I apologize for the long article, but this is a subscriber article from www.armytimes.com . The article describes the formation of new brigades and their basing. The Army has had few combat units home based in the western US under this plan more units will be stood up in the west and along the border with Mexico. January 31, 2005 The coming brigade shuffle How adding new combat units will radically alter the Armyâs U.S. footprint By Sean D. Naylor Times staff writer Now might be a good time to invest in real estate near Fort Bliss. The Armyâs plans to add as many as 15 brigade-size combat units to its active-duty force and bring all but a couple of combat brigades from Europe and South Korea back to the United States mean it must find homes for up to 19 new brigades. No one is going to build new posts for the Army, and the ongoing â and politically hypersensitive â base realignment and closure process requires Army officials to be extraordinarily guarded in their comments about how the moves might affect existing posts â so much so that even midlevel Army civilians have to sign forms swearing them to secrecy on anything that might affect BRAC. Still, based on reading between the lines from Army documents and the serviceâs recent public announcements, the next few years will likely see: â¢ A huge increase in the number of units stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. Maj. Gen. Michael Vane, the postâs commander, predicts Fort Bliss âwill become at least as big as Fort Hood [Texas].â â¢ A transformation of two or three heavy brigades to infantry brigades, including at least one at Fort Riley, Kan. â¢ The addition of another heavy brigade-size unit at Fort Irwin, Calif. â¢ The stationing of one or more infantry brigades at installations that currently host no active-duty ground maneuver units. Two dynamics are driving the need to squeeze more units onto Army posts. The first is the serviceâs ongoing transformation from a force geared to division-level combat, in which a divisionâs three maneuver brigades were supported by division-level combat support and combat service support units, to one organized around brigade âunits of action.â As part of the process, each divisionâs combat and combat support assets, except its aviation units, are being split into at least four units of action, which will also include support elements that traditionally resided at the division and corps levels. Aviation and support units of action are also being built. The Army, which began the process with 33 brigade-size combat formations, plans to expand to at least 43 by the end of 2006, and perhaps as many as 48 within a couple of years after that. The second factor behind the coming space crunch is the Defense Departmentâs guidance to pull the Army back from its Cold War posture in Germany and South Korea. The Armyâs ground maneuver force in Germany consists of four heavy brigades, while its force in Korea is down to one heavy brigade. The service plans to pull three of the four brigades from Germany, and convert the other to a medium-weight Stryker brigade. That and the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy will be the only ground maneuver units stationed in Europe. But the plan calls for rotating stateside units for six-month tours at forward operating bases, probably in Eastern Europe. The remaining brigade in Korea â 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division â also is likely to be brought back to the United States. The Army already is hard at work trying to figure out where it will put everyone. The service has transformed the 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division, creating a fourth unit of action for each division at Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Hood, respectively. The service already has announced these other moves: â¢ The relocation of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Korea to Fort Carson, Colo., in late summer, after that unit completes its deployment in Iraq. â¢ The establishment in fiscal 2005 of units of action at Fort Polk, La.; Fort Richardson, Alaska; and Fort Hood, with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from Polk to Fort Lewis, Wash., and converting to a Stryker brigade. â¢ The establishment in fiscal 2006 of units of action at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bliss; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Riley. These decisions require standing up additional brigades under existing division flags. They are described as âtemporaryâ by the Army because the service must wait for the BRAC process to run its course before it can officially announce where brigades will permanently reside. But Army officials made clear in interviews that they tried to anticipate the decisions the BRAC commission would make before assigning brigades to particular posts. The service has no desire to move a brigade to a new post this year, only to have to move it again if the BRAC process shuts the first post down, Army officials said. The Army already knows where it would house its units of action, if BRAC were not a factor. âThe Armyâs done its homework,â said an Army source. âIt knows where, without any other inputs, it would make most senseâ to put the brigades, the source added. Picking a post As the Army weighed its options, it judged each post against a set of criteria that evaluated the installationâs suitability and capacity for more units. No post was considered unless it provided enough space to train. Planners put âa premiumâ on space available for force-on-force training, said an official with the Armyâs Directorate of Operations, Plans and Policy, or G-3. The bar for this requirement has been raised in recent years as the training space needed by brigades has expanded. There are three types of units of action: â¢ Heavy â the rough equivalent of todayâs mechanized and armor brigades. â¢ Infantry â including todayâs light infantry, airborne and air assault, but with added wheeled vehicles. â¢ Stryker â those equipped with the Stryker family of vehicles. As they examined the merits of each post, Army personnel set a âthresholdâ or âinitial screening criterionâ of 30,000 to 35,000 contiguous acres (about 142 square kilometers) of usable maneuver space, the G-3 official said. But âa 30-kilometer-by-30-kilometer box [900 square kilometers] is optimal,â he said. Planners also considered terrain, vegetation and environmental restrictions, the G-3 official said. The Army must also determine whether a postâs infrastructure can support the influx of several thousand soldiers and families that adding just one brigade would bring with it. An infantry unit of action has about 3,300 troops. A heavy unit of action has about 3,700 troops. âThis is not just barracks and administrative spaces,â the G-3 official said. âThe gyms, the libraries, the well-being centers, the child-care centers, all are absolutely important to make sure we have those in place.â Planners also weighed whether a post was able to support the rapid deployment of whatever units might be stationed there. Far more installations can handle at least one infantry unit of action than can accommodate even one heavy unit of action, according to a slide briefing presented by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody at the Senior Commanders Conference last fall. Codyâs briefing, a copy of which was obtained by Army Times, includes a map that shows the maximum number of units of action each Army installation in the United States can handle. By cross-referencing that capacity map with what the Army has announced thus far, some conclusions can be drawn. Homes for the heavy The Army has to find home posts in the United States for at least five heavy units of action, even if it eventually converts them into infantry UAs. There are four heavy brigades based in Germany, two from the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) and two from the 1st Armored Division. One of these brigades will become a Stryker brigade â the Armyâs seventh â and remain in Germany, said Army officials. âWe want to keep a Stryker brigade capability forward at all times in the Europe AOR [area of responsibility],â the G-3 official said. âWe donât have enough Stryker brigades in our inventory â¦ to provide a rotation presence in Europe. So our only real recourse in the midterm â you can read that to be this decade â is to station one forward there.â The other three Germany-based brigades will transform to units of action and move to the United States sometime after 2006. The heavy brigade that remains in South Korea also is likely to transform and return to the United States, although diplomatic sensitivities have prevented any announcement to that effect, said a colonel closely following the issue. In addition, the establishment at Fort Hood late last year of 4th Infantry Divisionâs fourth unit of action means six heavy units of action are stationed at a post the capacity map says can accommodate only five. The war in Iraq has meant the space crunch has not been a problem because the three 1st Cavalry Division brigades stationed at Hood have been deployed in Iraq since March 2004. Those brigades will start returning in February or March, just as the 4th ID will deploy. Discussions are âongoingâ about how to meet the challenges of having six units of action stationed at Fort Hood simultaneously, said post spokesman Dan Hassett. But with the map showing that Fort Hood can only accommodate five units of action, it looks like one will have to find a new home. Of course, these five known heavy units of action seeking a home in the United States may be joined by others. If 1st ID, 1st AD and 2nd ID follow the pattern set by other divisions transforming to the modular design, they will each add another brigade/UA as they make the transition, increasing the number of UAs the Army must accommodate to eight. The Army intends to cap the number of heavy units of action at 20, even if the service expands the total number of active duty UAs to 48, said the colonel who is closely following the process. âWeâll stop at 20, and we might even take a step down from that,â the colonel said. Another Army source agreed. âThe Army will, to some degree, re-look its mix of heavy and light brigades,â he said. âI would not be surprised to see, over the next couple of years, the decision made to convert two to three more heavies to lights.â One of the first places that might happen is Fort Riley, which is slated to host the two heavy brigades now based there â 1st Brigade, 1st ID and 3rd Brigade, 1st AD plus one infantry unit of action, the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division. But according to the capacity map, Riley cannot hold any more than it has now â two heavy brigades â or one heavy unit of action and two infantry UAs, or three infantry UAs. Something will have to give, and the most obvious solution would be to make one of the two heavy brigades an infantry unit of action. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Rodney would not comment directly on the serviceâs plans for Fort Riley. âBottom line is that the base capacities and their maneuver space are set,â Rodney said. âThe Army will modify the basing plan with this in mind but it is too early to offer what the final template will look like.â Filling up Bliss No matter what happens at Riley, at least four heavy units of action would still be left looking for a home. Only one post can accommodate more than one new heavy unit of action. That post is Fort Bliss, home to the Air Defense Artillery Center and School and the Sergeants Major Academy, but no maneuver brigades. The Army has announced it will station the soon-to-be-created 4th UA of the 1st Cavalry Division at Bliss. But according to the Armyâs capacity map, the post can handle another three heavy UAs. And in a recent interview Maj. Gen. Michael Vane, the postâs commanding general, gave every indication that the Army is thinking of filling the post to capacity. âInformally, not officially, I have been asked if we can handle up to six brigades â four brigade combat teams, one support brigade and one aviation brigade,â Vane said. âWeâre looking at that now, and yes, we can take a corps.â In an indication of how seriously the Pentagon is considering Fort Blissâ potential, Vane said the Defense Department asked the post âto make more than a PowerPoint presentationâ about the installationâs considerable unused capacity. âWe have enough buildable land to be able to handle up to a corps-size unit â meaning more than one division â or an Air Force wing,â Vane said. âWe have hired some engineers and are moving out with a detailed level of planning right now. â¦ I fully expect Fort Bliss will become at least as big as Fort Hood.â With about 45,000 troops, Fort Hood is the Armyâs second largest post in terms of military population. So, if the Army filled Bliss to capacity, there would still be at least one heavy UA looking for a stateside home. Unless the Army changes it to an infantry UA, there are only three places the Army can put it or any further heavy UAs the service creates: Fort Carson, ;Fort Irwin ;and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. Carson is home to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. It also will be home to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd ID â a light brigade from Korea â when those soldiers complete their tour in Iraq. That leaves space for one heavy unit of action. Fort Irwin, in the middle of Californiaâs Mojave Desert, is home to the National Training Center and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which functions as the training centerâs Opposing Force. The 11th ACR just deployed to Iraq, but the Army does not count the unit as one of the 43 brigades/UAs it will have by the end of 2006. According to the Armyâs capacity map and several Army officials, Irwin can accommodate another UA â a heavy brigade â in addition to the 11th ACR, at least as far as maneuver area is concerned. âIt would be strange if Fort Irwin cannot handle two brigades when it has more maneuver space than almost the rest of the United States combined, other than Fort Bliss,â an Army source said. But, the source acknowledged, placing another brigade in the remote desert post âwould require a lot of infrastructure investment, because thereâs nobody around there to helpâ absorb the demand for housing that such a move would create. The colonel closely following the process agreed. âYou know the billets arenât there,â he said. At 3,366 square kilometers, Yuma Proving Ground in Arizonaâs Sonoran Desert is one of the largest military installations on the planet. It serves principally as a huge test area for the Armyâs weapon systems. One of the few posts where units can train with almost no environmental restrictions, Yuma has âthe size and isolation to allow realistic, unconstrained use and interoperability of systems,â according to the installationâs Web site. Though Yuma offers a vast maneuver area, the post can handle only one permanently stationed heavy unit of action, according to the Army map, presumably because of the lack of infrastructure around the installation. Seven other possibilities Beyond these three posts, any additional infantry UAs the Army creates will have to find a home where no active-duty maneuver units are located or slated to be located. The capacity map lists seven possibilities, each with a maximum capacity of one infantry UA: Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif.; Gowen Field, Idaho; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; Fort Chaffee, Ark.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Camp Grayling, Mich.; and Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Most are National Guard installations. âWould it make sense for the Army to put some of its brigades at those installations that currently do not host regular Army units?â said an Army source. âThe answer is yes, because most of those installations already host Army National Guard units, so I would have the ability to co-locate and perhaps share facilities, equipment and that sort of stuff between regular Army and Army National Guard units. âThere could be some great synergy there,â he said. While Army sources said it was better to station units of action together if at all possible, in order to take advantage of training possibilities and efficiencies of scale, the G-3 official said that if the service expands to 48 units of action, it would have no choice but to station single UAs on installations. Even after maximizing the potential of underused posts like Fort Bliss, the Army will be hard-pressed to squeeze all the units it wants to create into the facilities that exist in the United States. Already, the serviceâs installations are groaning under the pressure of the new units that the transformation to a modular design has created. âWe donât have a lot of choices,â the colonel said. âWeâre not going to buy new posts, so you have what you have. Everywhere we currently are is where weâre going to be, and weâre just going to shove âem into every hole we got.â The G-3 official conceded that the process of standing up new units of action had strained the posts where the units had been established. âWas everything perfect? Probably not,â the official said. âCertainly some communities will be challenged, and are challenged, as they absorb these soldiers.â Looking ahead, the colonel who tracks the issue closely sees the situation only getting worse. âI think weâre going to run out of space,â he said. âItâs gonna be ugly for a couple of years if we rush out of Europe. â¦ I think itâs just gonna be ugly everywhere.â Senior Writer Jim Tice contributed to this report.