Rand Study Says US Army Stretched Thin

The Colonel Hilton quoted in the article as saying the study is alarmist is repeating the party line trying to downplay what I feel to be a very well done study. I can say that because I dont work for Gen Schoomaker. I have been very much against the current Army reorganization. Essentially Schoomaker took 33 brigades each with 3 manuever battalions and created 43
by removing a battalion from each brigade and replacing it with a recon battalion [cavalry] which is not equiped to fight as a manuever element. We are creating more jobs for Colonel's without improving the Army's ability to fight. There was alot of criticism for Gen Shinseki buying the Stryker but Schoomaker's imprint on the Army will be even worse. This modular design is based on the late 1950's Pentomic organization which was abandoned when it was determined the battle group's lacked sustainability.

Subscriber article.


July 25, 2005

Stretched too thin
Modular brigades won’t save Army from being short-handed in crisis; Col. calls Rand report ‘alarmist’

By Sean D. Naylor
Times staff writer

An Army-financed report says that unless the service increases the number of heavy brigades in its force structure or sees its deployments scaled back significantly, readiness will suffer and there will be few, if any, brigades to turn to in a crisis.

And plans to transform 33 maneuver brigades into 43 “modular” brigades will not solve the problem, states the report, which is titled “Stretched Thin — Army Forces for Sustained Operations,” and produced by the Rand Corp.’s Arroyo Center, an Army-sponsored research organization.

Sixteen brigade combat teams are deployed currently to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army’s goal is to give each active-duty brigade a two-year gap between deployments, and to deploy each National Guard brigade no more than one year out of every six. But the Rand report says meeting the goal for active-component heavy and medium (i.e. Stryker) brigades will be impossible without increasing the number of heavy brigades in the force or sharply dropping the demand for Army forces in combat zones.

“To meet requirements levels in the upper range that we have considered — 14 to 20 brigades — the Army would experience serious problems in AC [active-component] unit readiness, and the nation would have few, if any, ready AC brigades to turn to in a crisis,” the report states.

But Col. Paul Hilton, a division chief in the force management directorate of the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, or G-3, says the report’s “alarmist” tone does not square with numbers that he said “validate” the Army’s transformation plans.

Four fixes

The Rand report outlined the pros and cons of four policy options that might alleviate the strain of repeated deployments:

•Scaling back the number of brigades deployed to 10 or fewer. This would allow all active brigades at least two years at home between deployments, and would give the Army more than 20 brigades available for other contingencies, including at least 11 heavy or medium units, the report says.

But such a drawdown would have to be based on political decisions, and the Army staff is not counting on anything like that happening in the near future. “Our planning has been based on assuming the current level of commitment for the foreseeable future,” Hilton said.

•Filling rotational requirements without regard to whether a brigade was heavy, medium or light.

“Such a course carries operational risk if the theater environment is not benign of missions requiring armor protection and on-the-ground mobility,” the report states. “To date, the Army has hedged against such risks by deploying forces to Iraq that are predominantly heavy. Moreover, when overseas rotation requirements increase beyond about 17 brigades, AC time at home falls below two years even assuming such flexibility.”

•Scrapping transformation plans to convert heavy National Guard brigades to infantry units. “This would also require the Army to find the resources to make all these units — including the divisional brigades — equal in readiness to AC brigades,” the report says.

•Adding heavy force structure to the active Army, either by changing the mix of units for the Army’s 43 modular brigades or adding heavy brigades beyond the planned 43. But either of these courses of action “would call for finding billions of dollars well beyond the current Army modularity plan and would take years to achieve,” according to Rand.

Whatever approach the Army takes, the service will have to make trade-offs regarding its reliance on the active and reserve components, the types of training that units will require for different operations, and resources that might be made available to transform the National Guard and to increase active Army force structure, according to Rand.

“Our analysis suggests that the challenge is profound and that making the trade-offs will not be easy,” the report says.

Hilton said the Army does not share the report’s gloomy outlook. “The tone is a little alarmist. The title is kind of alarmist, but I think when you look at the data, it doesn’t really support the title,” he said.

Hilton did acknowledge that the mathematics on which Rand based its conclusions were “all sound.”

“Overall, we’re actually pleased that it validates in large measure exactly what the Army has been doing to take steps to mitigate or ameliorate some of the problems that the report identifies that could potentially crop up,” Hilton said.

“In our view, it is very supportive of exactly the path the Army has been on.” As examples, he cited the Army’s plans to increase the number of brigades from 33 to 43, and to make those brigades more “standardized,” or modular, allowing the higher commanders to use them on a “plug-and-play” basis.

Hilton disputed a thesis of the report, that if the present rate of deployments continues, the service will find it impossible to give active-duty brigades two years at home station between rotations.

“I don’t think that’s correct,” he said. “Once we get the other new brigades built, when we’ve actually got 43 in the active, and we have recycled the reserve component brigades — gotten beyond the six-year cycle for those units that were mobilized immediately post-2001 — then we should get into our steady state requirement, where in our view … we’ll be generating 20 brigade combat teams a year,” he said.

Hilton estimates that would not happen until 2008, but every new modular brigade created in the meantime relieves stress on the force.

Hilton also took issue with Rand’s apparent assumption that heavy units deployed to Iraq are there because their armored vehicles were considered necessary for the Iraqi battlefield. “Lots of the heavy units over there,” he said. “Their tanks are back at home station.”

That’s true, but some heavy-unit commanders have complained privately about being forced to leave their armor behind. Also, an article in the March-April issue of Armor magazine, the official publication of the Armor Center and School, is blunt about the need for tanks and Bradleys in Baghdad.

“The new fight brings to light a cautionary message to the force — be wary of eliminating or reducing the option of heavy armor; it has proven decisive and has been the critical enabler that allowed TF Baghdad to win every fight, everyday,” the article reads.

Hilton also disagreed with the report’s assessment that units returning from Iraq are not fully trained for major theater wars. “My friends who are brigade commanders and who come back from a deployment are not gonna tell you their unit is not ready,” he said. “They’ll tell you that it’s readier than it’s ever been.”

Rand argues that when units have to return to Iraq or Afghanistan without sufficient time at home station, they are unable to conduct the training cycles that “begin with small unit exercises and culminate in large force-on-force exercises at home station or combat training centers.”

Perhaps the most likely solution will be the first in Rand’s list of possibilities: a dramatic cut in the number of brigades deployed to Iraq. U.S. leaders have said repeatedly their strategy in Iraq is to train enough Iraqi security forces to allow U.S. troops to steadily depart the country. But they have consistently refused to put a date on when any major drawdowns might occur.

Yet the British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, reported July 10 on a leaked British government memo claiming the U.S. government plans to reduce forces in Iraq to about 66,000 troops in 2006.

While Hilton said he had not heard of that, he said the Army’s plans assume the number of brigades deployed to Iraq would not be cut.

“It’s not our decision, so we have to assume steady state until told otherwise,” said another colonel in the Pentagon. But “the average bear would tell you that you could probably safely say it would go down.”

If the numbers drop to 66,000 as the newspaper reported, “then shoot, that helps solve the problem,” said the colonel, who has extensive experience in Iraq.

The colonel said he doesn’t view the present rate of deployments with a sense of looming crisis, because the effort to train the Iraqi forces is bound to bear fruit. “You have to believe, watching the energy and the resources being expended to make those security forces a more capable, competent element in that country, you’d have to assume that they are going to continue to take a much more increasing role over there,” he said.

Although the Arroyo Center is funded entirely by the Army, and the Army often gives the center topics to study, the latest report was initiated by Rand, Hilton said.
Sad to see the Cousins are writing doctrine and structures to relect the budget, and not reality....just like we do. Two manoeuvre battlegroups and a formation recce BG? OOh sir. What about a reserve sir.

No fear though! FAS triangular brigades are also weaker than the current square model. Ole!

At what point will we correlate operational success (Malaya, Oman, Bosnia) with...er.....mass?
The colonel said he doesn’t view the present rate of deployments with a sense of looming crisis, because the effort to train the Iraqi forces is bound to bear fruit. “You have to believe, watching the energy and the resources being expended to make those security forces a more capable, competent element in that country, you’d have to assume that they are going to continue to take a much more increasing role over there,” he said.

As the wave of attacks continues, a newly-declassified assessment by the US Defense Department says about half of Iraq's new police battalions are still being established and cannot conduct operations against insurgents, the News York Times has reported.

The report goes on to say that the other half of the police force and about two-thirds of the army are only "partially capable" of carrying out operations against insurgents with the help of US forces.

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