Sunday, January 28, 2007

More Ground Forces

This excellent news briefing answers a lot of questions about how our Army and Marines will be expanded. For the pointy end of the stick, the short answer is six more Army combat brigades in the active component--to 48. The Marines go up one to 9 active regimental combat teams.

First, one reason to expand slowly is to avoid having a lot of contracts expiring all at once:

We do not need a bubble of people -- if you think about a career force, we don't need to bring 27,000 people in all at one rank; then you'd have this bubble going through the pipe. So it needs to be a balanced approach, and that's why it is a mix coming on.

I mentioned this as one reason even though many want lots of troops all at once despite the need.

By the numbers:

The Marine Corps will start from its so-called permanent authorized end strength base of 175,000 and grow by 27,000 to a total of 202,000. The Marine Corps expects to be, by the end of the current fiscal year, at an actual active end strength of 184,000 and grow from that point forward at 5,000 per year, which gets you to 202,000 by fiscal year 2011.

The Army grows 65,000 from its base of 482,400. It expects by the end of this fiscal year to be at 518,000 active duty personnel, and then to continue growing by 7,000 a year, which gets it to 547,000, the objective by fiscal year 2012.

I should note that there are also plans amongst increases in the size of the Army National Guard, about 8,000 across a similar period -- actually, out to fiscal 2013, when that goal is reached -- and about 1,000 in the case of the United States Army Reserve, again, achieved by fiscal year 2013.

As far as combat units go:

We are committed now to building an active Army of 48 Brigade Combat Teams by fiscal year 2013. That's an increase from the prior goal of 42. We'll continue to aim at 28 Army National Guard Brigade Combat Teams, and all eventually to be in the new modulized (sic) construct.

I should emphasize the Army plans to accelerate the build of two of the active-duty brigade combat teams, so that they're available in 2008, fiscal 2008, for duty around the globe, as opposed to the earlier schedule, which had us having those available in 2009.

The Marine Corps plans to add a regimental combat team, as its nomenclature describes it, by the fall of 2008. That will take the Marine Corps from where it is now, at eight regimental combat teams in the active force, three in the Reserve, to a total of nine in the active United States Marine Corps.

More is involved than just combat brigades:

But it's much more than this. We talk a great deal, this department, and you report in your articles about brigade combat teams, regimental combat teams. This build is about the whole range of capabilities that makes American military forces effective. And particularly it is designed to relieve the pressure on units that in the Pentagon's lingo are described as high-demand, low-density, meaning in plain English there aren't enough. That speaks especially to capabilities like Military Police, to intelligence, to explosive ordnance disposal. Those are all part of this expansion.

The Army, for example, is adding as it further -- a further example of this kind of capability -- build two battalions of Patriot capability, Patriots being a capability that are desired increasingly around the globe, to protect ourselves and our allies from missile attack.

And the results of transferring slots to civilian jobs:

I should add that -- as you know, the department for some time has been engaged in a review of whether all the military personnel now engaged on active duty should be in the kinds of billets in which they serve. Could we use more civilians? The department to date in all four military services has converted just over 26,000 military billets to civil status, of which well over 15,000 are in the Army and the Marine Corps, and some further conversions are planned in the years ahead. Those, of course, give us additional military personnel billets, as the personnel community phrases it, with which to work in building the capabilities I'm about to describe.

The briefing also mentions something that I wrote about in relation to the repeated media reports of units returning to Iraq for a third or fourth time and then assuming this means that all the individual soldiers or Marines are returning for third or fourth tours. This speaks to the reserves:

The goal is to give you five years off. We acknowledge that over the next couple of years, that for some units and, therefore, for some individuals in those units, we will not meet that goal. Now, typically -- and this is a point I would emphasize -- typically, Reserve units turn over between 10 and 20 percent per year. So at any one point in time, a unit, even if it's only two years back home, is going to have 30, 40 percent of the people are, quote, "brand new" -- in other words, have no time on their clocks.

Although the goal for active soldiers is one year on and two years off, the difference between units and soldiers is important.

So a lot of details in one briefing on the shape of our ground forces down the line and how we are getting there.