Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Army We Will Have

The Army could shrink to 32 brigades under an active force end strength of 420,000 troops. Is this possible?

Can we sustain the brigade count with fewer troops?

"We're on a glide path, and the monies are laid out to give us a 420,000 Army by 2019," said Lt. Gen. James O. Barclay III, the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-8. "That doesn't mean we're set on going to 420, we've got some decision points built in, coming into the '16, '17 timeframe, so we're taking a hard look at what is the right set."

What leadership is looking at with regard to manning is how the Army will look across the force; from the brigade combat teams, enablers, the engineer forces, reconnaissance and clearance forces and how the mix is worked, Barclay said. He added BCTs will come down to 32 made up of three battalions.

On the one hand, I'll say that I'm disturbed at the end strength slide. But I'm pleased by other reports that say that end strength has to go down because we are stressing readiness and training over numbers. That's far better than maintaining numbers at the expense of readiness and training--or even more modern equipment, to a degree.

But can we field 32 brigades?

In 2000, our Army fielded 32 brigades or armored cavalry regiments under an active component strength of about 480,000. This end strength was short by about 40,000 to fully man the force on paper.

Army end strength has gone up as have the brigades. Before expanding the Army (aside from mobilized reservists) the Army reorganized the existing force to add 10 more brigades. We transferred Army jobs to civilians and got rid of Cold War-era units (like the large number of separate artillery brigades, for example).

So under the official cap of 480,000 we had 42 brigades and regiments in the active force.

Most of the new style brigade combat teams had two line (maneuver) battalions plus a small and light "recon" battalion. The line battalions had 4 companies each.

Our new brigades will go back to having 3 line battalions. I don't know what the company count will be in each one. Stryker brigades had 3 companies and so will continue to have three. Will the other brigades retain 4-company battalions or go back to the traditional triangular organization?

I'll ignore that for now.

In 2000, our 480,000 troops manned 32 brigades, or 15,000 troops per brigade.

But we really needed 520,000 to man the force structure. That would have been 16,250 troops per brigade.

If 480,000 troops supported 42 redesigned (and self-contained) brigades during war, that's about 11,500 troops to man and support 1 brigade, after reorganizing the Army away from the 2000 organization.

With 420,000 troops, we'll have 32 brigades. That is about 13,000 per brigade.

This is all aside from the tens of thousands of reservists mobilized each year to support the war effort. That's been dropping, but overall the military has over 40,000 from all service reserves on active duty right now.

Back to the Army. While I shuddered when I saw the 420,000 figure, after looking at my admittedly rough math, I think we will be okay in manning 32 brigades with 420,000 troops, given what we did in reorganizing the Army over the last decade.

Of course, whether 32 brigades is sufficient is another question. The Bush administration was hammered for not having a larger Army.

Obviously, you go to war with the Army you have at that moment and not the Army you wish you had built in the past.

Right now we wish to build an Army of 32 brigades. And that's the Army we will have when we have a future crisis that may require us to go to war.

So don't wonder how we got an Army we have rather than the Army we wish we had.