Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 2, 2015

A New Jungle Book on Warfare

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Since 2001, the military has spent considerable time and effort figuring out how best to do combat in Middle Eastern climes and cities. Now, with the executive branch’s “Asia pivot,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Department of Defense to refocus its attention on a different terrain: the jungle.

“Among other challenges, triple canopy covers, dense vegetation, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance difficulties, and limited sources of potable water could make for difficult conditions where training and education will be vital for success in combat operations,” the panel’s report on its annual defense policy bill states.

The Army no longer has a Jungle Operations Training Center at Fort Sherman, Panama, after it closed in 1999 following nearly 50 years of existence, with a large swath of American military operations in the middle of that period devoted to the Vietnam War. That’s not to say no such training is happening: Hawaii’s 25th Infantry Division has relatively recently begun training missions, and the Defense Department has sent troops to work with soldiers in places such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

What worries the Armed Services panel is that there’s no dedicated funding stream for jungle training.

“The committee understands that the Army has not programmed resources specifically for jungle training and is conducting the training out of existing budgetary resources,” the report, released Wednesday, reads. “It appears that sufficient resources may not be aligned and executed in a coordinated effort to provide this important training.

“Accordingly, the committee encourages DOD to allocate the appropriate amount of coordinated resources, if DOD determines that there is a valid need to continue to provide jungle training to military personnel,” the panel states.

The committee is less worried about the military’s training in an area of the world with an opposite climate — the Arctic — but nonetheless devoted a section of the report encouraging the department to continue apace.

“The opening  of new maritime shipping lanes and increased access to abundant deposits of natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, will provide opportunities and challenges to U.S. national interests,” The report states. “The committee commends the Department of Defense (DOD) for increasing its focus on this region and encourages DOD to continue to plan for operating in what will likely become a more crowded and potentially more contested region.”

(h/t CQ Roll Call’s Frank Oliveri)

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