Structuring the Active and Reserve Army for the 21st Century Section 5 of 7
December 1997

Chapter Three

Comparing Army Forces with Requirements

Numerically speaking, the Army has enough total forces to carry out the federal and state missions assigned to it. But are those forces balanced appropriately between active and reserve soldiers and between support units and combat units? Can they respond quickly enough to crises overseas? And can the Army afford to maintain and equip them in these times of budget constraints?

One of the primary issues addressed in this study--whether the Army has the right distribution of active-duty personnel and reservists to carry out its missions--is determined not by total requirements but by how often and how quickly forces will need to deploy on specific missions. If forces must deploy frequently and with little warning, active-duty troops are preferable. If particular types of forces are rarely needed and are likely to have a long time to prepare, reserve forces are more suitable. Unfortunately, predicting the frequency of deployment or the amount of available preparation time is not easy. Nevertheless, the Army makes assumptions about those factors in planning how to carry out its federal and state missions. This chapter assesses how well those assumptions--and the requirements that arise from them--match the Army's current force structure.
 

Assessment of Army Forces for Two Major Regional Conflicts

In terms of scale, the most daunting Army mission is providing forces to fight two major regional conflicts that break out nearly simultaneously. As currently configured, the Army has all of the combat forces and most of the support forces it needs to fight those conflicts, but it may have difficulty delivering them in a timely fashion. The reason is twofold. First, although the U.S. fleet of military transport aircraft and ships is one of the largest in the world, it would still need considerable time to carry all of the Army forces and their equipment to two distant theaters.(1) Second, the Army depends heavily on the reserve component to provide support forces for the conflicts, and reserve units may not be able to deploy in time to arrive early in the first theater, as Army planning requires.

Deployment Schedules

The Department of Defense's plans for fighting a regional conflict stress the importance of getting combat forces into the theater of operations quickly to retard the progress of a hostile invasion. In line with that strategy, the Army's power-projection requirements call for the capability to deliver a force comprising one light division and one heavy brigade to any region of the world within 15 days (see Table 4). (Heavy units include tanks and other armored vehicles; light units do not.) The Army's requirements call for two additional divisions, at least one of which would be heavy, to be delivered within 30 days. The full 5 1/3-division combat force that the Army plans to send to an MRC would arrive in theater within 75 days. That schedule would require transporting some 80,000 combat troops and their equipment (up to 6 million square feet) to a theater anywhere in the world in 75 days.
 


Table 4.
The Army's Deployment Goals for a Major Regional Conflict
Forces in Theater Approximate Number of Troops Deadline for Assembling Forces in Theater

Combat Forcesa
 
1 1/3 divisions
(One light division, one heavy brigade)
20,000 15 days
 
3 1/3 divisions
(At least 1 1/3 heavy)
70,000 30 days
 
5 1/3 divisions 80,000 75 days
 
Support Forcesb
 
Not specified 190,000 30 days
 
Not specified 217,000 to 250,000 90 days

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Department of Defense.
NOTE: These deployment goals apply to a single conflict or the first of two conflicts. They would vary slightly for the second of two conflicts.
a. Based on the Army's power-projection requirements and time-lines used in Department of Defense mobility studies.
b. Based on the Total Army Analysis 2003 and Department of Defense timelines.

Besides combat forces, the Army must deploy an even larger number of support forces to a regional conflict. According to the Total Army Analysis 2003, the Army would need more than twice as many support troops as combat troops in theater to fully prosecute a single MRC--between 217,000 and 250,000, depending on the theater.

Specific timelines are classified, but publicly available delivery schedules from the Army and DoD indicate that the time allotted to building up forces in a theater ranges from 75 days to 90 days. During the Persian Gulf War, U.S. commanders had the luxury of dictating the schedule themselves. As a result, they waited until all support forces were in place before launching counterattacks. If theater commanders wanted to do the same in future conflicts, the Army would need to have 217,000 to 250,000 support troops in theater within 90 days. Those troops--or, more specifically, their equipment--would account for most of the airlift and sealift needed to move Army forces to a conflict overseas. In the case of an MRC in Korea or the Middle East, the lift requirements for support equipment (as measured in square footage) would exceed the requirements for combat equipment by a factor of five (see Figure 4).
 


Figure 4.
Total Equipment Required in Theater for a Major Conflict in the Middle East
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on the Total Army Analysis 2003 and Department of Defense timelines.
NOTE: Assumes unlimited lift capability.

The Total Army Analysis 2003 specified an intermediate goal for building up forces in theater: assembling 260,000 troops (approximately 70,000 combat personnel and 190,000 support personnel) in theater within 30 days of the start of the conflict. Those 260,000 troops represent about 80 percent to 90 percent of the forces ultimately needed for a single major regional conflict.

According to Army plans, prosecuting an MRC would require deploying large numbers of reservists from both the National Guard and the Army Reserve. None of the combat forces scheduled to participate in an initial regional conflict would come from the reserves, but most of the support troops would. The reason is that the total requirement for support forces for even one MRC far exceeds the approximately 87,000 active-duty support personnel who are readily available to take part in a major operation outside Korea.(2) As a consequence, the Army could need 117,000 to 140,000 reservists to support an initial MRC. They would be needed quickly if the Army was to attain its goal of assembling 260,000 troops in 30 days and the entire force in 90 days. That would require getting as many as 90,000 reservists overseas within a month and another 27,000 to 50,000 reservists there 60 days later.

In the scenario that the Administration uses to size its military forces, a second MRC breaks out in another region shortly after the United States becomes engaged in the first conflict. The variation that taxes U.S. mobility forces most is the one in which the first conflict breaks out on the Korean Peninsula and the second one in the Middle East.(3) The planning assumptions that some defense analysts have used for the separation of the two conflicts range from 40 days to 45 days.

For its assessment of Army forces in this analysis, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assumed that the first conflict would break out in Korea and the second in the Middle East 45 days later. CBO further assumed that the Army would want to deliver its forces to the second theater on the same schedule that it outlined for the first. That would mean getting two divisions to the Middle East within 15 days (including two brigades whose equipment would be permanently stored in the region), a total of four divisions in 30 days, and the full 5 1/3 divisions within 75 days. In addition, the Total Army Analysis 2003 assumed that six combat brigades from the National Guard would be sent to the second conflict.

CBO also assumed that support forces for that conflict would follow a schedule similar to the one used for the first MRC: about 190,000 in theater within 30 days and all forces within 90 days. Since all of the active-duty support forces not stationed in Europe are assumed to take part in the first conflict in Korea, almost all of the support forces for the second MRC would come from the reserves (see Figure 5).
 


Figure 5.
Army Forces Available for a Conflict in Korea Followed by a Conflict in the Middle East, Compared with Requirements
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Army.
NOTE: Requirements are based on the results of the Total Army Analysis 2003.

The rates of deployment that result from those delivery schedules are quite demanding. They would mean that forces for the second conflict would have to begin deploying before all forces for the first conflict were in place. In all, for the Army to meet the schedules outlined above, it would have to deploy and deliver almost 110,000 combat troops and more than 300,000 support troops (of which around 180,000 would be reservists) plus their equipment in 60 days (see Figure 6). Thirty days later, an additional 40,000 combat forces and 120,000 support forces would be required. And within another month (a total of 120 days from the start of the first conflict), the vast majority of the forces required for two MRCs--195,000 combat troops and 477,000 support troops--would need to be in place in Korea and the Middle East.
 


Figure 6.
The Army's Deployment Schedule for the Combat and Support Forces Required for Two Major Regional Conflicts
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office estimate based on data from the Army.
NOTE: The Army's current schedule is based on the results of the Total Army Analysis 2003.
a. Enhanced readiness brigades from the National Guard.
b. The Army does not have enough support forces to meet this requirement.

Can the Army Meet Those Schedules?

The Army may not be able to meet its ambitious timetable for assembling the forces in theater to fight two major wars at the same time. Its proposed rates of buildup--both for combat and support units--would be much more rapid than those achieved during the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military's most recent experience in moving large forces overseas (see Figure 7). The United States may not have felt compelled to build up forces rapidly in that conflict after the first 60 days because of the diminished threat of a successful Iraqi attack. However, even the initial rates of buildup during the Gulf War do not approach those needed to meet the Army's current schedule.
 


Figure 7.
The Army's Deployment Schedule for a Major Conflict in the Middle East, Compared with Deployment During the Persian Gulf War
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Army and Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War (April 1992).
NOTE: The Army's current schedule is based on the results of the Total Army Analysis 2003.
a. Includes only active-duty forces.

Yes for Combat Forces in the First MRC. Part of the Army's proposed schedule may be achievable, however, particularly with respect to combat forces for the first conflict. As a result of U.S. experience in the Gulf War, the Administration has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the military's ability to deliver forces to distant regions. DoD is buying more transport aircraft and ships, in part with the aim of being able to meet the Army's delivery schedule for combat units (at least for one theater) by early next century. In addition, DoD plans to store (or "preposition") the equipment for two heavy combat brigades in the Middle East and equipment for one combat brigade in South Korea. That way, combat personnel can fly rather than sail to either region and meet up with their equipment, thus speeding deployment.(4) The U.S. military also stores equipment for one heavy combat brigade on ships stationed in the Indian Ocean. Those ships are ready to sail to any trouble spot and can arrive in Korea or the Middle East in about two weeks.

Prepositioning heavy combat equipment means that less equipment would have to be transported overseas to respond to a crisis. If a conflict broke out in the Middle East, the Army would need to deliver the equipment for only 4 1/3 divisions from the United States or Europe. (The rest would come from the prepositioned stores in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.) In the case of a Korean conflict, just four divisions' worth of equipment would have to come from the United States. (The two combat brigades stationed in South Korea and the equipment prepositioned there and in the Indian Ocean would account for the rest.) Having that equipment prepositioned would mean transporting 1.5 million fewer square feet of combat equipment to the Middle East or almost 1 million fewer square feet to Korea in the event of conflicts there. The Administration's efforts to enlarge the airlift and sealift fleets and to preposition equipment will probably allow the Army to meet its ambitious delivery schedule for combat forces for one MRC, even though that schedule envisions a buildup nearly twice as fast as during the Gulf War.

Meeting that schedule, however, depends on the presence of relatively benign conditions. For instance, it assumes that equipment stored overseas has not been captured or destroyed by the enemy or damaged by sabotage. Storage sites for that equipment are located in friendly countries and are guarded by security personnel, but they are not invulnerable to attack. In addition, any damage to port or airfield facilities would retard the United States' ability to build up forces overseas. Finally, transport ships and aircraft en route to their destinations could be targets for enemy attack. Although no such attacks occurred during the Gulf War, they are certainly possible during any future conflict and present a real threat to the ability of the United States to deploy forces as quickly as it would like.

No for Support Forces in the First MRC. Even if the Army can meet its timetable for delivering combat equipment to a major conflict, it is unlikely to do so for support equipment. As Figure 4 showed, the forces that the Army would deploy to an MRC include at least five times as much support equipment (by square footage) as combat equipment. Thus, support units contribute significantly more to the Army's total lift requirements than combat units do.

DoD officials do not believe that the Army can meet its stringent timetable for support forces because of lift constraints. CBO's analysis supports that view. Based on the airlift and sealift capability likely to be available in 2001, CBO estimated how long it might take to deliver all of the equipment the Army says it needs to fight conflicts in Korea or the Middle East. (See the appendix for more information about how CBO made its estimates.) For a single conflict, deploying 260,000 combat and support troops and their equipment to Korea or the Middle East would take 90 to 100 days, CBO estimated. Deploying all of the necessary forces would require 110 days for Korea or 140 days for the Middle East. Thus, although all Army forces would be in place in Korea not too long after DoD's goal of 90 days, deliveries to the Middle East would take more than a month longer because of lift constraints. Assuming (as CBO did) that combat equipment receives priority, those delays mean that the buildup of support forces in theater would not proceed as rapidly as the Army's schedule envisions (see Figure 8).
 


Figure 8.
Estimated Schedule for Delivering Equipment to a Major Conflict in the Middle East Under Varying Assumptions About Lift
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Department of Defense.

No for the Second MRC. Lift constraints would have an even more profound impact on the deployment of forces for two nearly simultaneous regional conflicts. CBO assumed that the second MRC would start 45 days after the first--well before all forces were delivered to the first theater. Delivering combat forces as quickly as possible after a conflict erupts is critical to halt any further progress by an aggressor. Thus, during the first 30 days of the second conflict, ships and aircraft would be needed to transport the equipment for 2 2/3 divisions to the second theater. Those deliveries, plus the equipment already stored in Korea or the Middle East, would ensure that the Army could meet its goal of having 3 1/3 divisions in theater within 30 days. However, diverting lift assets to the second theater would slow down the buildup of forces for the first MRC. According to CBO's analysis, that delay could be as long as 30 days. As a result, the buildup of forces in the first theater (assumed in this analysis to be Korea) could take 140 days to complete rather than the 110 days it would take if there was only one conflict, or the 90 days in DoD's schedule (see Figure 9).
 


Figure 9.
Estimated Schedule for Delivering Equipment to Two Major Regional Conflicts Under Varying Assumptions About Lift
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Department of Defense.
NOTE: MRC = major regional conflict.

The need to finish deliveries to the first theater could in turn postpone completion of the buildup for the second MRC. If, after three divisions were in place in the second theater, priority was shifted back to finishing the buildup for the first conflict, completing delivery of the 5 1/3 divisions' worth of combat forces for the second conflict could end up taking more than 100 days from the start of that conflict. Such a delay would put the combat force more than a month behind schedule.(5) Buildup of the entire force would be similarly delayed. In all, 195 days--more than six months--could elapse from the start of the second MRC before all forces, including the six reinforcing combat brigades from the National Guard, would be in theater.

The magnitude of those delays raises questions about the Army's planning assumptions. Although they are similar to delays experienced during the Persian Gulf War, they run counter to the Administration's desire to build up forces more quickly in the future and to not give an opponent the luxury of long periods when U.S. troops could be vulnerable to attack. The sheer volume of Army equipment that would have to be transported overseas makes it unlikely that those delays could be significantly reduced, despite the Administration's planned investment in airlift, sealift, and prepositioned equipment.

The delays have one potential benefit, however: they could give the Army an opportunity to use some less ready units in major conflicts. Since lift constraints would significantly slow deliveries to the second MRC, the Army could consider using reserve combat units--which take longer than active forces to prepare for battle--to help prosecute that conflict. In addition, limits on the availability of airlift and sealift would to some extent reduce the urgency for mobilizing and deploying reserve support units.

Access to Reserve Units

The Army's deployment schedule would require mobilizing, activating, training, and transporting hundreds of units from the reserve component in a very short time. To provide sufficient support forces for an initial MRC, the Army would, according to its own schedule, have to deploy as many as 90,000 reservists overseas within 30 days. However, as the preceding discussion demonstrated, limits on lift capability render the Army's schedule for support forces unworkable.

CBO's estimated deployment schedule for reserve support units, which is based on the ability of U.S. lift assets to transport Army equipment, represents a much slower--and more realistic--rate of deployment than the schedule assumed in the Total Army Analysis 2003 (see Figure 10). Because lift would not be available sooner, CBO estimates that it would probably take at least 90 days to assemble the 90,000 reservists and their equipment in theater. Delivering all of the reserve units needed to support one MRC (including as many as 140,000 reserve personnel) could take up to 140 days from the start of the conflict.
 


Figure 10.
Estimated Deployment Schedules for Reserve Support Forces for a Major Conflict in the Middle East
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on data from the Department of Defense.
a. Assumes active forces are deployed before reserve forces.

Although that slower buildup of reserve units is undoubtedly more realistic than the one the TAA-03 called for, it is still much more ambitious than the buildup achieved during the Persian Gulf War. Then, support units that included a total of about 73,000 reservists were not assembled in theater until about 200 days after Operation Desert Shield began.

The Army and the Administration have made several changes since the 1991 war that could accelerate the availability of reserve forces for a major conflict. During Operation Desert Shield, a delay of two weeks ensued between the deployment of the first Army forces to the Middle East and the initial call-up of reservists to support the operation. Although it is impossible to predict how quickly reservists would be mobilized in a future conflict, legislation enacted since the Persian Gulf War has made partial mobilization more flexible. As a result, calling up reservists to take part in relatively small contingencies, such as peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, has become more routine. The next time reservists are needed in large numbers to support a major operation, less delay may occur between the initial deployment of active-duty troops and the mobilization of reservists.

Another factor that slowed down the deployment of reserve units to the Persian Gulf War was the process of identifying and federalizing specific reserve support units to take part. During the war, the Army and its commanders in the field identified on an ad hoc basis what types of units were needed to further the campaign. The initial mobilization order covered 25,000 Army reservists, but the first activation called up only 31 units (less than 1,000 Guard and Reserve personnel) for deployment to the Middle East. Additional activations of up to 120 units for deployment occurred every few days for the duration of the war. In the end, more than 700 reserve units were deployed to the region.

Upon activation, the members of each unit (which ranged in size from two to 740 soldiers) would assemble at their mobilization station, complete their paperwork, train, and ready their equipment for shipment to the Persian Gulf. Unit equipment generally was transported by ship, and personnel would fly over to meet up with it when it arrived in port in the Middle East. The whole process, from unit activation to arrival in theater, took an average of 34 days (although some very small units took less than 10 days, and some larger units required more than two months after activation to arrive in theater).

That deployment process could have been accelerated if the Army had identified the units it might need for such a conflict beforehand. In addition, activating those units quickly rather than over a period of almost six months would have made a significant difference. If the President had mobilized large numbers of reservists at the same time that he first deployed U.S. forces to the Middle East, if all 700 reserve units sent to the Gulf had been activated at the same time, and if enough lift had been available, virtually all of those units could have been mobilized, deployed, and transported in about 70 days rather than the 200 days actually required.

Since the war, the Army has identified hundreds of Guard and Reserve units that would be needed to support an MRC and has designated them as part of its Force Support Package. Those units are supposed to be maintained at a high state of readiness, allowing them to depart after call-up in 42 days or less. (Some small units can theoretically embark immediately.) Those units--with a total of about 75,000 troops--would form the initial set of reserve support forces that the Army would deploy to a major regional conflict.

In all, the Army would need to mobilize, prepare, and transport up to 140,000 reservists and their equipment in less than five months for one MRC if it was to deploy them as quickly as the available airlift and sealift allow. No historical precedent exists to establish whether that is feasible. In fact, experience during the Gulf War would argue against such a massive and rapid deployment. However, the recent steps to make the reserve component more accessible for operations that do not require total mobilization might allow the Army to meet that goal.

An even more daunting task would be assembling as many as 90,000 reserve support personnel in 30 days, as the Army's schedule dictates. Even if lift constraints stretched out that schedule by another 60 days, as CBO estimates, the requirements for getting so many reservists overseas in that amount of time--immediate mobilization of tens of thousands of people and activation of hundreds of separate units--are so stringent as to make the Army's plan for reserve forces appear overly optimistic to some analysts.
 

Assessment of Army Forces for Lesser Contingencies and Overseas Presence

In terms of overall numbers, the Army has plenty of forces to carry out such lesser contingencies as small-scale combat operations, humanitarian aid missions, and peacekeeping. During the past decade, those types of operations have typically required deploying less than 5 percent of the active-duty Army overseas at any one time. However, all recent Army deployments of note have included some reserve personnel. That reliance on reserves, although standard DoD policy, can impose various costs.

The Army uses reservists for nearly all operations because some types of support units are found exclusively or primarily in the reserve component. For example, all water-supply battalions and prisoner-of-war brigades are in the reserves, as are 97 percent of the Army's civil affairs units and 86 percent of its petroleum-supply battalions. Because so many critical support functions are performed solely by reserve personnel, recent U.S. operations in Panama, Haiti, and Bosnia (which each involved no more than 20,000 troops) included increasingly large numbers of reservists. About 500 reservists participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, roughly 1,000 reservists went to Haiti in 1994, and at times more than 4,000 reserve personnel have supported ongoing operations in Bosnia.(6)

Another reason that the Army has stepped up its use of reservists in small operations is the Administration's renewed emphasis on integrating the reserves into all military activities. That practice has its roots in DoD's Total Force Policy, which was adopted in 1973. Then Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger told the services that the goal of the policy was to integrate "the active, Guard, and Reserve forces into a homogeneous whole."(7) The current Defense Secretary has upheld the Total Force Policy, saying that the reserve components "are essential participants in the full spectrum of operations, from the smallest of small-scale contingency operations to major theater war."(8) The Administration believes that using reservists in small-scale operations not only provides unique skills to such operations but also helps relieve active-duty units of some of their peacetime commitments. As a result, active units have to spend less time deployed overseas in peacetime and can concentrate on higher-priority tasks.

Activating and deploying reservists for small operations incurs both monetary and nonmonetary costs, however. According to Administration estimates, the Army spent approximately $40 million in 1995 to pay reservists activated for federal duty other than training. In 1996, that figure may have been as high as $120 million because of U.S. operations in Bosnia. Although such costs are small compared with the Army's overall budget, they represent extra expenses beyond the ordinary costs of operating and supporting the reserve component.

On the nonmonetary side, frequent activation and deployment of reservists could take a toll on employers' willingness to hire them. By law, reservists are guaranteed job protection during voluntary or involuntary service in both war and peacetime. They can notify their employer of the imminent need to leave on service either orally or in writing. And reservists cannot be forced to use vacation time to perform military service. Those protections apply to absences for routine training as well as to call-up for deployments such as the Persian Gulf War or operations in Bosnia.

The Department of Defense has conducted surveys of employers to determine whether their attitudes have been affected by the growing use of reservists in recent years. Those surveys seem to show that employers are willing to support infrequent loss of their workers for short periods, typically up to a month. However, they are generally more supportive when reservists are absent to assist in local disaster-relief efforts than for overseas operations. Moreover, deployment of entire reserve units--which typically contain personnel from a limited geographic area--could include several employees of the same company. In that situation, losing multiple employees for an extended period could have a significant impact on a business, particularly a small one. To discourage any erosion of support, DoD has sent letters signed by the Secretary of Defense to many employers explaining the important contributions that reservists make to national security.

More frequent activations and longer deployments during peacetime could also have a negative impact on retention and recruitment in the reserves. DoD has not reported any broad evidence of that occurring, but it has had some problems recruiting and retaining doctors for the Army Reserve.

No similar problems arise in the Army's other main federal mission--providing overseas presence during peacetime--because it does not require reserve personnel. The 91,000 Army troops permanently stationed in Europe and South Korea are all active-duty soldiers. Moreover, their number is relatively small (less than 30 percent of the deployable active Army) and has been declining over the past decade. And although this mission ties up a considerable portion of the active Army's forces, it places them in areas of the world where the Administration believes they are best able to protect U.S. interests abroad. Based on its current force structure and requirements, the Army should have no trouble carrying out the mission to maintain overseas presence in coming years.
 

Assessment of National Guard Forces for State Missions

The size of the Army National Guard, as determined by the force requirements for federal missions, should be more than adequate to meet the needs of governors for state missions. A study by RAND found that between 1987 and 1993, no single activation of the Guard (including both the Air and Army Guard) required more than 6 percent of its total personnel.(9) In some states, however, the resources of individual Air and Army Guards were occasionally overwhelmed, as occurred in Florida in August and September 1992 after Hurricane Andrew.

Such occurrences raise concern among National Guard officials when they consider the unlikely but possible scenario that states will need Guard troops to assist in domestic emergencies at the same time that the United States is participating in two major regional conflicts. According to Army plans, many of the Guard's deployable forces would be involved in such conflicts and therefore would be unavailable to aid state governors. However, RAND found that almost half of the current personnel in the Army National Guard are not slated to deploy to either of two MRCs, so they could assist in domestic emergencies.

Thus, although force levels in individual states may on occasion be inadequate to deal with particularly demanding domestic crises (without additional assistance from other states or the federal government), the forces of the Army National Guard as a whole are more than sufficient to fulfill their state missions. As a result, RAND concluded that federal missions--rather than state disaster- or emergency-response requirements--should continue to be the primary factor determining the force structure of the Guard.
 

Overall Assessment of the Army's Structure

When measured against such criteria as the balance between combat and support forces, the mix of active and reserve units, the ability to respond quickly, and affordability, the Army's force structure contains four possible areas of concern. The first is the overabundance of combat forces, which is partly a legacy of the Cold War. Approximately half of the Army's combat troops are in the National Guard, and the vast majority of them do not have a direct combat role in either of two major regional conflicts. In 1995, the Commission on Roles and Missions concluded that the Army contains 110,000 excess combat troops. Although those forces may provide a strategic hedge against the emergence of an unforeseen threat, the expense of operating, supporting, and equipping them may not be justifiable in times of tight budgets.

Second, the Army does not have enough support forces to meet its own requirements. That shortage results in part because the service says it needs almost two and a half support soldiers (those not assigned to combat divisions and brigades) for each combat soldier. Thus, it would need 477,000 personnel to support the 195,000 combat troops slated to be involved in two MRCs. Such high support requirements derive from the Army's desire to minimize the risk associated with fighting two major regional conflicts at the same time.

By its latest estimate, however, the Army has just 418,600 of the necessary support personnel in its deployable forces--a shortage of 58,400. Furthermore, only about one-third of those personnel are in the active component. That means the vast majority of soldiers needed to support the Army in two MRCs would come from the reserve component. Even for the first conflict, most of the support forces would come from the reserves, and some of them would be needed overseas in short order.

Third, the huge level of support troops required by Army doctrine creates the need for large amounts of lift to transport forces overseas. In the event of just one major regional conflict, delivering the Army's combat and support forces could take more than four months (based on the transport aircraft and ships that DoD plans to have in its fleet shortly after the turn of the century). In the case of two nearly simultaneous MRCs, assembling all of the forces the Army considers necessary in the second theater could take more than six months from the beginning of the second conflict. Those delivery times are much longer than the Administration's optimal schedules.

Fourth, the Army's current structure is expensive to operate, support, and equip. As a result, it is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Several defense experts and Administration officials have expressed doubt that the Army can retain the current force structure and equip it with modern weapons if the service's budget remains at the level of recent years. The Army is planning at least two major weapons programs that together will require it to spend an additional $2 billion a year on weapons purchases beginning in 2005. At the same time, it is spending more than $1 billion each year for combat forces that some analysts consider unnecessary. If the Army does not reduce its force structure and its total budget does not increase, some analysts have argued, the service will not be able to equip its forces adequately.

In contrast to those four areas of concern, the Army appears to have enough forces in the National Guard to provide state and territorial governors with militias for their domestic needs. Although individual disasters or emergencies might occasionally overwhelm the assets of a particular state or territory, those occurrences are rare. In such instances, governors can call on the federal government for assistance, which has been provided in the past. Even in the event of two MRCs--which would require large numbers of National Guard troops to deploy overseas--almost half of the Guard would remain at home. That residual should be sufficient to meet domestic requirements, even though some states could be left with fairly small Guard contingents.


1. For more information about the U.S. military's airlift and sealift fleets, see Congressional Budget Office, Moving U.S. Forces: Options for Strategic Mobility (February 1997).

2. Besides those 87,000, an additional 13,000 active-duty support troops are permanently stationed in South Korea and could participate in a conflict if one erupted there. Another 36,000 active-duty support troops are stationed in Europe.

3. Although the order in which the conflicts occur affects the demands put on mobility forces, especially early in the conflicts, it does not significantly affect the amount of time needed to deliver all Army forces to both theaters.

4. Heavy forces usually travel overseas by ship because a transport aircraft can carry only one or two tanks at a time. Heavy brigades include 100 to 180 tanks in addition to other armored vehicles.

5. Those results are based on the assumption that the presence of three combat divisions in the second theater would be sufficient to halt an aggressor's attack and that military commanders would prefer to complete the buildup of support forces in the first theater before delivering additional combat forces to the second theater. The commanders in chief of the two theaters and the national command authorities would be responsible for setting priorities for the use of airlift and sealift. Decisions that differed from CBO's assumptions would yield different delivery schedules and could result in a more rapid delivery of combat forces to the second theater.

6. The majority of reservists deployed to Europe to support operations in Bosnia have been stationed in Germany.

7. Reserve Forces Policy Board, Total Force 2010, a Symposium to Address the Total Force Establishment in the 21st Century: Final Report (January 3, 1997), p. 7.

8. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (May 1997), p. 32.

9. Roger Allen Brown, William Fedorochko Jr., and John F. Schank, Assessing the State and Federal Missions of the National Guard (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1995).


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