Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cadre Brigade Combat Teams

Our Army is getting smaller and our allies are becoming less capable of fielding combat forces capable of fighting alongside our forces. We need a way to scrape up the scattered small ground units of our allies into significant groupings.

One solution is to help locals be capable of fighting on their own so that we don't need to scrape up our and allied forces to intervene:

[The] Army is preparing to send out its first "regionally aligned brigade" to Africa Command in fiscal year 2013. That force, roughly the size of a brigade combat team, will be primarily tasked with training and assisting foreign militaries. It will be the first of several the Army hopes to create over the next few years. These brigades will be the first regular Army units designed to do partner nation engagements.

Special forces usually do this. They develop local knowledge that is invaluable in training those locals. That's a major peacetime role. But special forces are extremely busy at war. So the regular Army is going to pitch in.

I assume these types of brigades are for organizational purposes only and that the members will be scattered in teams around the continent. What if we organized a different type of brigade to use existing foreign military units already trained and capable of fighting?

Couldn't we build a number of Cadre Brigade Combat Teams? These would be built around one of our recon squadrons, an artillery battalion, and a larger-than-usual headquarters component, plus logistic elements (perhaps mostly from the Reserves or National Guard). The idea would be that we could sweep up allied combat battalions (infantry or heavy) and plug two or three of them in to the CBCT. American troops from the larger headquarters element would then embed with the foreign battalion to allow them to plug into the American network. We'd need some way to equip at least a portion of the allied unit's vehicles and troops with blue force tracker. Perhaps our allies adopt it for some of their more capable units even as most of their militaries continue to be civil servants in uniform and more useful for soaking up unemployment than fighting.

In the past twenty years, only the British and French have fielded division-sized units at our Army's side. The Marine Corps has been a more reliable and numerous ally at war. It is probably too much to expect that any ally in the future will be able to field more than brigade-sized units in battle, and there will be darned few of them. But it is likely that our European and other allies could maintain battalion-sized units capable of combat. That is something our National Guard has managed to do quite well despite being a reserve force. Surely our numerous allies each could keep one or two capable combat battalions at least. Swept together and plugged into our CBCTs, we could leverage two or three more divisions for an allied effort. That would be real combat power.

Further, these units could plug in National Guard combat battalions, in a manner similar to our Integrated Divisions where active component headquarters have National Guard brigade combat teams assigned.

We face some hard choices about post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan Army organization and missions for our active and reserve component ground forces.