Restructuring of the United States Army

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From experience in recent warfare, changes in potential opponents, people and cost constraints, and advances in technology, the United States Army is going through a fundamental restructuring at an organizational level. There are also a number of technical upgrades and new systems. As this restructuring continues, experiments continue with the next-generation Future Combat System concepts, although the overall program has been cancelled. Much of the intellectual basis for the new thinking came from the pioneering work of GEN William DuPuy at the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), which formally issued the first Army doctrinal guidance in 1976. Many planners also cite, not as a guide but an inspirational goal, a science fiction novel, Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 Starship Troopers; — not the rather bad movie that had only a name in common.

Essentially, the Army decided that in the next few decades, when it has to deploy large numbers of troops, there will be three basic scenarios, and it needs to be able to form three kinds of forces to meet these scenarios. Some functions, such as intelligences, reconnaissance, and surveillance, will be greatly enhanced, but, while the sensors may be the same, they may ride in an armored vehicle in a "heavy" unit while in a militarized off-road vehicle (e.g., the military High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), which became the civilian "Hummer" so beloved of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a "light unit".

The Army also recognized the need for deploying small units, especially under the rubric of special operations. Nevertheless, the Restructuring is focused at large units -- but smaller than they have been in the past. Previously, the basic unit of Army force employment was the division, which ranged from 15,000 to 25,000 soldiers. Improvements in training, weapons, and sensors now make brigades of approximately 5,000 soldiers capable of missions that previously required divisions. A key aspect of the Restructuring, then, is converting the Army from a division-organized to a brigade-organized force. Divisions still will exist, but they have principally become headquarters units for supporting and controlling variable numbers of brigade-sized "building blocks".

Especially with special operations forces, it is also examining its cultural readiness to change and adapt, operate in a multipolar world where virtually all operations will be joint with other U.S. services, as well as other nations. It also recognizes that it has limits in the number of personnel and the intensity of their deployment. Part of its strategy to increase flexibility is technological, although one very large initiative, Future Combat Systems, was cancelled, with pieces retained. The technological and training enhancements go down to the individual soldier level, variously making surprising redesigns of seemingly mundane uniforms, giving individuals electronics worth of Starship Troopers, and providing medical equipment and training that gives an infantry private some essential capabilities previously reserved for paramedics and physicians.

Units of action and units of employment

Reflecting increases in technical capability, the U.S. Army is converting from a structure in which the division was the basic "unit of action", to a system where the unit of action (UA) is the Brigade Combat Team (BCT). . In Starship Troopers, the "mobile infantry" dropped, in powered exoskeletons, from spaceships in orbit. Even if that could be done today, it probably would be less effective than the three tailored BCT models, tailored to real-world situations:

  • Infantry BCT (IBCT): lightest and most easily transportable. Depending on unit training and equipment, may conduct foot-mobile, motorized, heliborne, and parachute operations
  • Stryker BCT (SBCT): organized around the Stryker vehicle system family of medium-weight wheeled armored vehicles, armored against light weapons and extremely maneuverable on the ground. Within a theater, it can be lifted, although not without challenge, by medium transport aircraft such as the fixed-wing C-130 or the CH-47 helicopter.
  • Heavy BCT (HBCT): armored forces built around full-tracked armored tank and infantry in infantry fighting vehicles. The HBCT is not, in practice, air-transportable. It would normally be deployed by ship or air, or, if its equipment is prepositioned (e.g., prepositioning ships) in an area operations, the troops might be flown to meet with the equipment.

Under doctrines of Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, [1] Operational Preparation of the Battlespace[2] and Advanced Force Operations,[3] they may be preceded by small special operations teams from the military or Central Intelligence Agency, especially when there is a need to work with irregular allied troops, as in the Afghanistan War (2001-)

Besides the core combat arms units, a number of combat support and combat service support are moving to a brigade structure in which the Brigade Combat Team, rather than the division, is the basic unit capable of independent action (with suitable reinforcements).

Overall military operations will combine appropriate BCTs with five kinds of brigade-sized support organization, or detachments from them. The resulting organization may be anywhere from the size of a reinforced brigade (3,000-5,000 soldiers) to a strong corps (50,000-plus). There are new higher headquarters organizations, generically called units of employment (UEx), to support the brigade organization.

Four of the five new supporting brigades correspond roughly to a traditional organization, although one significantly reorganizes assets around a new concept of operations.

New unit Capabilities in previous units Comments
Aviation brigade Divisional aviation brigade 11 active and 16 reserve
Fires brigade Division artillery (DIVARTY) plus some corps units (10-12) planned, half active and half reserve.
Battlefield Surveillance Brigade Military intelligence brigade 3 active and 1 reserve
Sustainment brigade Division support command 16 active and 19 reserve
Combat support brigade New grouping 3 active and 13 reserve

Brigade Combat Team

The main Army combat units are built around a core of infantry. It is not always understood that tanks need infantry support, and, a lesser extent, the reverse is true. The three kinds of combat brigades differ, most fundamentally, in their tradeoffs between the speed with which they can deploy to the place they are needed (i.e., strategic mobility), and how much local maneuverability (i.e., tactical mobility), protection against the enemy, and offensive power they will have once in place. Offensive power is now seen as more than "firepower" or "kinetic operations", but builds in information operations including electronic warfare, civil-military operations, actions on external computer networks, and psychological operations.

Existing Infantry and Armored divisions have been restructured into more flexible "modular formations" of brigade size. "This restructuring will increase the number of active-duty combat brigades from 33 to 43 or more, using a combination of new recruits and soldiers drawn from other parts of the Army."[4]

Current infantry, however, have increasingly sophisticated weapons, command and control and sensors, and are intended to operate in combined arms operations with tanks, supported by:

Changes in fighting

Quite a few traditional terms, in the reorganization context, will, at the least, acquire new contexts. One of the first things to remember is that the BCT shooters are principally infantry and armor. In heavy IBCTs, there are some distinct changes.

For example, it has long been typical, in heavy units, to "cross-attach" the infantry and armor units that complement one another. The way this has been done, however, is to keep everyone in an all-mechanized-infantry or all-tank battalion, training on your particular techniques, until moving to simulated or real combat. At that point, battalions become "battalion teams" and companies become "company teams". A tank battalion, hypothetically, would become a "tank-heavy battalion team" by exchanging its "C" company with that of a mechanized infantry battalion. The tank-heavy team now has two tank companies and a mechanized infantry company, while the infantry battalion team has two infantry companies and a tank company.

That worked acceptably as long as the battalions were all in the same brigade and the swaps were all the same units, so people got used to it. The new heavy battalions, however, start out with two tank companies, two mechanized infantry companies, and a new wrinkle: a permanently assigned combat engineer company.

BCT organic support

While there is a strong move to minimize the "tail" that follows the fighting "teeth", some forward support is still needed. [5] Each BCT has a BSB—Brigade Support Battalion and a Special Troops Battalion. Each combat arms battalion in each BCT has a FSC—Forward Support Company; in IBCTs, the FSC can carry at least a company of soldiers in its trucks.

A new addition is the Brigade Special Troops Battalion. This unit consolidates the separate Engineer and Military Intelligence companies and adds a Signal Company. In the previous brigades these units were controlled and supported directly from the brigade headquarters. The Special Troops battalion provides a command and control element for these companies, medical and military police in the headquarters company, and any other small units attached such as explosive ordnance disposal and air defense artillery.

Changes in finding and targeting the enemy

None of the BCTs have organic manned aviation at the BCT level, although they will all have UAVs. As an aside, one of the assumptions of air assault divisions was that they had an aviation brigade that could lift one combat brigade at a time. See Aviation Brigade; that model is not necessarily broken.

All BCT types have vastly more intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition than ever before deployed to this level; see Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron and Military Intelligence Company formations for each BCT.

Beyond the capabilities of the RSTA squadron and MI teams are the assets of the battlefield surveillance brigade, made up of forces previously under corps and army control, plus theater and national resources. The BCT intelligence units can, for example, directly receive radar images from C3I-ISR aircraft such as the E-8 Joint STARS. They have their own light-(Class I) and medium-(Class IV MQ-8) unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance.

The BCT C3I-ISR organizations all can communicate with higher-level units, due to the much greater standardization of digital communications system, and the rethinking of what levels of classified information would be available at what level. For example, satellite imagery intelligence used to be at the TOP SECRET plus codeword level. People cleared for that codeword couldn't expose themselves to capture, so Army, Air Force, and Navy combat aviators couldn't see the pictures of what they were to attack.

Rethinking the problem pointed out that the very highest resolution pictures aren't needed for battle, but by national-level analysts trying to understand fundamental enemy capabilities. By electronically reducing the resolution in the pictures so it is quite adequate for targeting, pilots only cleared for SECRET could see pictures that could both guarantee mission success and save their lives.

Structure of the BCT types

Heavy Brigade Combat Team

For more information, see: Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

The largest of the BCTs, 20 Heavy Brigade Combat Teams (HBCT)s are planned. Their organic maneuver force consists two battalions with two M1 Abrams tank troops, two M2 Bradley mechanized infantry companies, and an engineer company. They also have the armored cavalry/RSTA squadron and an artillery battalion with two M109 howitzer firing batteries. The BCT also contains a Forward Support Battalion with a company tailored to support each of the maneuver battalions.

While elements can be deployed by air, it would be impractical to fly entire brigades to their destination. There are several deployment models. Some, of course, will be forward deployed. In other cases, the heavy equipment will be on prepositioning ships, at secure bases from which fast ships can reach any coastal definition in a few days, with the personnel flying to the port and forming the organization there. In other cases, the organization would deploy, by ship, from the United States.

Infantry Brigade Combat Team

For more information, see: Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

20 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) are planned. These are intended to be deployable by transport aircraft.

Their organic maneuver force consists two infantry battalions with three infantry companies and a weapons company. One engineer company is part of the headquarters battalion. They also have a cavalry/RSTA squadron in HMMWVs and an artillery battalion with two howitzer batteries.

Stryker Brigade Combat Team

For more information, see: Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Maneuver forces are three Stryker infantry and one cavalry/RSTA battalion. There is an engineer company and a Stryker antitank company using TOW missiles.

In addition to a 120mm mortar unit, there is a battery armed with the exceptionally capable M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer[6]. It is capable of Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact and use guided shells. This artillery piece is used by the Army light forces, U.S. Marines, and Canadian and Australian Armies. It is towed by the Lightweight Prime Mover (LWPM), a 9,000-pound truck, made by Lockheed Martin, that can be transported by C-130 Hercules airplanes, CH-47 Chinook medium helicopters, Marine CH-53 heavy helicopters or Marine V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

Modular support brigades

The BCTs plus some functions in the support brigades shake up the traditional structure of:

  • combat arms
  • combat support
  • combat service support

Artillery and air defense artillery (ADA) have always been considered combat arms, but they are assigned to different brigades. The restructuring breaks down some of the customary divisions, because both a blown bridge and an enemy airstrike both interfere with maneuver by the BCTs.

In the Combat Support Brigade, which had a working name of Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, engineers fix the bridge; ADA stops the airstrike, and, with evolving counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) techniques, may intercept the bombardment of friendly troops. Traditional ADA was about stopping the archer, but C-RAM deals with stopping the arrows.

Fires also had been seen as "kinetic" based on impact or blast, but "non-kinetic" effects (i.e., information operations) such as electronic warfare, psychological warfare, and actions against combat computers also are seen as fires. If one thinks about the function rather than the means of accomplishment, is it not air defense if you shoot down the enemy plane, blind its targeting systems, or make its missiles ignore their guidance? The first is kinetic and the latter two are not.

Fires brigades

For more information, see: Fires brigade.

Fires brigades are made up of a combination of former Division Artillery (DIVARTY) commands, plus various resources typically assigned to a corps headquarters. Ten to twelve such brigades are planned, half active and half reserve.

Army electronic warfare doctrine, however, changed after the original plans for fires brigades. Electronic attack, as in jamming artillery fuzes, has been assigned to the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The Army role is coordination of other service actions, collection of signals intelligence, and electronic attack specific to counter-improvised explosive devices.[7]

Some of the functions previously under DIVARTY, such as direct cannon support, moved to the BCT level. A fires brigade was more focused planning and execution for joint fire support operations. Its capabilities to affect the enemy emphasized newer systems to carry out precision-strikes, counterstrikes and shaping, which utilized lethal and non-lethal means.

Aviation brigade

Combat divisions routinely contained three infantry, or infantry-armor, brigades, with the fourth brigade being Army aviation. The new structure has no organic manned aviation, although they do have organic UAVs, at BCT level.

Three kinds of aviation brigade -- light, medium and heavy -- each can support up to six BCTs. There will be 11 active and 16 reserve components. Each has an Aviation Support Battalion (ASB).[8]

Brigade type Attack helo bns Assault bn
Heavy 2 × 24 heavy attack 1 × 24 utility 1 × of 8 utility, 8 medium cargo, 8 medevac
Medium 1 × 30 scout/attack 1 × 30 utility 1 × of 8 utility, 8 medium cargo, 8 medevac
Light 1 x 30 heavy attack, 1 x 30 scout/attack 1 × 30 utility 1 × of 8 utility, 12 medium cargo, 12 medevac

Battlefield Surveillance Brigade

The BCTs themselves have enormously more surveillance capability than traditional combat units; some of their equipment might well have been assigned to corps or higher headquarters. Three active and one reserve are planned. The core of these units has an intelligence battalion, and a long range scout detachment in the headquarters battalion. Typically, they will have more task attachments than the other brigades, with special operations forces and both manned and unmanned aviation.

LRS units are being transferred to the Army's new Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) format. The brigade contains a

  • Brigade HHC,
  • Battlefield Surveillance Targeting Battalion (BSTB)
  • Military Intelligence Battalion
  • Surveillance Reconnaissance Battalion (SRB)

RSTA scouts, except in the 82nd Airborne Division, are not expected to be airborne qualified. LRS units,[9] as do Rangers and Special Forces are capable of operating deep behind enemy lines; RSTA squadrons are not.

The RSTA squadrons, however being designated as cavalry, also have HMMWVs and M3 Bradley CFVs. One way to think about the difference is that LRS doctrine is to not be discovered at all, while the RSTA scouts have much more combat capability and can break away using fire and maneuver.

Combat Support Brigade

Originally called a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the mission remains the same"

Provide critical maneuver support to the supported force commander, normally at division level.

A BCT cannot be effective if it cannot get to the battlefield, and the CSB groups together a set of previously dispersed functions that make the approach to the action possible. It does so without setting up a massive rear area organization more appropriate to supporting World War Two sized forces than BCTs or groups of BCTs.

3 active and 13 reserve are planned. Their core is small, with a signal and a main support battalion. It is assumed they will routinely have combat engineer, military police, air defense artillery (ADA), and chemical corps assigned units. On a mission-specific basis, they may have explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and civil affairs units.

The CSB (ME) provides maneuver support to an area of operations. That support consists of:

  • assured mobility: the command moves when and where the commander intends, without rivers, damaged bridges or roads, etc., getting in the way.

maneuver where and when he desires, without interruption or delay, to achieve his intent.

  • protection: the force and its soldiers need to be protected against air and missile attack, WMD, etc. Missions here include air defense artillery and missile defense, WMD detection and decontamination, and controlling traffic from POWs and refugees
  • terrain management: keep the areas open between the BCTs and the higher headquarters.
  • infrastructure development: restoration activities that

support the return of stability and security in an occupied area and prepares the way for nation building and the return of internal national control.

  • rear-area operations: use of terrain and urban areas by forces not directly engaged in combat operations and allow the continuous provision of supplies and services to the committed forces.

To do this, the CSB will have units from Engineers, Military Police, Chemical, Signal, rear-area operations, and (when assigned) a tactical combat force (TCF) [10] "This support brigade will enhance the full dimensional protection and freedom of maneuver of supported Army, joint, or multinational headquarters across the full range of military operations. During major combat operations, the brigade could oversee river crossings, protect forces and critical infrastructure, and reinforce brigade combat teams with tailored engineer, military police, air/missile defense, chemical, or other supporting capabilities."[11]

Sustainment Brigade

At a level above Brigade, the Army is changing from "a supply-based to a distribution-based logistics system, theater distribution focuses on an end-to-end capability to deliver materiel readiness from source of supply to point of use. The cornerstone of successful theater distribution is the merging of materiel management functions with movement management functions under a theater distribution brigade", belonging to the higher headquarters (corps or other Unit of Employment).

16 regular and 19 reserve Sustainment Brigades are planned, with a core battalion with headquarters, a signal company, and personnel and finance units. There will be two types: rear area and forward. The rear area units have battalions of a single function, such as supply, transportation, ammunition and maintenance, plus a medical group. Forward support battalions will mix the functions.

The rear area brigade will have a main body that carries out theater-level tasks, with appropriate augmentation. These Brigades also provide the rear-area services needed for the Forward Support Battalions (FSB) attached to each BCT. The FSB reports to the BCT commander, but gets support from the rear-area battalions and brigade headquarters of the SB.

Just as Fires Brigades replace the former DIVARTY, Sustainment Brigades replace Division Support Commands (DISCOM). As an example, the 1st Sustainment Brigade, formerly the support command for the 1st Infantry Division, is a headquarters over a Special Troops Battalion (STB), as well as a Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

The Sustainment Brigades will control both forward and regular support units. For example, the 782d Main Support Battalion, part of the Sustainment Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, contains

  • light maintenance company
  • heavy maintenance company
  • supply company
  • transportation company
  • aerial delivery company
  • calibration detachment
  • graves registration detachment
  • arid environment detachment

A Forward Support Battalion attaches to each BCT, and provides, at that level, administrative, finance, legal, medical, maintenance, and supply services.

Brigade Special Troops Battalion

Each BCT has a Special Troops Battalion (STB), always with Engineer, Military Intelligence and Signal (i.e., communications) companies, but also as a headquarters for additional units that provide immediate non-fires, non-logistics support to the BCT. This battalion cuts across the traditional distinction between combat support and combat service support.

Within the headquarters company are military police and medical units.

Combat sustainment support battalion

A typical CSSB is made from six separate units.

Early experience

COL Gustave Perna, the 4th SB commander during a successful deployment in Iraq, without losing one soldier, cited five new approaches that had real benefits. He said they had let the unit become proactive rather than reactive in logistics. [15]

  • AAR [after-action review] process
  • intelligence-driven operations
  • creating logistics flexibility
  • standards and discipline
  • equipment maintenance

Both before and during deployment, the Brigade made significant changes to the organization of its staff. Its major divisions became:

  1. future operations under a Support Operations Officer, "tracking repair orders, researching future missions, scanning fragmentary orders for future taskings, and looking for ways to improve storage capacity on forward operating bases (FOBs)"
  2. current operations under the S-3: "overseeing all missions once planning was completed, managing all transportation movement requests, interfacing with battalions, informing battalions of changing conditions, and modifying requirements"
  3. administration.

The original equal split between S-3 and SPO The original breakout split responsibilities equally between the S-3 and SPO, which was simple but inefficient.

Future Operations Current Operations General supply/administration
Effects section All assigned S-3 Host nation personnel
Current operations' field service section Combining distribution and transportation property book office to the S-4 section over in administration's group

Another enhancement was developing a 5-day training course for combat escort teams, the fighting element of logistics convoys moving among forwarding operating bases. [16]

Unit of Employment

Early restructuring proposals did away with the names "division headquarters" and corps headquarters, calling the higher-level command organization for Units of Action (i.e., BCTs and support brigades) Units of Employment, generically UEx. There are two levels of UEs:Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag The terms "division" and "corps" are being used in more recent materials.


A 1000-person war fighting headquarters that provides battle command of up to six BCTs or joint/coalition equivalents plus Support Brigades. At least one of each type Support Brigade will be attached to a UEx when it deploys. The UEx consists of command and control assets formerly associated with division and corps headquarters.

Planned numbers of UE by type and component
UE type Active force National Guard
3-star 3 0
2-star 10 8

They will have a command group, mobile command group, a main and two tactical command posts, and a headquarters battalion with a headquarters company, security company, a signal company, and 8 liaison officers.


The Joint Forces Land Component Command headquarters in a theater of operations. It is capable of exercising administrative control of all subordinate UEx and theater support commands. It consists of assets formerly associated with corps and army headquarters.


These were to correspond to corps and field armies, but that has not been entirely workable. The assumption was that a numbered army was either an administrative headquarters in the U.S., or the army component (i.e., headed by a three-star officer) within a Unified Combatant Command headed by a four-star. For a time, the senior U.S. headquarters in Iraq was Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I), built around a U.S. corps headquarters, but it seemed wise, especially after the scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison, to let the corps focus on operations and to create Multi-National Force-Iraq headed by a four-star, still having a three-star in United States Central Command. While MNF-I has been replaced by a different organization, it still has a four-star commander. In hindsight, while dealing with the early insurgency in Iraq was mishandled on many levels, it was unfair to put its military component under a corps headquarters, without augmentation, headed by the most junior three-star in the Army, LTG Ricardo Sanchez.

U.S. doctrine now has, with different titles, a four-star commander, roughly "sub-unified commander" in Afghanistan (GEN David Petraeus), Iraq (GEN Lloyd Austin) and Korea (GEN Walter Sharp).

Future Combat System

While the new modular organization will be the long-term structure, various systems under it will be replaced. The Future Combat Systems (FCS) program had been the mechanism for doing this, with FCS capabilities that are ready for the field introduced, incrementally, to the restructured , or, in DoD-speak, "transformed" structure. [17]

When the Army vetted the idea of Transformation with the combatant commanders four years ago, most acknowledged the need for change. Many also stated, however, that their near-term requirement was for "another heavy division." Our "customers" are more focused on the optimization of their current capabilities as a hedge against today’s potential crises than on how the force will look and operate in 20 years. — BG David Fastabend[18]

The overall FCS program has been cancelled, especially the manned ground vehicles, but some systems are continuing or being restructured.


  1. Field Manual 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, U.S. Army, 8 July 1994
  2. Ronald E. Keys (4 February 2005), Air Force Policy Directive 10-35: Battlefield Airmen
  3. Repass, Michael S. (7 April 2003), Combating Terrorism with Preparation of the Battlespace, U.S. Army War College
  4. Army Restructuring
  5. Lexiconv version 5 slide 2
  6. Murray, Edward & Martin Kane (31 October 2006), "Army fields its first light-weight howitzer", Army News Service
  7. FM3-36, Electronic Warfare in Operations, Department of the Army, 2009
  8. Whalen, Timothy J., "The Aviation Support Battalion—workhorse of Army aviation", Army Logistician
  9. FM7-93, Long Rance Surveillance.
  10. Miller, Klaude A. “Tony” & David L. Draker (January-March 2006), "Combat Support Brigade (Maneuver Enhancement)", Engineer: 11-13
  11. Shumway, James (18 March 2005), A Strategic Analysis of the Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, U.S. Army War College
  12. Army Calibration System
  13. TMDE Maintenance Functions
  14. M56 Coyote. generator, smoke, mechanical, Globalsecurity
  15. Salmons, Joshua (Jan-Feb, 2008), "Five key areas of the 4th Sustainment Brigade's success", Army Logistician
  16. Salmons, Joshua (Jan-Feb, 2008), "Combat escort team validation", Army Logistician
  17. Program Manager, Future Combat System Brigade Combat Team, Program Overview FCS 101
  18. Fastabend, David (February 2004), "The Imperative for a Culture of Innovation in the U.S. Army: Adapt or Die", Army Magazine