Save Our Army from Generals

The U.S. Army has fallen into bureaucratic shock. Congress and the American people expect its Army to demobilize after the end of the Cold War, which was delayed by 23 years of Persian Gulf wars. Current Army Generals rose in a system of short-term assignments where selling growth and dodging long-term problems were keys to success, as explained in the great book "The Path to Victory." As a result, the Army has no plan to downsize from a post 9-11 wartime high of 570,000 to around 400,000 active duty personnel.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is a great bureaucrat. As Army manpower shrinks, he plays a shell game to retain far more active duty units than needed, and then claims the nation is in danger since units are undermanned. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently ordered a 20% reduction in bloated headquarters. At a recent conference, Odiero's strategy was revealed:

"The chief and I felt very strongly that headquarters reduction was a place that we could just do things more smartly and do it with fewer people," he said. Ray Odierno said the potential cuts could be in the thousands, and the plan might be implemented somewhere around 2015 and beyond."

That's his plan, do nothing! Just agree that it might be a good idea and stall. General Odierno's official plan to cut the Army's wartime force structure is grossly insufficient. In June 2013, he announced the Army will cut 10 brigade combat teams and reorganize the rest, which implies a serious cut. But details show that only 10 brigade headquarters will be eliminated, while their subordinate units will be reassigned to increase the combat power of the remaining 33 brigades. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell noted the cuts will result in the loss of only 17,700 positions. The recent inactivation of the two brigades and several smaller enabler units in Europe represent a reduction of another 11,700 slots.

General Campbell added: “The BCT [brigade] reduction is just one small part” of the 80,000-troop reduction in end strength. The 11,700 cut from Europe (ordered by the Bush administration way back in 2005) and 17,700 from 10 brigade headquarters total only 29,400 soldier slots out of 80,000 needed just to reach to a level of 490,000 regular soldiers by 2015. Where is the plan to cut another 50,000 soldiers by 2015, and another 90,000 by 2018? Unless the Army slashes unneeded headquarters overhead and excess support elements that now require 400,000 active-duty soldiers and 300,000 full-time civilians, it will have eliminate all of its combat brigades! 

Cut Army Fat!

Civilian leaders must intervene and demand a serious downsizing plan now. Congress should hold hearings to discuss options and demand action. Here are specific ideas to eliminate some 100,000 non-combat positions (including civilians and hundreds of Generals) without the politically touchy options of closing domestic bases or downsizing reserve forces. The manpower estimates listed here are ballpark figures, but keep in mind that eliminating units at domestic bases also lowers base support manpower requirements:

20,000 - Eliminate 7th Army HQs and half of Army bases in Germany

The Army can close excess bases and excess headquarters in Germany and still retain the same number of combat soldiers there in two ground combat brigades in Europe, an aviation brigade, and its hospital and training facilities in Germany.

14,000 - Eliminate 8th Army HQs and close the Daegu complex

Eliminating outdated overhead in Korea (the 8th Army command and Daegu camps ) would allow 8000 non-combat soldier slots to be eliminated, along with some 6000 civilian positions. The Army could retain its current combat forces in Korea, even though the South Korean military is five times more powerful than North Korea.

12,000 - Deactivate or downsize most Sustainment Brigades

The Army has 33 Sustainment (i.e. logistics) brigades; 14 Regular, 10 National Guard, and 9 Army Reserve. Each is designed to support several combat brigades, yet the Army has announced no plan to eliminate any of them! It is obvious that as regular combat brigades disappear, four active-duty sustainment brigades should deactivate. Six sustainment brigades based in the USA could remain fully manned with active duty soldiers for rapid deployment: the forward-deployed 45th in Hawaii (quickly deployable by three Army ships); the two airmobile sustainment brigades (the 101st at Fort Campbell and the 82nd at Fort Bragg); two robust "heavy" sustainment brigades near seaports; the 3rd at Fort Stewart and the 593rd at Fort Lewis; and the 528th at Fort Bragg to support Army Special Forces.

Limits in American airlift and sealift mean that other sustainment brigades cannot deploy until six months after a crisis erupts, so there is no reason to retain other active duty sustainment brigades. Since the Army deactivated its Army Reserve combat units several years back, the nine Army Reserve sustainment brigades exist to support the regular army. They have months to mobilize and train before they can be deployed. 

However, six army bases with regular combat brigades need some active-duty sustainment soldiers to support local training and garrison operations: Forts Carson, Bliss, Hood, Riley, Drum, and Polk. As a result, the Army should organize "Total Force" sustainment brigades at these bases to support second-tier "follow-on" combat brigades. Hybrid (~25% active/~75% reserve) sustainment brigades at these bases would include hundreds of active duty personnel. Units could be filled out with mobilized individual (IMA and IRR) reservists during wartime, and include current army reserve support battalions and companies, already located within a few hundred miles of these bases. 

12,000 - Eliminate four Aviation Brigades

As the Army slashes the number of its ground combat maneuver brigades, it ignores the balanced combined arms concept. The Army has grown to include 13 active-duty combat aviation brigades (CABs), each with around 2700 soldiers and over 100 helicopters of various types. There are also eight CABs in the National Guard.

The Army has not announced plans to deactivate any of these expensive brigades, despite a shortage of helicopters. In contrast, the Army began activation its 13th brigade this past summer at Fort Carson, soon after it announced the deactivation of 10 combat maneuver brigades! The Army's basic structure calls for one CAB per division, so the Army doesn't need 13 CABs for its remaining divisions. 

The army could retain the independent CAB in Germany to support NATO and rapid deployments, but should deactivate four CABs. This allows hundreds more positions to be shed from the training pipeline and depot maintenance. This also ensures an adequate inventory of helicopters for the remaining nine active-duty CABs and eight National Guard CABs.

Note: I apologize for counting Apache attack helicopter pilots as "non combat" personnel, but the Army includes them in these support brigades.

May 2014 Update - Army to eliminate three active CABs by 2019

10,000 - Cut Army manpower at the NSA

While Congress struggles to discover what the NSA does, it should scrutinize its manpower.  The Army dominated NSA evades questions about its budget and manpower, but public estimates are that it has 35,000 full-time personnel and almost half of those are soldiers, plus 15,000 contract personnel. 

American soldiers are no longer cheap draftees. Current estimates are that each GI costs our nation $140,000 a year when recruiting, training, base and family support, retirement, and veterans benefits are included. Since the NSA is not a ground combat organization, the Army should withdraw 10,000 soldiers from NSA desks, by replacing soldiers with cheaper NSA funded civilians or downsizing the NSA.

5000 - Eliminate four division headquarters

The Army's new modular organization requires four combat maneuver brigades per division. While the Army advertises ten active-duty division headquarters, it actually has twelve, to include the new 7th Infantry HQ at Fort Lewis and the former 6th Infantry two-star HQ at Fort Richardson (hidden as HQ U.S. Army Alaska) which commands Army brigades in Alaska.

Retired Army Colonel Douglas Mcgregor has long argued that all division headquarters should be eliminated. Modern communications allow Corps headquarters to command maneuver brigades directly. While this is an excellent option, it was never adopted. Nevertheless, with a structure of four brigades per division the Army's plan to downsize to 33 combat maneuver brigades require only eight division headquarters, so four division headquarters should be eliminated. While a division headquarters has only 500 soldiers, they are augmented by various signal, engineer, and other support units.

3800 - Shed Army Reserve Overhead

While the Army made good post-Cold War progress downsizing and improving its huge mobilization machine, more is required. There is no need for a "1st Army" headquarters and its two odd (East and West) layers of command to manage reserve training brigades. This can be done by the U.S. Army Reserve command, which already commands some training units. As part of this sensible consolidation, the regional army reserve support commands should merge with regional army reserve training brigades. Shedding all this overhead and duplication would not reduce Army Reserve or National Guard operational units, but shed thousands of full-time reserve and civilian headquarter staffers.

2500 - Eliminate Africa Command

This four-star command did not exist a decade ago, and has never made sense as it grew from a 200-man European Command planning cell into a 3000-man monstrosity with eleven Generals. As this article explains, it can merge back into the European Command or into the U.S. Navy/NATO command in Italy. 

2000 - Eliminate half of Army ROTC programs 

The Army recently announced that it will eliminate 13 of its 270 ROTC programs, but then postponed that plan after Congressmen complained. ROTC is a costly method of producing officers compared to OCS, with small ROTC programs commissioning just one officer a year per each full-time soldier/civilian staffer. A recent GAO report calculated that ROTC programs that produce fewer than 15 officers year (117 Army programs) cost $95,304 per officer, while programs that produce more than 30 officers average only $42,192 each.

A single OCS recruiter can sign up dozens of college seniors and graduates each year, which costs far less and is how the Marine Corps finds most of its officers. The Army should eliminate half its ROTC programs (and half its ROTC brigade headquarters). Eliminating half would only reduce ROTC commissioning by some 25% since the smaller programs would be eliminated and cadets with ROTC scholarships redirected to universities with larger programs. However, the Army should review why it awards generous four-year ROTC scholarships when it can sign up capable college graduates for OCS.

2000 - Cut recruiting command overhead

Higher pay and benefits have made recruiting much easier. This has allowed all the armed services to keep raising the bar to enlistment to a point where most healthy high school graduates are turned away. The Army is reducing its recruiters and hopefully closing some sites. However, the Army has not touched related overhead. It should eliminate two of five recruiting brigade headquarters along with a dozen battalion headquarters. 

2000 - Merge the U.S. Army Pacific Command with I Corps HQ

The Army doesn't need a four-star "Army" command in the Pacific to command a single under-strength Corps. If a major war occurs, strategic transport limits mean that it would take a year to assemble several divisions in the Pacific for I Corps command, and it wouldn't need help (i.e. micromanagement) from a more senior headquarters in Hawaii. I Corps HQs might move from Washington state to Fort Shafter in Hawaii, as two thousand headquarters personnel are eliminated by merging these senior commands.

2000 - Merge ARCENT into CENTCOM

People talk about headquarters fat, and "component" commands are the best example. When Congress forced the establishment of unified commands, each service kept a separate "component" command. A Unified Command J-3 does not control forces directly, but must route everything through unneeded service component command layers. 

For example, the Central Command covers the Middle East. For practical reasons, its headquarters is based in Florida with a forward headquarters in Qatar. However, the Army insists on having a huge separate "Army" headquarters to pass messages from CENTCOM to army units. It doesn't like mixing with the cluster of Generals in Florida, so it has a big headquarters building in South Carolina. ARCENT/3rd Army should disappear or downsize to a General and a dozen staff and move into the main CENTCOM building in Florida and allow a Corps HQ and CENTCOM staff to direct army units themselves.

2000 - Eliminate half the Army's bands

Military bands are an old tradition whose value has fallen ever since recorded music appeared. Soldiers are not cheap draftees anymore. The cost and questionable value of bands has attracted the attention of the media, and Congress demanded cuts, yet this was ignored since Generals love bands. The Army doesn't need 5000 soldiers in over 100 bands in the active force and reserves. 

2000 - Eliminate all Sustainment Command headquarters

Sustainment Brigades do not need a Sustainment Command headquarters passing them messages from a Theater Sustainment Command headquarters, or from division or corps G-4 sections. These are just bureaucratic layers that provide jobs for senior officers, whose disappearance would actually improve Army logistical responsiveness. 

1500 - Eliminate U.S. Army Forces Command

FORSCOM is an unnecessary layer of command between HQDA (i.e. the Army Headquarters in Washington DC) and various commands. Some Army training centers mysteriously fall under FORSCOM rather than its training command (TRADOC). Large Army commands can manage their own affairs without FORSCOM at Fort Bragg passing along messages from the Pentagon.

1200 - Withdraw soldiers from Okinawa 

The presence of some 17,000 U.S. Marines on the Japanese island of Okinawa often makes news. Few realize that 1700 American soldiers are also based on this small island as well as several hundred Army employed civilians. Most are based at Torii Station, which should close while the 500-man Special Forces battalion moves to Guam or a downsized Army base in Alaska, Hawaii. or Washington state, and island-wide base support functions are turned over to another military service. The Army's Patriot Air and Missile Defense battalion should remain at Kadena airbase.

1000 - Federalize Army Prisons

The Army operates its own prisons for historical reasons. There is no longer a need to assign expensively trained combat soldiers to stand around and guard former soldiers sentenced to more than a year confinement, as this article explains. The Army's Correction Command has almost one military/civilian person per each military prisoner! The Army should transfer its prisons and prisoners at Forts Leavenworth and Lewis to the cheaper and much larger civilian-run federal Bureau of Prisons, which already confines hundreds of military prisoners for practical reasons.

1000 - Slash ADA HQ Fat

Army Air Defense Artillery (ADA) structure receives little attention. For example, the Army has two battalions in Germany, commanded by an ADA brigade headquarters. As the Army grew in recent years, someone decided that single brigade needed oversight, so in 2011 the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense (Theater) Command was activated in expensive Germany. That senior command should deactivate, as well as a similar unit in Hawaii called the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. This HQ was activated in 2005 to supervise the only ADA brigade in the Pacific, which has just two battalions in Korea and is already under the command of the 8th Army HQ there. 

A decade ago, the Army moved an ADA battalion to Kadena airbase on Okinawa, Japan for base defense. The Army is considering placing a battalion on Guam. If the Army is serious about a Pacific shift, it should move an ADA brigade headquarters and one battalion from Texas to Guam, but there is no need for the 94th Command HQ in expensive Hawaii. 

1000 - Eliminate Higher Command Sergeant Majors

While the number of Generals need be cut, there is fat on the enlisted side too. The growth of Command Sergeants Major (and the odd Command Chief Warrant Officers) has created a layer of fat. They didn't exist until after the Korean war, yet grew until every General and most Colonels now have a $100,000 a year E-9 sidekick. They aren't part of the official chain-of-command, yet they hold meetings, attend conferences, and tour "their" command. They rate extra pay and many have personal assistants, travel on executive jets, and hold press conferences.

A traditional Sergeant Major is valuable as the senior enlisted of a 300-1000 man unit. There is no need for enlisted or CWO command advisory positions above them, something proven during World War II. Eliminating these would slice expensive bureaucrats and their assistants out of our bloated command structure. If Generals and Colonels wish to consult with senior enlisted men, they can summon unit Sergeant Majors, who are more in tune with enlisted problems at their frontline posting.

1000 - Disband the 1st Space Brigade

The U.S. Strategic Command includes a forward element in Colorado. Since some Army officers want to play war in space, the Army formed a space battalion that grew that into the 1st Space Brigade in 2003. While the Army's 100th Missile Defense Brigade there makes sense, the Space Brigade has a vague mission to provide "space support" to everyone, which is already provided by the Air Force and other agencies. Any essential components can move into the 100th Brigade structure.

1000 - Shut down one basic combat training site

As the Army sheds one quarter of its manpower, it should shut down one of its four BCT sites where initial basic training occurs. It can mothball that site for wartime use. The Navy and Air Force train all their recruits at a single site, the Army doesn't need four.

1000 - Trim West Point

Our military academies averaged 4000 cadets on campus the past few decades. During the plentiful war budgets of the past decade, the U.S. Military Academy increased to 4500. This manpower is counted toward the Army's total manpower since cadets are on active duty and provided with food, housing, medical care, and paid nearly $1000 a month. Since the regular army will be around 20% smaller, it needs fewer officers. Cutting cadet size to 3800 is reasonable, and 700 fewer cadets allow support staffing to be reduced by around 300.

Civilian Oversight is Required

Civilian leaders must demand that Army Generals present a detailed downsizing plan this year. They will stall and cite the need for domestic base closings and mumble something about vague missions. Generals may imply that an Army of 400,000 active duty personnel backed by 300,000 civilians will be unable to field a single combat-ready brigade. This may seem preposterous, but General Odierno recently announced that his Army can field just two combat-ready brigades totaling less than 10,000 troops, even with 530,000 soldiers still on active duty! Army Generals obviously need help, and civilian leadership is the remedy. Demanding answers about the potential savings of eliminating the 100,000 positions listed here is a great place to start.

                                   Carlton Meyer