July 9, 2013 Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies
Two weeks ago, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno announced significant Army force structure reductions. The impending reorganization helps meet an Army obligation and an Army desire. First, the obligation—it allows the Army to satisfy the fiscal demands required by 2011’s Budget Control Act (BCA). Second, the desire—as the Army eliminates brigade headquarters from its structure to meet budget requirements, it can at the same time increase the fighting potential of its brigade combat teams (BCTs). Specifically, the elimination of BCT headquarters frees up an additional maneuver battalion for each of the Army’s infantry and armored BCTs.
The reduction and reorganization of Army forces is not insignificant. As in the case of rebalancing all U.S. forces toward the Asia-Pacific region, Army force reductions are a visible acknowledgment that the Department of Defense (DoD) is entering a new postwar era. It roughly returns active Army force structure to its pre-9/11 configuration, leaving 33 deployable BCTs in the inventory, after having achieved a wartime high of 45 BCTs. There are clearly important, unanswered questions on the table with respect to the Army.
Q1: How should we look at the postwar Army and its contributions to joint operations?
A1: The U.S. Army remains the nation’s principal ground force. It makes two important contingency contributions to joint operations. First, Army forces—active and reserve—provide U.S. decision-makers with the capability for sustained ground operations abroad and potentially in U.S. homeland security contingencies. In reality, Army forces—often reinforced by the U.S. Marine Corps—are tangible demonstrations of American resolve. To paraphrase a senior Marine Corps officer interviewed during the course of a recent CSIS study, when the U.S. Army arrives on scene, it is an unmistakable indication that America means business.
Indeed, the United States’ continued ability to project large numbers of ground forces overseas for sustained operations is a key metric of its remaining the world’s dominant military power. Second and often less appreciated, Army enabling capabilities—logistics, communications, intelligence, engineers, air and missile defense, etc.—“set” foreign theaters and support deployed forces from the other services and foreign partners. This latter function provides a solid backbone for sustained military campaigns of all types under a variety of circumstances. (end of excerpt)
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