Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Fixing the Army (III): Time to figure out whether the brigade combat team works, simplify unit names, and shutter V Corps

Our "tired old soldier" now turns to his recommendations for how to improve the operational Army. I’ve been enjoying the comments he has provoked, especially in his Friday post. By "Petronius Arbiter" Best Defense department of Army affairs Operational Re-examine the BCT. Is it effective? What does the exhaustive, intensive rigor and analysis performed by ...

isafmedia/Flickr
isafmedia/Flickr
isafmedia/Flickr

Our "tired old soldier" now turns to his recommendations for how to improve the operational Army. I've been enjoying the comments he has provoked, especially in his Friday post.

By "Petronius Arbiter"
Best Defense department of Army affairs

Operational

Our "tired old soldier" now turns to his recommendations for how to improve the operational Army. I’ve been enjoying the comments he has provoked, especially in his Friday post.

By "Petronius Arbiter"
Best Defense department of Army affairs

Operational

  • Re-examine the BCT. Is it effective? What does the exhaustive, intensive rigor and analysis performed by the analysis agencies really say? Are 2 battalions effective or should we add the third at the expense of fewer BCTs? Does the cavalry squadron have a function it can perform? What is best for the Army? But, more significantly what does the analysis say, not what do the Generals say or think without analysis? Modular BCTs can facilitate the ability to deploy but can they conduct the warfight in FSO?
  • Re-encumber the divisions and the corps. It followed good military logic in a time when we had to separate divisions, BCTs and Corps in order to meet the requirements to deploy multiple headquarters to meet many real military needs. But, hopefully, those requirements are in the past. Time to get divisional supervision again on brigades and be able to bring to bear concentrations of fires, sustainment and support.
  • Return to branch specific maneuver battalions. The Combined Arms Battalion is difficult (some would say impossible), at best, to train and to support. Few, if any, commanders or senior NCOs are versed or prepared to be responsible to train and understand the multitude of weapons platforms or systems that exist in those organizations. The problem starts here at the battalion level, not below. Here the old phrase, "you never know what you don’t know," comes to mind.
  • What does V Corps do in Europe? Is it a Corps Hq or not? Somehow V Corps and USAREUR just seem to be over supervision for 4 maneuver brigades that remain in Europe. Besides the center of gravity of activity has moved from the Western/Eastern plains of Europe to the Mediterranean a long time ago, and our military, not just the Army, just has not seemed to adapt.
  • Restore unit designations that make sense and are understandable. We know what an artillery unit is and does. We don’t understand what a Fires unit is and does. That goes double for Maneuver Enhancement, Maneuver Support, Maneuver Sustainment, Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Sustainment, et al. There is no commonality in like-type organizations that make it simple to know what one is or does.
  • Armor officers should not command Infantry forces just the same as Infantry officers should not command cavalry forces. Return Stryker Infantry battalions and brigades to Infantry commanders. Stryker battalions and brigades are our Army’s largest and most complex formation of Infantry and as such should be commanded by experienced Infantry commanders who understand and comprehend the variety of weapons systems in those organizations. The issue is not that armor officers aren’t good, they just aren’t experienced enough to maneuver the dismounted force on the ground, or the weapons systems in an infantry organization. While we are at it, we should re-educate ourselves that a Stryker organization is an organization that provides mobility and some small firepower to a dismounted organization. That is why they were created. For sure, the Stryker is not a tank, or even a small tank. There will be a tendency of armor officers to treat them as a tank and the outcome will not be good.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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