Structuring the Active and Reserve Army for the 21st Century Section 2 of 7
December 1997


Summary

The U.S. Army provides the bulk of the ground forces needed to carry out the nation's defense strategy. That strategy has changed dramatically over the past 10 years--from the Cold War mission of deterring or defeating the forces of the Soviet Union and its allies, to a strategy that emphasizes the United States' role as a world leader and promoter of democracy. The Army's role in furthering national security is to provide forces that can fight and win major regional conflicts, take part in peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts, and help maintain domestic tranquility and civil order. To play its role in carrying out those missions, the Army maintains three separate organizations: the active Army, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve.
 

Current Army Forces

In today's Army, reserve troops outnumber active-duty ones. At the end of 1996, the Army's active component contained 491,000 soldiers and its reserve component 596,000 soldiers. (As used in this study, the term "reserve" refers to members of the Army National Guard as well as the Army Reserve.) During peacetime, most reservists are not full-time soldiers, in the same sense that volunteer firemen are not full-time firemen. Consequently, their costs are much lower than those of active-duty soldiers. As a result, the Army's 1997 budget devoted $38 billion to the pay, operations, and maintenance of active-duty forces but only about $9 billion to comparable spending for reserve forces.

The difference in funding results in part from the difference in availability and readiness of the active and reserve components. Soldiers on active duty are always available to respond to orders from the Commander in Chief. By contrast, most Army reservists are civilians who practice or drill only part time during peacetime but can be called to active duty in the event of a crisis. The 226,000 members of the Army Reserve are federal reservists and must first be called to active duty by the President before they can be assigned military tasks outside the scope of regular training duty. The National Guard, with 370,000 members at the end of 1996, reports during peacetime to state governors and forms the state militias mandated in the Constitution. The Guard provides a force that governors can call on to meet domestic emergencies and maintain civil order. During a national crisis, the President can call members of the National Guard to federal active duty.

Force Requirements

The Army employs more than 1 million soldiers to carry out its assigned tasks as part of U.S. national security strategy. The Clinton Administration has declared that the United States must have enough forces to fight two regional conflicts similar in size to the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) if they break out nearly simultaneously. (Not all military strategists agree that the nation must be able to fight two conflicts of such magnitude at the same time. Nevertheless, the Congressional Budget Office based its analysis on that requirement because it determines current Administration policy.) Forces that can meet that requirement are likely to be more than adequate, at least in terms of size, to meet the Army's less demanding tasks of conducting peacekeeping operations or responding to domestic emergencies (though perhaps not all at the same time).

Based on a recent study of its force requirements--the Total Army Analysis 2003--the Army says it needs 672,000 troops in deployable units to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts (MRCs). That number is more than the total number of active-duty troops in the Army but significantly less than total Army forces when all reserves are included. However, not all of the units in the Army's active or reserve forces are designed to take part in overseas conflicts. A significant fraction of Army personnel--about 25 percent of the active forces and 19 percent of the reserve forces--are assigned to the "institutional" Army; they are responsible for teaching, training, and various administrative functions. Generally, they are not part of units that are slated to deploy overseas. Of course, that still leaves the majority of Army forces (slightly less than 780,000) assigned to deployable combat or support units and thus available to military commanders worldwide to take part in regional conflicts (see Summary Figure 1).
 


Summary Figure 1.
Army Forces Planned for 1998
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on Ronald E. Sortor, Army Active/Reserve Mix: Force Planning for Major Regional Contingencies (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1995); and General Accounting Office, Force Structure: Army Support Forces Can Meet Two-Conflict Strategy with Some Risks, GAO/NSIAD-97-66 (February 1997).
NOTE: Does not include cuts recommended by the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Although the Army has more deployable forces than it says it needs to fight two MRCs, those forces contain too many troops in combat units--divisions and separate combat brigades--and not enough in support units (see Summary Figure 2). The Army's combat units contain more than 350,000 troops. But in planning for two MRCs, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Army assume that only about 195,000 of the 672,000 troops needed--or less than a third of the total--would be combat forces. According to Army plans, the other 477,000 troops would come from units that perform supporting activities, such as providing military intelligence, transporting troops and cargo around the battlefield, or providing medical care. That requirement for support forces, however, exceeds the number of such forces now in the Army by approximately 58,000 troops.
 


Summary Figure 2.
Number of Deployable Army Forces Compared with Requirements for Two Major Regional Conflicts
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office based on Ronald E. Sortor, Army Active/Reserve Mix: Force Planning for Major Regional Contingencies (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1995); and General Accounting Office, Force Structure: Army Support Forces Can Meet Two-Conflict Strategy with Some Risks, GAO/NSIAD-97-66 (February 1997).
NOTE: Requirements are based on the results of the Total Army Analysis 2003.

The Administration and the Army have set an ambitious schedule for deploying forces overseas to fight a major regional conflict. The notional timetable assumed in the Total Army Analysis 2003 would require that most Army troops be in the theater of operations within 30 days of the start of the conflict. Plans developed by other DoD agencies assume that all of the troops and equipment needed for one MRC would be delivered within 90 days. One reason for such a tight schedule is that military planners do not believe a future adversary would give the United States the luxury of 200 days to build up forces in a theater, as Iraq did during the Persian Gulf War.

A second major conflict would require a similar number of troops to be sent to another theater. (The two theaters DoD often mentions when discussing MRCs are the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.) If conflicts were to break out in two areas nearly simultaneously, deployments to the second theater could begin shortly after the start of the first conflict--perhaps within 40 to 45 days--and certainly before all forces were delivered to the first theater. If deliveries to the second conflict followed the same schedule as deliveries to the first, the remainder of the 672,000 troops needed to fight two MRCs would have to arrive overseas within 90 days of the outbreak of the second conflict. Put another way, all deliveries to both theaters would have to be completed within 135 days of the start of the first conflict (assuming that all deliveries to the first theater were finished in 90 days, that the second conflict began 45 days after the first, and that the buildup in the second theater was also accomplished within 90 days).

Concerns About the Army's Current Force Structure

Several aspects of the Army's current force structure raise concerns among defense experts. Chief among those is the excess of combat forces. The approximately 350,000 soldiers assigned to Army combat units are many more than are needed to carry out current war plans. Slightly over half of those soldiers are assigned to the active component, and almost all of them have a direct role to play in fighting two major regional conflicts. The other 175,000 are assigned to combat divisions and brigades in the National Guard. (The Army Reserve has no combat forces.) But in the Total Army Analysis 2003, just 30,000 of those reserve combat troops are assumed to fight in either of the two major conflicts. They would presumably be used as reinforcements in a second MRC, should one erupt shortly after a first.

Those 30,000 reserve combat forces would come from six of the National Guard's enhanced readiness brigades. ERBs are combat brigades that the Administration plans to maintain at a higher level of readiness than other combat forces in the Guard. Besides the six ERBs included in the Army's planning for two major regional conflicts, the Guard maintains another nine enhanced brigades with 35,000 combat troops. Furthermore, it has an additional 110,000 combat forces (organized into eight divisions) that have no direct combat role to play in likely conflicts. That fact led the Commission on Roles and Missions to conclude in 1995 that the Army had 110,000 excess combat troops that were good candidates for converting to support roles or eliminating from the force structure.

The overemphasis on combat troops is partly a legacy of the Cold War. During that time, the military believed it needed a large number of ground combat forces to deter the Soviet Union from attacking U.S. allies in Europe. Keeping excess combat troops also provides some insurance against unforeseen circumstances. In addition, the Army may be reluctant to shed combat forces, with their expensive weapons and intensive training requirements, because of the large amount of money and time it has invested in them.

In contrast to the overabundance of combat forces, the Total Army Analysis 2003 identified a shortage of units to support those forces. Specifically, it concluded that the Army requires another 58,400 support troops to carry out its mission of fighting two MRCs nearly simultaneously.

Another concern is that the Army's large requirements for both support and combat units make it rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force to provide transport planes and ships (known as mobility assets) to move its forces overseas. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that for just one major regional conflict, the Army would need to move at least 40 million square feet of equipment. Because the number of ships and planes available to carry equipment is limited, the time needed to make multiple trips across oceans can substantially delay the buildup of forces in a theater.

That delay could prevent the Army from meeting its desired deployment schedule. Using relatively optimistic assumptions, CBO estimated how long it would take the U.S. mobility assets proposed for early next century--including equipment that the Army plans to store overseas, an expanded sealift fleet, and a modernized airlift fleet--to transport all of the Army's forces and associated equipment to two conflicts that broke out 45 days apart. CBO's results indicate that getting all Army forces to the theater for an initial conflict in the Middle East could require as much as 140 days, rather than the 90 days assumed in some DoD plans. (CBO's mobility analysis is described in more detail in the appendix.) The time required to complete deliveries to a second theater could be almost 200 days. Although such delays are similar to the ones experienced during the Persian Gulf War, the Army had hoped to speed up its deployments substantially in the future. All told, CBO's analysis suggests that delivering all Army forces to both theaters might take as long as 240 days--significantly longer than the 135 days consistent with DoD's notional schedule.

Another possible concern with the Army's current structure stems from the fact that most of its support forces (almost 70 percent) are in the reserves. Because of their part-time status, reserve units take longer to get ready for deployment than comparable active-duty units. The Army's planning calls for large numbers of reservists to deploy to an initial MRC in 30 days. The Army itself acknowledges that 79,000 of those reservists would typically need more than 30 days to deploy overseas and thus would not be able to meet such a schedule. This concern may be somewhat moot, however, because mobility assets would probably not be available to move the reserve forces overseas even if they were ready within 30 days.

Getting many of those reserve units ready to deploy when mobility assets became available, however, could still be difficult. For example, the Army's force requirements call for having more than 110,000 reservists in Korea in 90 days for an MRC there. CBO estimates that transportation delays would slow the schedule somewhat but that those reservists would be needed in theater within 110 days of the start of a conflict. By contrast, in the Gulf War, approximately 200 days elapsed before the Army assembled about 73,000 reservists in the Middle East.

Even in peacetime, some types of support units--such as water-supply battalions and prisoner-of-war brigades--are found only in the reserve component. That means reserve personnel have to be put on active duty and deployed overseas to take part in even small operations such as the recent ones in Haiti and Bosnia, which involved less than 5 percent of the Army's active-duty troops. That dependence on reservists is in keeping with the Administration's Total Force Policy, which is designed to involve all components of the military in DoD operations. But activating and deploying reservists for small operations incurs both monetary and nonmonetary costs.

A final concern with the Army's force structure is that it is expensive to maintain and equip. The service's current annual budget of about $60 billion would be stretched to operate and support all of the Army's forces as well as outfit them with the new weapons and materiel they will need in coming decades. Some defense experts believe that the Army's budget is unlikely to grow appreciably in the near future--and may even shrink when adjusted for inflation. As a result, the service may need to find ways to reduce the cost of maintaining and equipping its forces.
 

The Army's Plan for Its Force Structure

The Army has proposed relieving its perceived shortage of support troops by converting some combat units in the reserve component to units that perform support functions. Specifically, the Army plans to turn 12 National Guard combat brigades into support units, thus creating 42,700 additional support troops and eliminating all but 15,700 of the perceived shortfall. That reorganization would take about 10 years to complete and cost almost $3 billion, according to the Army's preliminary estimates. However, the cost (primarily to buy trucks for the new support units) could decrease as the Army continues to evaluate and refine its estimates of the equipment needed for those units.

The Department of Defense's recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) recommended additional changes in the Army, including reductions in both the active and reserve components. The suggested cuts are relatively small: 15,000 active-duty soldiers and 45,000 reservists from the 1998 requested levels of 495,000 and 575,000, respectively. According to Defense Secretary William Cohen's report on the QDR, those cuts reflect increased efficiency in support activities and an anticipated reduction in the size of some Army divisions. In the case of the reserve component, the report said, another reason to have a smaller force is the reduced need for the large Cold War strategic reserve--typically assumed to mean the eight combat divisions in the Guard.

Beyond specifying that the active Army should retain all of its current combat units, the QDR report contained little specific information about how and when those reductions should be made. Thus, many of the details--such as the time needed to carry out the cuts, their distribution between deployable and nondeployable units, and whether to reduce the number of Guard combat units (beyond the 12 brigades affected by the Army's reorganization plan)--remain to be resolved. Furthermore, changes in the size of any of the Army's three organizations (active, Guard, or Reserve) would require Congressional approval. Since little is yet known about how the Army will resolve those details or whether the Congress will approve them, CBO's analysis of the Army's plan to reorganize the National Guard assumes no changes beyond those already outlined.

The Army's reorganization plan has much to recommend it. By converting some combat units that have no direct role to play in an MRC into support units, the plan would accomplish two goals at once: filling an identified need for support forces and eliminating some redundant combat forces. It would also carry out part of the recommendation made by the Commission on Roles and Missions in 1995. And in making those changes, the Army would avoid cutting its active-duty combat forces, which some observers believe are barely adequate to carry out the missions assigned to them.

The Army's plan, however, would not address many of the issues that have been raised about the current force structure. For example, the Army would still face many of the same problems in carrying out small peacetime operations or prosecuting two nearly simultaneous MRCs that it does today. Specifically, the bulk of the support forces would remain in the reserve component. Thus, the Army would need to rely heavily on the reserves for early-deploying support forces in an MRC. And some reserve units would still be needed to support small operations during peacetime.

Among other concerns, the Army's plan would not reduce the amount of equipment that would have to be transported overseas for a major regional conflict. And although the plan would cut the number of excess combat forces, it would not eliminate them entirely. In fact, the Army would retain more than 60,000 combat troops with no direct role in fighting anticipated conflicts. Finally, the reorganization plan would cost money in the near term--at a time when the Army's budget is already strained.
 

Alternatives to the Army's Plan

The Army could take several other approaches to address the shortcomings in its current structure. It could rely more heavily on the host nation--the country in whose defense it was supplying combat troops--to provide logistical support early in a conflict. That would reduce the need for large numbers of support personnel in the Army's ranks and for massive amounts of transportation to move equipment overseas. Alternatively, the Army could create more support forces among its active-duty troops, which would reduce its dependence on reserve forces in the early stages of a regional conflict or in small peacetime operations. Finally, the Army could lower its peacetime costs by cutting the size of the active force and relying more heavily on combat troops in the reserves to fight in a second major conflict, should one erupt.

CBO constructed four specific alternatives to illustrate how the Army might change if it followed those strategies (see Summary Table 1). CBO then compared and evaluated the alternatives based on how well they would meet the Army's force requirements, whether the resulting structure would be balanced between combat and support forces, how quickly those forces could respond to crises overseas, and how much they would cost (see Summary Table 2).
 


Summary Table 1.
Changes in Force Structure Under the Army's Plan and Four Alternatives
Option Changes in Force Structure

Army's Plan: Reconfigure the National Guard
  • Convert 12 Guard combat brigades to support units
 
Alternative I: Increase Reliance on Host-Nation Support and Civilian Contractors
  • Eliminate four Guard combat divisions
  • Rely on host nations and civilian contractors for the equivalent of 62,000 Army support troops in two major regional conflicts
 
Alternative II: Create Additional Support Forces in the Active Army
  • Convert two active-duty heavy divisions and one Guard combat division to support units
 
Alternative III: Combine Alternatives I and II
  • Convert two active-duty heavy divisions to support units
  • Eliminate four Guard combat divisions
  • Cut 35,000 support troops from the reserve component
  • Rely on host nations and civilian contractors for the equivalent of 62,000 Army support troops in two major regional conflicts
 
Alternative IV: Rely More Heavily on the Reserves to Fight a Second Major Regional Conflict
  • Eliminate three active-duty divisions (two heavy and one light) and four Guard combat divisions
  • Rely on host nations and civilian contractors for the equivalent of 62,000 Army support troops in two major regional conflicts

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.
NOTE: None of CBO's alternatives would carry out the Army's planned conversion of 12 Guard combat brigades to support units.

 

Summary Table 2.
Effect of the Army's Plan and Four Alternatives on Annual Costs, Deployment Times, and Number of Forces
Army
in 1998
Army's
Plana
Alternatives
I II III IV

Average Annual Savings or Costs (-)
(Millions of 1997 dollars)
 
1998-2010
Direct savings n.a. -200 to -400 700 -200 850 2,500
Total savings n.a. -200 to -400 1,200 -200 1,550 4,500
 
After 2010
Direct savings n.a. 0b 800 100b 1,300 2,950
Total savings n.a. 0b 1,400 100b 2,150 5,250
 
Deployment Timec
(Days after start of first conflict)
 
First Theater 130 130 120 130 120 120
Second Theaterd 200 230 200 230 200 200
 
Combat Forces from the Guard Needed for the Second Conflicte
 
Combat Brigades 0 0 0 6 6 9
 
Assumed Extent of Host-Nation Support
 
Soldier Equivalents 15,000 15,000 62,000 10,000 62,000 62,000
 
Changes in Deployable Forces
 
Active Component
Combat divisions n.a. 0 0 -2 -2 -3
Combat personnel n.a. 0 0 -33,000 -33,000 -44,000
Support personnel n.a. 0 0 33,000 33,000 0
 
Reserve Component
Combat divisions (Guard) n.a. -4f -4 -1 -4 -4
Combat personnel (Guard) n.a. -42,700 -58,300 -15,000 -58,300 -58,300
Support personnel (Guard and Reserve) n.a. 42,700 0 15,000 -35,000 0
 
Total Force Structure
 
Combat Divisions
Active component 10 10 10 8 8 7
Reserve component (Guard) 8 6g 4 7 4 4
 
Deployable Support Forces
Active component 136,000 136,000 136,000 169,000 169,000 136,000
Reserve component 291,000 333,700 291,000 306,000 256,000 291,000
 
Total Personnel
Active Army 495,000 495,000 495,000 495,000 495,000 430,300
Army National Guard 367,000 367,000 305,000 367,000 287,100 305,000
Army Reserve 208,000 208,000 208,000 208,000 189,600 208,000

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.
NOTE: n.a. = not applicable.
a. Does not include personnel cuts recommended by the Quadrennial Defense Review.
b. Some small savings in operation and maintenance costs may result from converting combat units to support units.
c. Time required to deliver all troops and equipment needed to fight each of two major regional conflicts.
d. Assumes the second conflict begins 45 days after the first.
e. To form the equivalent of 5 1/3 divisions.
f. Two divisions and six separate brigades.
g. Although the Army's plan would retain six combat divisions in the National Guard, it would reduce the number of separate brigades from 18 to 12, an additional reduction equivalent to two combat divisions.

Recognizing today's fiscal constraints, none of the alternatives would increase the overall size of the Army or any of its three organizations. Nor would they increase the size of the Army at the expense of the Navy or the Air Force. In addition, CBO focused solely on options that would change the composition of the forces that make up the Army's deployable units. None of the alternatives examine the feasibility of converting forces in the institutional Army to forces that would deploy to fight in regional conflicts.

For options that would cut the Army's force structure (Alternatives I, III, and IV), CBO estimated the savings that would result both directly and indirectly from those cuts. Direct savings come from avoiding costs to operate and support the deployable forces that would be eliminated. Indirect savings come from reductions in the Army's infrastructure that might be possible because of the cuts in force structure. In other words, indirect savings reflect the potentially reduced need for medical support, training, repair facilities, and other support associated with a smaller Army. As such, indirect savings reflect cuts in the number of both Army civilians and nondeployable forces.

Alternative I: Increase Reliance on Host-Nation Support and Civilian Contractors

The first option would reduce both the Army's need to have support forces in theater early in a conflict and the requirement for large numbers of ships and planes to get them there. Under this alternative, the U.S. troops that arrived earliest in the theater would receive some support services from the host country and from civilian contractors hired by the Army. Such support could include everything from housing to transportation to supplies of food, water, and fuel.

The United States has used that type of assistance in the past. During the Korean War, the Army relied on the services of hundreds of thousands of Korean and Japanese civilians. More recently, the government of Saudi Arabia assisted the Army during the Persian Gulf War by providing petroleum products and trucks to transport them. Civilian contractors provided further support services during the Gulf War, are providing them now in Bosnia, and are on retainer to the Army to furnish such services worldwide when needed.

Assistance from host countries and use of civilian contractors could lessen the number of support forces that the Army needs to maintain in its own ranks. Both Saudi Arabia and South Korea--commonly considered likely theaters for any major conflict involving U.S. forces in the near future--have civilian infrastructures that are more than capable of providing significant amounts of host-nation support. (Army planning assumes that Saudi Arabia and South Korea would provide some support during an MRC. But the amount is limited to what is explicitly spelled out in signed agreements and is much smaller than the amount of similar support that host nations have provided in the past.) In addition, civilian contractors working for DoD in the theater could provide services such as laundry and food that would otherwise have to be supplied by U.S. soldiers. The combined contributions of host-nation support and civilian contractors during two MRCs could potentially replace the support and services provided by 62,000 Army soldiers (see Summary Figure 3).

In terms of force structure, Alternative I would cancel the Army's plan to convert National Guard combat units to support units. It would eliminate four combat divisions, including about 58,300 personnel, from the Guard. It would also cut another 3,200 Guard members from the institutional Army who indirectly support those divisions.

Advantages. Alternative I would have two advantages over the Army's plan. First, by cutting four Guard divisions and forgoing Guard reorganization, the Army could save roughly $1.4 billion a year once all the divisions had been disbanded--$800 million in direct costs and $600 million in indirect costs. Second, this alternative would reduce the amount of equipment to be shipped overseas for two MRCs by more than 10 percent. The reason is that support equipment from the host nation would already be in place, and civilian contractors generally provide services by subcontracting with local suppliers that are also in the country already. Any transportation from the United States that the contractors might need would generally be arranged through the commercial sector. With less equipment to transport overseas, the Army could get all of its forces in place for each regional conflict 10 to 30 days earlier than under its current plan (see Summary Table 2).

Disadvantages. Adopting Alternative I would have some disadvantages, although they are roughly the same as those associated with the Army's current force structure. Relying on host nations and civilian contractors for support--which the Army would be forced to do now if it had to fight two MRCs--entails risks. Army planners cannot always predict where a conflict is going to break out, and the civilian infrastructure may not exist to support operations in some remote areas. Some host nations might be reluctant or unable to provide such assistance, as was the case with Somalia. Furthermore, host-nation civilians and civilian contractors may be unwilling or unable to provide services during some conflicts because of potential exposure to harm, particularly from chemical or biological weapons.

For all of those reasons, the Army prefers not to count on the availability of host-nation support and civilian contractors beyond levels guaranteed in signed agreements. Instead, the Army's preference is to keep all of the support forces it might need within its own ranks.

Alternative II: Create Additional Support Forces in the Active Army

A second option would add support units to the active-duty Army to lessen its reliance on reservists early in a conflict or during peacetime. Doing so would reduce the risk that reserve support units might not be available during a crisis because of delays in mobilization. It would also eliminate the need to activate reserve forces in peacetime to support small operations.

Budget constraints limit the overall size of the active Army, and CBO did not examine alternatives that would increase the number of deployable forces in the Army. In particular, CBO did not consider creating more deployable support forces by reducing the size of the institutional Army. Thus, the only way to increase support forces in the active component, given those constraints, is to convert combat units to support units. This alternative would turn two active divisions (with their roughly 33,000 combat troops) into support units using a process similar to the one the Army will use to reconfigure National Guard units. Alternative II would also create an extra 15,000 support forces in the reserves by switching one Guard combat division to support units. As with the Army's plan, the time and investment required for the conversion would be substantial--up to a decade and approximately $3 billion.

Under this alternative, the Army's combat forces would total eight active divisions and seven Guard divisions. That reduced number of active-duty combat units means the Army would have to call on the Guard for combat forces in the event of a second MRC. Since the Army's stated minimum is 5 1/3 combat divisions for each major regional conflict, it would need six Guard brigades--roughly equivalent to the combat forces in two divisions--to prosecute a second conflict.

This alternative could take advantage of the long time needed to deliver equipment for two MRCs by using that time to train and prepare the reserve combat units for deployment overseas. CBO's analysis shows that building up all of the forces necessary to fight and support two nearly simultaneous major conflicts could take up to 230 days. The Administration's goal is to have enhanced readiness brigades prepared for combat after 90 days of training. If it meets that goal, the Army should be able to train and deploy six of the 15 ERBs in the National Guard during that 230-day window. Given the availability of 3 1/3 active divisions to provide the critical initial response during a second conflict--and the long delays to complete deployments to the second theater--relying on Guard units to fill out the combat forces could be an efficient use of the Army's resources.
 


Summary Figure 3.
Army Forces Under Various Alternatives
Graph

SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office.
a. Host-nation support and civilian contractors.

Advantages. Alternative II would address a number of the concerns raised about the Army's current force structure. It would yield a slightly larger increase in the overall number of support personnel than would the Army's plan (see Summary Table 2). And with more support forces in the active Army, the service would not have to rely on the reserves to provide a large number of support forces on short notice during the early stages of a major conflict. If placed in the appropriate units, the additional active-duty support personnel would also eliminate the need to rely on reserve units during small peacetime operations. Finally, by converting a total of three combat divisions to support units, Alternative II would reduce the number of excess combat forces in the Army.

Disadvantages. Adopting this alternative could have at least five disadvantages, however. First, some observers would argue that National Guard forces could not be ready to play a combat role within the time required. For example, a study by RAND has concluded that readying just one Guard combat brigade for deployment overseas would take more than 90 days. The same study argued that training six ERBs could take at least 159 days and might well take longer. Any delays in calling up or training the reserves would further lengthen that time.

Although that amount of time is less than the 230 days needed to complete deliveries of support equipment to the second conflict, waiting for the Guard brigades to arrive could delay a counterattack. The reason is that counterattacks do not always require that all of the support forces needed for a theater be in place. During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition launched a counterattack with far fewer support forces than called for in the Total Army Analysis 2003. Support levels comparable with those attained in Desert Storm could be achieved in the second theater as early as 155 days after the start of the first MRC. But according to RAND's analysis, it is unlikely that all six ERBs could be in the theater that soon. Thus, relying on the Guard to provide six combat brigades might postpone a counterattack. Alternatively, it might cause the rushing of unprepared brigades into the theater and, possibly, into combat.

Second, this alternative would not provide the same capability for the second conflict as the Army's plan, even if the Guard ERBs were fully trained when they entered the theater. The reason is that six separate combat brigades, although containing roughly the same number of combat forces as two divisions, do not provide the same capability. Divisions include many units besides combat brigades, such as those dedicated to providing command and control, artillery, logistics, and aviation support. Those units support and enhance the combat potential of the combat brigades. Thus, if six separate combat brigades from the Guard were attached to the three active divisions sent to a second MRC under this alternative, the resulting force would not have the same capability as one composed of five full divisions.

A third potential drawback is that adopting Alternative II would make it harder for the Army to provide as many combat forces as it would like for a second MRC. The Total Army Analysis 2003 calls for deploying six combat brigades to the second conflict as reinforcements for the initial 5 1/3 combat divisions. Under Alternative II, preparing a total of 12 combat brigades from the Guard (six to fill out the initial combat force and six for reinforcements) to participate in even the second MRC might be impossible given the relatively short expected duration of such a conflict.

Fourth, adopting this alternative could run counter to DoD's Total Force Policy. That policy, adopted in the early 1970s, seeks to better integrate the military into the fabric of U.S. society by involving soldiers from the reserve component in all major military undertakings. Since 1985, the Army has used reservists in increasing numbers in peacetime operations. Although Alternative II would result in small savings by not requiring the call-up of reservists to help support small-scale peacetime operations, it would also reverse the Army's recent trend by limiting the involvement of reservists in such operations.

Fifth, because this alternative would not reduce the size of either the active or reserve component of the Army, it would not produce significant savings compared with the Army's plan. In fact, converting combat units to support units would cost an estimated $400 million per year for about 10 years. Those costs would be partially offset by about $100 million a year in savings from not activating reserves in peacetime for small operations. Those savings would continue after 2008, when the restructuring envisioned in this alternative would be complete.

Alternative III: Increase Reliance on Host-Nation Support and Create Additional Support Forces in the Active Army

The Army could, of course, adopt the strategies embodied in the two previous alternatives at the same time. The resulting, more ambitious option would depend on the host nation and civilian contractors to provide support early in a conflict and would also add more support forces to the active Army. As noted in Alternative I, by relying on in-country support, the Army would have no need to convert Guard combat units to support units, as it now plans. Instead, it could eliminate four Guard divisions.

Like Alternative II, this option would also reconfigure two combat divisions in the active Army so as to create 33,000 additional support forces. In turn, that would allow the Army to eliminate a similar number of support forces from the reserve component (for the purposes of this alternative, equally divided between the National Guard and the Army Reserve). Those changes would leave a smaller combat force than either of the two previous options: a total of 12 divisions, eight in the active component and four in the Guard (see Summary Table 2).

Advantages. By significantly reducing the size of the reserve component, Alternative III would have several advantages over the Army's plan. It would increase the number of support personnel from the active Army that would be available early in a conflict. It would also lessen the amount of materiel that the Army would have to transport overseas to fight a major conflict. Thus, the Army could have all of the forces it needed in theater about 10 to 30 days sooner than under its current plan.

Finally, although this alternative would incur some costs to reconfigure combat units to support units, it could save the Army more than $1.5 billion a year in the near term (with about $850 million coming directly from savings associated with a smaller reserve force, and the rest coming from indirect savings). After 2010, total savings could reach $2.2 billion a year. About $1.3 billion of that would be direct savings, and $850 million would be indirect savings from having a reserve component that was roughly 20 percent smaller than the authorized 1998 level.

Disadvantages. Adopting Alternative III would entail some risk, however. It would mean that the Army would not have enough forces in its own ranks to support two major conflicts simultaneously. Instead, the Army would have to rely on the host nations and civilian contractors, and no guarantee exists that such support would be available in the event of a conflict.

A greater risk, however, might be associated with cutting active-duty combat forces and relying on reserve combat units to augment them in the case of a second conflict. Like the previous option, Alternative III would require the Guard to deploy at least six brigades to the second theater. As noted earlier, those brigades would have less capability than the two full active divisions they were replacing, and their lack of associated divisional support structure might make them less effective in combat.

Having to train and prepare six Guard combat brigades for deployment might extend the time required to assemble all of the necessary forces in the second theater. Under this alternative, the support provided by host nations and contractors would reduce the amount of U.S. equipment delivered to each theater. As a result, all U.S. forces could be in theater for the second MRC 30 days sooner than under either the Army's plan or Alternative II. That accelerated schedule would decrease the time available for readying and transporting the six Guard combat brigades--from 230 days under Alternative II to 200 days. (To arrive in 200 days, the Guard brigades would have to be ready to leave in about 180 days to allow enough travel time.) As a result, some of the six Guard brigades might not be able to arrive in theater with the rest of the forces, which could delay military operations.

Alternative IV: Rely More Heavily on the Reserve Component to Fight the Second MRC

The final option would achieve significant savings by placing more reliance on the Army's reserve component to fight a second major regional conflict. That approach might be appealing if planners considered it unlikely that a second conflict would break out in the midst of a first. If such a conflict did occur, under this alternative a small number of active combat units would deploy to the second theater and stabilize the situation in order to give reserve units time to train and prepare.

Alternative IV would cut the Army's combat forces and rely on outside sources to provide some support during MRCs. Consistent with the recommendation of the Commission on Roles and Missions to reduce the number of excess combat forces in the Army, this option would eliminate more than 100,000 combat troops in the form of three active divisions and four Guard divisions. No new support forces would be created in either component; instead, like Alternatives I and III, this option would rely on host nations and civilian contractors to provide some logistical support for both major regional conflicts.

Adopting this alterative would still leave the Army with more than enough combat forces to fight two MRCs nearly simultaneously. Today, the Army fields 18 combat divisions and 21 combat brigades in its active and reserve components combined--significantly more than the 10 2/3 divisions it considers necessary to conduct two MRCs at once. After making the cuts in Alternative IV, the Army would still have almost 54,000 combat troops beyond the 195,000 it plans to deploy overseas for two major regional conflicts. That remaining combat force, however, would be less ready and less capable than the Army's current force because it would include fewer active combat divisions.

Alternative IV would require the Army to train and prepare a significant number of the Guard's enhanced readiness brigades for combat in a relatively short time. Specifically, the Guard would have to deploy nine of its 15 ERBs--the equivalent of three combat divisions--overseas within 200 days in order not to delay the buildup of forces in the second theater. The Army has a strategy for preparing up to 10 Guard combat brigades to deploy in 160 days or less (indeed, five of those brigades could be ready in roughly 100 days). If the Army can meet that schedule, those Guard ERBs should be able to play a significant role in a second conflict.

Advantages. The biggest advantage of Alternative IV would be the substantial savings: about $5.3 billion a year once all of the changes had been made. Almost $3 billion of those savings would come directly from eliminating three divisions from the active Army and four divisions from the Guard. The other $2.3 billion would be realized indirectly by reducing the size of the institutional Army. An orderly drawdown could take several years to complete, which would delay the Army's realization of the full savings associated with this option. Nevertheless, annual savings in the near term would still be substantial.

The bulk of the savings from this alternative--almost $4 billion a year when it was fully implemented--would result from reducing the size of combat forces in the active Army. A much smaller amount would come from cutting the size of the Guard and depending on host nations and civilian contractors for support services.

Host-nation support would reduce the amount of equipment the Army would need to ship overseas for major conflicts, thus shortening the time required to assemble all forces in theater. Even so, CBO's analysis suggests that delivering all of the Army's equipment to separate theaters for two nearly simultaneous MRCs could take at least 200 days, time that the Army could use to ready reserve units for combat.

Disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage of adopting Alternative IV would be the increased risk associated with relying heavily on reserve units to fight major regional conflicts. As in its own plan, the Army would need to use large numbers of support forces from the reserves to fight just one MRC. Perhaps of more concern, it would depend on the reserve component for a much larger portion of the combat forces for a second conflict. Although this option would leave the Army with 2 1/3 active divisions that could deploy to a second MRC, an additional three divisions would have to come from the reserves. The Army could train and ready nine Guard brigades in less than 160 days, but doing so would not be its preferred strategy. It would mean training two brigades simultaneously at some training sites, would require resources that some analysts doubt are available, and would produce one brigade that would be prepared for rear-area security but not for frontline combat. Furthermore, any delays in calling up the reserves would make it difficult, if not impossible, to have nine fully trained combat brigades from the Guard in the second theater within 200 days.

Like Alternatives II and III, this option would reduce the overall combat capability provided to the second conflict by substituting three Guard brigades for each active division it eliminated. That effect would probably be greater with this alternative, however, because it would eliminate one more active Army division than the other options would. Furthermore, Alternative IV would require the two active divisions and the corps organization assigned to the second MRC to support and control a total of nine separate brigades from the National Guard. That task could be significantly harder than the one assumed in the two previous options: having three active divisions and a corps controlling and supporting only six Guard brigades.

Another disadvantage of Alternative IV is that it might leave the Army with a less ready pool of Guard combat units to act as reinforcements for a second MRC. The first nine of the Guard's 15 ERBs would form part of the initial 5 1/3 divisions sent to a second conflict. Thus, the six least ready brigades would be the ones available as reinforcements under this alternative, compared with the six most ready under the Army's plan.
 

Conclusions

The Army, like the rest of DoD, is facing a serious dilemma in the next decade. It wants to maintain a large number of ready and well-equipped forces so it can fight two wars similar in size to Operation Desert Storm nearly simultaneously without relying heavily on allies or civilian support. However, the funds to pay for and equip those forces are increasingly hard to come by.

The Army plans to retain all of the units it needs to conduct two major regional conflicts, relying primarily on the active component for combat forces and the reserve component for support forces. It would keep additional combat units in the National Guard that have no clear role in those conflicts, to act as a strategic hedge and to provide troops to the states in the event of domestic emergencies.

Alternatives to the Army's plan could save money, provide more support forces earlier for the first conflict, or both. However, they would generally entail increased risk in prosecuting a second (but perhaps unlikely) conflict.

All of the alternatives that CBO examined entail varying degrees of risk that are greater than what is associated with the Army's plan. However, they all represent viable choices that differ from the Army's less risky but more expensive plan for its force structure.


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