Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Cap the Guard at Battalions

If I was God of Army organization, I'd keep Army National Guard division headquarters but consider them part of the strategic reserve useful for beginning total mobilization for training completely new units.

And I'd eliminate Guard combat brigades and replace them with battalions that can more easily be mobilized in a reasonable amount of time to either reinforce active Army brigades or as replacement battalions for active brigades suffering casualties.

And some of the battalions would be battalion task forces capable of independent action attached to an active division or corps headquarters.

Seriously, a battalion is about as big as a Guard unit can be and still be good without a lot of additional training. Right now our 28 Guard brigades are on a 6 year rotation where 4-5 are available in any given year to be mobilized in support of the active force. The brigades need those years to gear up for overseas deployment.

And at the company level, Guard units can be better than active companies because of the continuity of membership in a Guard unit over a longer period of time. But I wouldn't make the company the basic unit of the Guard.

Although I would designate any Guard battalion or task force that fails readiness standards as  being subject to having component companies mobilized instead of the battalion as a unit.

To make up for losing brigades, I'd also give the National Guard the responsibility of preparing 1-2 division headquarters per year that would periodically be mobilized and sent abroad to command a mission, including command of active Army units. That would help make them more ready to command newly created units upon mobilization and allow career paths for career National Guard soldiers.

Do this and I think we'd be better prepared to mobilize reserve units to bolster the active Army as an operational and strategic reserve.

Which apparently is a problem these days. I'm worried that the reserve system is established to generate 4 or 5 combat brigades per year as an operational reserve. What if in order to win rapidly in the face of tougher resistance than expected or to avoid disaster we need more than 4 combat brigades faster than in 5 more years of the force generation plan?

Is our centralized system that relies on a few choke points for processing mobilized units the problem in being able to generate real manpower for a war that drags on requiring replacements and expansion?

History has continued to show the importance of a nation’s capacity to generate forces and get them to the fight. Centralized systems, by their very nature, are less responsive, less agile, and more vulnerable to disruption. It’s time to change. It’s time to push the “Bold Shift” initiative to its logical next step — a fully distributed system in the states. If the Army can do this, it will solve one strategic vulnerability that’s too important to ignore.
I've certainly worried that we haven't focused on the Army National Guard for combat units for a longer war ("A Total Army for Total War: The Guard Divisions' Role," Army Magazine, January 199--sorry, not online).

So a proposal that makes better us of our Army National Guard to bridge the gap between what the active Army can handle in a shorter campaign and what we'd need with full mobilization is welcome.