Friday, December 23, 2005

Brigade Combat Teams

The military is planning to have fewer brigade combat teams than I had thought. The Guard will lose 26,000, the Reserves 4,000, and the active Army 4,000 (one fewer brigade):

"The Army decided to put an emphasis on quality, with the best equipment we can provide for," which, the official said, would result in a reduced risk to the individual soldier.

At the same time, the Army has embarked on a plan to increase the combat power of both the active-duty Army and the Army National Guard by creating "modular" brigades that include more modern equipment.

The Army had hoped to create 43 to 48 of these brigades, an increase over the current 33 brigades. But with the planned budget cuts the Army will settle on 42 brigades, the official said. Thirty-four of the "modular" brigades were planned for the Guard, up from the current 15 Brigade Combat Teams or "enhanced" brigades. Now, under the cost-saving plan, the Guard would be held to 28 modular brigades.

This misleads though by implying that the Guard is only composed of 15 enhanced separate brigades. There are also 8 divisions in the Guard (which normally have three brigades before the modular brigade redesign--though I think we now have fewer than 24 brigades in the 8 divisions).

And there is the Ranger regiment, too, in the active Army.

Still, instead of 43-48 active brigade combat teams there will be 42 (plus Rangers) and 28 Guard brigade combat teams instead of 34 planned. The Reserves have no brigade combat teams (although they do have an infantry battalion, 100-442, descended from the Nisei regiment of Japanese-Americans in World War II that falls under a Guard brigade. Something I did not know until recently).

The Army's active component will still be larger than it was in 2000. The Guard will be smaller than that point but will have more brigades able to deploy more rapidly. The old divisions were deep reserves that would have needed a year of training and equipping before deploying. The active component will also have a higher proportion of the combat brigades available in the Total Force.

In general, I prefer quality over quantity. It is too easy to overlook quality and fool yourself into thinking you have good troops. It is easy to focus only on numbers and use those to judge quality. But our brigade total is actually going down if you assume 33 Army active brigades under the old organization and 42 Guard brigades (24 in the eight divisions, 15 enhanced separate brigades, and three other brigades). Now we will have 70 brigades--five fewer--though they will be of higher quality and readiness. The main advantage numbers-wise is that we will have more on active duty making it less likely we'll need to call up Guard units, I think.

We also have to assume Iraq quiets down and nothing else requires a long commitment of 20 brigades or so in combat.

We'll have to wait until February to see the next Quadrennial Defense Review for details.