A Better Course of Action for the Army

A review of all courses of action currently under discussion for the total Army in the Program Objective Memorandum for fiscal years 2015 to 2019 show they are all versions of proportional reductions of all three components. These proposals reduce our national defense capability and put homeland security and emergency domestic response at risk. It is time for a different approach, capitalizing on the cost effectiveness of the reserve component.

All of us in the Army National Guard support the chief of staff of the Army in his desire to provide the maximum combat power for national defense at an affordable price. The only way ahead given the Budget Control Act restriction is to change the AC/RC mix. We must expand the Army Guard and reduce the active component both in end strength and units. The cost effectiveness of the Army Guard will allow us to get through these lean budget years and will allow the active component to expand in the future or whenever emergencies require.

Course of Action A: This adds 10,000 soldiers to the Army Guard, from 350,000 to 360,000, and increases its brigade combat teams from 28 to 30. The additional 10,000 soldiers would fill out 10 extra battalions required to bring the 28 brigade combat teams to full strength. The two new BCTs would be converted from outdated force structure, battlefield surveillance brigades. Recommend force mix of eight armored BCTs, two Stryker BCTs and 20 infantry BCTs. The active component would downsize 10,000 troops and two BCTs with an annual personnel savings of $1.57 billion. Moving an armored BCT and a Stryker BCT into the Guard would save $683 million annually due to lower operational costs.

Course of Action B: This adds 20,000 soldiers to the Army Guard, up to 370,000 end strength, increasing BCTs from 28 to 32, and moves a combat aviation brigade to the Guard. The additional BCTs can be converted from excess maneuver enhancement brigades and/or battlefield surveillance brigades. The active component would downsize 20,000 troops, four BCTs and one combat aviation brigade. Annual personnel cost savings of $3.14 billion would result. Recommend force mix of nine armored BCTs and 20 infantry BCTs, plus one combat aviation brigade. Moving two armored aviation BCTs, two Stryker BCTs and one combat aviation brigade would save $1.8 billion annually due to lower operational costs.

Both courses of action would result in significant cost savings. If the total Army would stay at the current plan of 60 BCTs, the force mix under Course of Action A would be 30 BCTs in both the active component and the reserve component. Under the second course of action, the mix would be 28 BCTs in the active component and 32 in the reserve component.

If the total Army is driven down to 52 BCTs, then the force mix under the first course of action would be 22 BCTs in the active component and 30 in the reserve component. Under the second plan, the figures would be 20 in the active component and 32 in the reserve component.

The Army Guard has proven it can man and train BCTs for 25 to 30 percent of the cost of an active component BCT. If Army Force Generation rotational readiness plans of one year mobilized and four nonmobilized are retained, the Army Guard can provide six BCTs every year to place in the ready pool. This increases the number of ready BCTs for whatever the need of national defense.

These two courses of action offer more national defense capability with less cost than the proportional reduction in all components currently being advanced by the Army. The Army argues that active-component formations are more ready due to their additional training, about 225 to 240 days per year, compared to a reserve component unit, 39 days per year unless in years three and four of the ARFORGEN. Unfortunately, given our limits in strategic lift, the U.S. cannot move all active-component BCTs simultaneously to whatever overseas location is required, making this argument rather irrelevant. Army Guard BCTs can be mobilized, trained and ready after our strategic lift assets complete their multiple turns to follow active-component BCTs to the current hot spot.

Increasing Army Guard troop strength and BCTs offers our governors a more robust homeland security/domestic response capability.

It is time real expansion of the Army Guard is put on the table for serious discussion. The old “we all get smaller together” idea puts us at risk.

The Army Guard had 38 combat maneuver brigades on its rolls on Sept. 11, 2001. These were reduced to 28 by 2010 because that was what the Army had programmed, even though we were at war. At the same time, the active component was struggling to expand its number of combat maneuver brigades from 33 in 2001 to 45 by 2010. This rather absurd situation should not be repeated. We need to organize and maintain additional BCTs in the Army Guard now. BCTs are the forces that generate combat power to win our nation’s wars. Army Guard BCTs were mobilized 47 times during the war on terrorism. They have proven their worth on the battlefield.

Our nation cannot afford to have as many active-component BCTs as we would like due to rapidly spiraling personnel costs. The Army Guard is the cost-effective solution.  Adopting Course of Action B would give the Army an annual savings of $4.9 billion. It is time to expand the Army Guard as the active component contracts. Our national security depends on it.

The author is the adjutant general of Pennsylvania.

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