Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting Small

So the Big Shrink will take place as we cash in our "peace" dividend while we are still at war (but I guess if you can define Libya as not a war, nothing is beyond assuming):

The Army is preparing to launch in March a five-year, nearly 50,000-soldier drawdown, using a combination of accession cuts and voluntary and involuntary separations, similar to the post-Cold War drawdown of the 1990s, according to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, service personnel chief.

Bostick, the Army G-1, said the pending drawdown initially will focus on the temporary 22,000-soldier increase launched three years ago to support the Afghanistan troop surge.

These soldiers can be removed from the force primarily through offsets in accessions and retention, sources say.

The second phase of the drawdown involves 27,000 soldier spaces that were added to end strength during the Grow the Army program, leaving the service with 520,400 active-duty soldiers on Sept. 30, 2016.

The Army chief of staff (Odierno) has said that the Army will probably keep going past that floor, anticipating further budget cuts, it seems.

Before 9/11, I think the Army was down to 470,000, or so. Then, Army units were understrength. Keeping the Army at 520,000 probably just allows us to fully man the force structure of that era's Army.

But what of the force structure? The article doesn't say. This one speaks of cutting 10 of the Army's 45 active duty brigade combat teams:

The Army has announced plans to reduce its end strength by 27,000 starting in 2015 and cut by 2012 the temporary 22,000-soldier increase that started in 2009 for the Afghanistan surge.

Subtracting 10 BCTs would fall in line with this plan, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous since discussions are ongoing.

BCT cuts may be more strategic than financial. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, soon to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, studied the idea when he ran Training and Doctrine Command. He ordered a study that found the Army could benefit from adding maneuver units and expanding BCTs while cutting 10 from the total number.

But cutting might not be from the reductions in surge-related expansion. That might be the result of further cuts than those planned already.

Also, the Army might decide to restore a third line battalion to our brigades, which now have two line battalions (of 4 companies each rather than 3) and a small recon squadron to call in fire missions (that is not like the old armored cavalry units that could fight and scout). So reducing brigades might be done to provide the troops to enlarge the remaining brigades. Remember that we had 33 active brigades (not counting the Ranger regiment) before 9/11. Each of those had three battalions. So we'll have an organizational debate while we shrink the Army.

Another interesting angle is that I suspect that we will continue to see large numbers of Army reservists (in the Guard and Reserves) mobilized to supplement the active force even as the active force is reduced. Reservists are cheaper, in America are pretty darned good (especially combat support and service support), and are geared to being an "operational" reserve that is routinely called up rather than a "strategic" reserve of being called up in extreme national emergencies.

Our Army survived the stresses of Iraq without breaking. Instead, our Army learned a lot and is now a combat-proven and confident force. It would be a crime to break the Army on budget cuts when enemies trying their best failed to do that.