the United States and other
        major NATO nations, that can possess operating characteristics different
        from the Soviet weapons that U.S. forces have prepared to face in high-
        intensity warfare. Low-intensity warfare is not necessarily low-technol-
        ogy warfare, and the weapons the United States faces may be Western
        European- or U.S.-made.

        2. In recent LIW, current U.S. defense hardware has exhibited numerous
        instances of unsuccessful employment or significant limitations. In the
        four categories of systems we reviewed

l     certain unguided munitions were effective; however, some serious
      problems were also demonstrated;
l     various precision-guided munitions showed a poor success ratio and a
      significant number of limitations relating to availability, weather
      restrictions, ease of employment, inherent technical constraints, and
      other limitations;
    . adequate, interoperable joint communications equipment has not always
      been on hand; and
    l helicopters, while versatile, have exhibited vulnerability described by
      some lessons-learned reports as “unacceptable.”

        3. Serious performance problems have occurred against modern, sophis-
        ticated Western weapons, against unsophisticated Soviet and other sys-
        tems, and in the absence of a highly stressful hardware environment.
        Against higher quality opposition, additional and more severe U.S.
        problems and shortcomings can be expected.

        We also noted that lessons-learned reports constitute an important body
        of information that, if properly disseminated and mined, should be use-
        ful to both civilian and military leaders and planners for suggesting
        ways to resolve identified hardware problems. In addition, although our
        detailed review was limited to LIW hardware issues, it is also the case
        that DOD has actively undertaken efforts to address other LIW issues
        such as training, doctrine, and force structure.

         We conclude that there are three broad needs that DOD should consider
         in its efforts to be materially prepared for and credible in low-intensity
         warfare.




         Page 14             GAO/PJ%fD-9@13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
    E236947




    1. Because US. weapons have not been systematically designed for the
    full range of LIW hardware threats that DOD itself expects its armed
    forces to encounter in the future, more emphasis must be placed on
    designing U.S. weapons that work against both sophisticated and unso-
    phisticated systems from multiple sources.

    2. Careful planning is needed to

l determine the threat configurations most likely to be encountered in LIW
  in order to identify the specific weapon systems that may be deployed
  against us in critical locations;
l assess the limitations of our current weapon systems in light of those
  threats;
. seek to achieve, through various means (such as procurement, training,
  or changes in operating methods), a more appropriate balance between
  the most likely threats and our available weapon systems.

    3. Finally, in view of budget constraints and, most importantly, the
    changed international environment as it affects the nature of the Soviet
    threat and the increased likelihood of US forces being engaged in LIW,
    there may be a need to review spending on some expensive weapons
    programs, especially if they are not appropriate, or cannot be rendered
    cost-effective, in an LIw environment.

    Our review was performed in accordance with generally accepted gov-
    ernment auditing standards.

    At your office’s request, we did not seek formal agency comments from
    the Department of Defense. We did, however, receive informal com-
    ments from relevant DOD personnel and made changes where appropri-
    ate. As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce the
    content of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of it until
    30 days from the date of this report. At that time, copies will be sent to
    interested congressional committees and to the Secretary of Defense and
    the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and made availa-
    ble to others upon request.




    Page 15            GAO/PEhfB9@13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
E236947




If you have any questions or would like additional information, please
call me at (202) 275-1854 or Dr. Michael J. Wargo, Director of Program
Evaluation in Physical Systems Areas, at (202) 275-3092. Other major
contributors to this report are listed in appendix III.

Sincerely yours,




Eleanor Chelimsky
Assistant Comptroller General




Page 16            GAO/PEMD-90-13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-intensity   Warfare   Threat
Page 17   GAO/PEMD-fNlS   US. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
Contents


Letter
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope,and
Methodology
Appendix II
Successful
Employment and
Significant Problems
Noted in the Use of
Selected Hardware in
Four Low-Intensity
Warfare Events
Appendix III                                                                                                  24
Major Contributors to
This Report




                        Abbreviations

                        DOD        Department of Defense
                        GAO        General Accounting Office
                        LIC        Low-intensity conflict
                        LIW        Low-intensity warfare
                        NA?D       North Atlantic Treaty Organization
                        Tow        Tube-launched optically-tracked wire-command-link-guided
                                      antitank missile


                        Page 18             GAO/PEMD-9ClS   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
Page 19   GAO/PEMD9@13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope,and Methodology


               In agreement with Chairman Conyers’ office, we identified three evalua-
               tion questions that are addressed in our report: (1) What are the LIW
               threats and contingencies U.S. armed forces face? (2) What are the LIW
               lessons to be learned from the recent past? (3) How is DOD addressing
               technology requirements for fighting LIW?

               Because of the breadth and importance of low-intensity conflict, it is
               necessary to clarify the scope of this report. We were requested to con-
               fine our inquiry to low-intensity warfare, which is that subset of low-
               intensity conflict where U.S. armed forces are directly and substantially
               engaged in combat in a low-intensity environment. Further, we were
               asked to focus on the effectiveness of U.S. defense hardware used in LIW
               missions in the recent past, and what this may indicate for the future.
               While our technology focus is quite narrow when seen from the broader
               context of all that LIC entails, it allowed us to base many of our findings
               on actual U.S. combat experience (as opposed to forecasts, models, or
               opinion). It also allowed us to build a strong knowledge base against
               which to examine other aspects of LIC in our future work.

               The methodology we applied was an information synthesis. Our field-
               work for this report was conducted from July 1988 to August 1989. We
               visited numerous U.S. government and DOD offices, collected relevant
               documents, and interviewed both government and nongovernment
               experts. There is a great deal of available information. To identify the
               sources that were representative of the various points of view and that
               could give us an accurate picture of government programs and policies,
               we solicited recommendations from experts both in and outside the gov-
               ernment, reviewed many bibliographies for recurring references, col-
               lected various data base printouts, and asked experts in the subject
               matter to review our bibliography.

               Our findings are supported primarily by evidence from the White House,
               DOD,  the State Department, and other relevant executive branch agen-
               cies. In addition to expert and eyewitness accounts, we also used a num-
               ber of congressional studies. In some cases, we found the data presented
               did not support assessments made in the documents; in other cases, the
               data provided a logical basis for assessments the documents did not
               make. In such instances, we made our own assessments.

               We employed various criteria in our work, especially regarding our
               assessments of the effectiveness of US. weapons in recent LIW. We
               assessed hardware as effective if DOD data indicated that, as employed,
               it (1) accomplished the tactical military mission assigned to it, (2) did so


               Page 20             GAO/PEMbfMHS   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




in an efficient manner, and (3) did not result in significant unintended
effects. In obtaining information to make these determinations, we
asked the following sorts of question: Was the equipment in usable con-
dition? Were extraordinary preparatory measures required? Was the
volume of munitions expended to destroy the target excessive? Did the
munitions hit and destroy the target? Was the correct target hit, or were
friendly forces or civilians attacked by mistake?

In some situations, specific weapons performed effectively, while in
other situations the same weapons were ineffective. This occurred both
within individual LIW events and across events. Numerous factors can
explain this variation in combat performance. For example, human
errors, environmental conditions, and circumstances surrounding differ-
ent combat engagements-such as rules of engagement-are not uni-
form. In some cases, various types of munitions were used
simultaneously against the same target. And, although in such cases the
target may have been successfully attacked, assessments of effective-
ness were not possible because the available information did not identify
such relevant information as how many munitions of a specific type
scored hits and the level of damage inflicted by that munition type. Our
findings concerning hardware effectiveness relate only to the employ-
ment of the hardware in the situations under review. The same equip-
ment that we determined to be effective or ineffective might perform in
a different manner in other circumstances. In pointing out gaps in infor-
mation collected by DOD from combat events, we are not stating that
DOD'S data collection was at fault; the very nature of combat obviously
limits the opportunity to observe events, distinguish variables, and per-
 form all the other data collection techniques that are possible and
 appropriate under more controlled conditions, such as during tests.

There are some limitations to our work. We did not review documents
classified higher than “secret,” nor could we examine certain other doc-
uments. Some documents did not always provide sufficient information
to permit us to make an assessment of weapon effectiveness or to iden-
tify or clarify the specific reasons for the success or failure of hardware.
Our hardware analysis is grounded in recent U.S. combat experience;
substantial further analysis would be needed to evaluate the extent to
which a multitude of ongoing DOD hardware acquisition programs and
policies may effectively deal with several of the areas our findings
address. Finally, it is important to note that our review of DOD require-
ments focused on technology, and not on training, doctrine, or force
structure.



Page 21                   GAO/PEMD30-13   U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity   Warfare   Threat
Appendix II

SuccessfulEmployment and Significant
Problems Noted in the Use of Selected
Hardware in Four Low-Intensity
Wafare Events
                                       Grenada                                  Libya                 Persian Gulf
                                       (F;st$                                   wyo$                  (pr;e*
               Hardware                                    Lebanon

               Joint                   Signtficant         Stgnificant          Significant           Slgnlficant
               communications          problem9            problems             problems              problems
               equipment

               Precision-
               guided
               munitions
               Laser-qiided            Significant         Tentative            Significant           Effechveness
               bombs                   rxoblems            assessmentc          problems              unknown”
               Antiradiation           Not                 Not                  Effectiveness         Not
               missiles                apphcablee          applicable           unknown               apphcable
               [Material deleted1
               TOW’                    Effectives          Not                  Not                   Tentative
                                                           applicable           applicable            assessment
               Naval surface-to-       Not                 Not                  Not                   Effective
               surface missiles        applicable          applicable           applicable
               Surface-to-air          Significant         Not                  Not                   Significant
               missiles                problems            applicable           applicable            problems
               Unguided
               munitions
               Recoilless rifle        Effective            Not                  Not                  Not
                                                            applicable           applicable           applicable
               60.mm mortar            Effective            Not                  Not                  Not
                                                            applicable           applicable           applicable
               [Material deleted1
               Large-caliber           Significant          Effective and        Not                  Effectiveness
               naval gunfire           problems             significant          applicable           unknown
                                                            problems
               Air-delivered
                  Bombs                Not                  Not                  Effective            Effectiveness
                                       applicable           applicable                                unknown
                  Rockets              Effective            Not                  Not                  Effective
                                                            aDDlicable           aDDlicable
                  Guns                 Effective and        Not                  Not                   Effective
                                       significant          applicable           applicable
                                       problems
               Helicooters
               Utility                 Effective            Effective            Tentative             Effective
                                                                                 assessment
               [Material deleted]
               a”Slgnificant problems” means that, based on our evaluation of DOD documents and/or intervrews with
               DOD officials, the defense hardware was judged to demonstrate   significant problems

               b[Material deleted]



                                             .


               Page 22                   GAO/PEMD-SO-13      U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity       Warfare   Threat
Appendix II
Successful Employment   and Signifmmt
Problems Noted in the Use of Selected
Hardware ln Four Low-Intensity
Warfare Events




‘“Tentative assessment” means that, based on the avarlable data, there were some indications that the
munrtron was effective, as employed, but that the data presented was not complete; accordrngly, we
made a tentative assessment only

d”Effectlveness unknown” means that the DOD data we received provided insufficient evidence to
make any assessment. In some cases, very few instances of use occurred, and they were very briefly
recorded; in other cases, there were several Instances of employment, but the data presented, while It
contained some details, made an assessment of employment impossible.

e”Not applrcable”   means that we found no evidence of attempted use in the documents we revtewed

‘TOW = Tube-launched     optically-tracked   wire-command-link-guided   antitank mrssile

g”Effectlve” means that, based on our evaluation of DOD documents and/or interviews with DOD off1
coals, the defense hardware was judged to have performed effectively, efficiently, and as intended




                                      .


 Page 23                      GAO/PEMD-B@lS         U.S. Weapons and the Low-Intensity     Warfare   Threat
Appendix
    III
                                                             ----   -v.’   -m




Major
  ContributorstoThisRep




                     Richard T. Barnes, Assistant Director
Program Evaluation   Kwai C. Chan, Assistant Director
and Methodology      Winslow T. Wheeler, Project Manager
                     Elaine L. Vaurio, Project Analyst
Division