Sunday, July 12, 2015

Significant Shrinkage

The Army will shrink from 490,000 troops to 450,000 soldiers in the active force.

We will go down to 30 brigades plus 2 battalion task forces pared down from brigades.

And one Stryker brigade will become an infantry brigade. Perhaps a National Guard brigade will convert using these vehicles.

We will be below our pre-9/11 strength with fewer brigades. Then we had 32 brigades in 10 divisions and 2 cavalry regiments.

Pre-9/11, we would have had 106 maneuver battalions, counting a cavalry squadron (battalion) per division.

But when we expanded to 45 brigades, each non-Stryker brigade had only 2 battalions--meaning we had 97(?) maneuver battalions.  Without divisions as the main unit, the division recon cavalry squadrons were gone. And while the recon battalions in the new self-contained brigades were valuable for fire support by were not maneuver units.

Now we will have 92.

Further, when we went to 2-battalion brigades, those battalions went from 3 to 4 maneuver companies. I don't know if our battalions are reverting to 3 maneuver companies each.

We also have a Ranger regiment--which isn't a maneuver brigade--plus others in Special Forces.

And still 28 National Guard brigades apparently. Which should provide 4-5 brigades each year ready for quick mobilization.

Pre-9/11 our units were undermanned. Since we disbanded a number of separate artillery units and other unneeded Cold War-era units as well as shifting some military jobs to civilian personnel, we should still be better off than pre-9/11.

If we train and equip them.

And if even a force structure a bit better than pre-9/11 is good enough to cope with current threats is sufficient.

But as someone once said, you go to war with the Army you have and not the army you wish you had.

Because this is the Army we wish to have, this is the Army we will have when it is called to action.

UPDATE: Strategypage addresses the reduction. This is important:

Thus the army now has 32 combat brigades (nine armored, 15 infantry and eight Stryker) compared to 45 (17 armored, 20 infantry and eight Stryker) in 2012.

But by the end of FY '17, we will see two brigades reduced to battalion task forces (one heavy and one paratrooper). And one Stryker brigade will convert to infantry.

Before 9/11, we used to have our brigades evenly divided between armored and infantry (leg, paratrooper, and airmobile). Now infantry--including Stryker--dominates.

And that doesn't include the Marines who had 8(?) more brigade-equivalents of infantry.

Before the Iraq War, I argued that a Stryker-like unit was a good unit to fill the gap between leg infantry and heavy armor. But I said I thought the medium units should be converted from the leg units and not the heavy units (which include infantry to accompany the tanks, remember). I still think that.

Yes, counter-insurgency campaigns dominated the decade after 9/11. But are we really likely to commit to another any time soon?

That's what a 2018 Army of 8 armored, 15 infantry, and 7 Stryker brigades plus an armored task force and a paratrooper task force is geared for. Just 27% of the Army will be heavy. If you count the Stryker units as heavy units, we still have that 50-50 split. But I don't count Stryker as heavy--even with big war Strykers.

We will really rely on indirect firepower (artillery and air) to survive against enemy heavy forces.

And added transport for the leg infantry to be able to move around the battlefield.

Even in the Cold War, we hedged our bets with a lot of infantry despite preparing for the big one in NATO where heavy armor would rule.

We don't have a hedge if we need heavy armor, it seems, unless we draw from the National Guard's 28 brigades. And that requires the right brigades to be in the pipeline since we plan to have 4-5 ready for mobilization in any given year.

I suppose we could add tank battalions to the Stryker brigades to add weight to these wheeled mechanized units. With 30mm up-gunned "big war" Strykers, these would be more like heavy brigades.

But we'll just have one spare battalion of tanks unless we pull up units from the Guard. On the bright side, it would be possible to ready tank battalions not in the 4-5 brigades in the pipeline more easily than it would to train up and ready a full brigade.

Indeed, it would be fairly easy to attach tank companies from the National Guard to the Stryker brigade battalions since company-level Guard units are often better--because they often train together for years, even part-time--than active counter-parts (above that level, the active forces gain the edge).

Well, providing the proper maintenance capabilities for heavy equipment to a brigade that doesn't have it isn't as easy. But I'm talking about combat unit readiness.