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Odierno: Brigade cuts needed to reorganize

Mar. 3, 2012 - 10:46AM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 3, 2012 - 10:46AM  |  
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. The reduction of five more brigade combat teams is necessary to add a third maneuver battalion and an engineer battalion in each brigade, the Army's top officer said Feb. 24 at the Association of the U.S. Army Winter Symposium.

The Army will cut another five brigade combat teams in addition to the eight already on the chopping block, bringing the total from 45 to 32 teams.

Soldiers also can expect a redesigned Army Force Generation model that will provide longer dwell time and shorter training deployments, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said. Brigades will have regional focus and responsibilities. Rotational training and exercises in the Pacific also are in the works.

Though satisfied with this design, Odierno said the pending cut of another $500 billion "causes me to lose the most sleep at night."

Lawmakers call it "sequestration." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called it a "doomsday" scenario. For Odierno, it means the elimination of an additional 50,000 active soldiers and 50,000 reservists. The legislation would degrade modernization efforts and render the Army unable to deliver what soldiers need when they need it, and there wouldn't be enough money to train the forces that remained.


When Congress failed to make a deficit deal last year, it triggered an automatic cut of $1.2 billion in government spending starting in 2014. That includes a $500 billion cut in defense spending over 10 years. Those cuts are on top of $450 billion in cuts already ordered by the Obama administration and included in the 2013 budget.

Lawmakers in the House Armed Service Committee have been vocal about preventing the cuts, said Maj. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges, the Army's point man on Capitol Hill. The Senate committee has been less vocal, with the exception of Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

It is very unlikely that any action will happen before the November elections, Hodges said. That means a reversal must occur during a short lame-duck session between Election Day and the new Congress takes Capitol Hill in January. Legislation would have to go through bipartisan committees, pass the Senate and House, then be signed by the president.

President Obama has vowed to block legislation that would exempt the Pentagon from the forthcoming cuts.

"If sequestration is enacted … we will have to fundamentally change how we do business," Odierno said. "The impact will be significant across the board.

"Everybody agrees that it shouldn't happen, but no one has yet told me what the solution is and how they're going to fix it."

Odierno already has enacted a plan to cut 80,000 troops over the next five years. Some lawmakers want that timeline cut to two years to get those costs off the books, but the chief is confident his five-year plan will survive.

"If we don't do it in five years, we would have to force people out of the Army," Odierno said. "After fighting 10 years of war, these soldiers don't deserve that."

The five-year plan also is necessary to support Afghanistan rotations and ensure a quick buildup if more forces are needed in the near term. Right now, the Army can fight two Desert Storms but cannot fight two Iraq wars that last eight years, he said.

Deeper cuts as a result of sequestration only add to the problem. The Center for a New American Security in October released "Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity." It stands as the most detailed scenario to date of sequestration's potential impact. The analysis said it would be necessary to cut end strength to 430,000 soldiers and 150,000 Marines. The lack of manpower would make large commitments difficult. As such, the Army would focus on rapid response/forcible entry (airborne and helicopter assault) and on the lower end of the conflict spectrum, such as advising and assisting foreign forces and conducting irregular warfare. Heavy armored formations would suffer more cuts, with the remainder being shifted to the reserves.

New purchases such as the Ground Combat Vehicle, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and missile defense programs would be canceled. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, would be shut down in fiscal 2017.

New brigade model

Soldiers will see the beefed-up brigades beginning in 2014. The goal is operational and strategic flexibility so that brigades can meet a wide variety of missions everything from fighting a "very complex war in Korea" to training and advising and contingency operations.

Leaders also reiterated the Army's commitment to fighting a hybrid threat. Gen. Robert Cone, commander of Training and Doctrine Command, emphasized that this is "not a bankrupt strategy," and pointed to recent attacks by Hezbollah against Israel as an example.

Most brigades tasked to meet that threat will be light and medium, while an "adequate number" of the newly dubbed "armored brigades" will remain. If prolonged combat ops occur, the Army can go back to a two-battalion model if it needs more brigades, Odierno said.

The assumption when the modular brigade was designed was that every brigade would function independently. A larger logistics capability was built to support that design. Now, the Army looks to trim that footprint by pooling resources, relying on prepositioned assets and reducing support from 72 to 48 hours.

Redundant headquarters functions will be eliminated.

Odierno again emphasized the need for a new Ground Combat Vehicle. To support this contested purchase, he pointed to the fact that the Army has "lost more Bradleys than any combat platforms though we haven't used it in five years. And we put so much weight on Strykers we can't get it off the damn road."

BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing separate GCVs. The Army also will consider foreign vehicles and upgraded Strykers and Bradleys.

Survivability and mobility are key, and the new vehicle must be capable of incremental improvements such as the ones that have allowed the M1A1 main battle tank to remain on top for decades.

New deployment model

Time at home station will "significantly improve" as commitments in Afghanistan diminish, Odierno said. Instead of the staggering nine-month deployments, soldiers will see monthlong exercise deployments in what Odierno calls the "Future Force Generation Model."

"I envision a progressive readiness model for most units, but there are some high-demand, low-density units that may be better served by a constant readiness model," the chief said.

The majority of units will progress through readiness levels that include a reset phase, training phase and available phase. Command tours will last between 24 and 27 months to align with this new model. Commanders will rotate during the reset period.

Combat training centers will be tasked with taking realism and challenge to the next level.

"I am excited about the regional alignment of units and removing notional training," Cone said. "If we don't make home station training exciting and relevant, we will pay the price of our young leaders leaving the Army."

Regional alignment will stand as the centerpiece when soldiers train and deploy. Units will be assigned specific mission sets and will train to and with units from that region. This will allow units to develop advisory capabilities, build relationships with allies and host nations, and strengthen the synergy between conventional and special operations forces. The latter will be a key emphasis in training and operations, especially in regard to counterterrorism missions and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

This regional construct also will enhance capability and predictability for soldiers and units, said Odierno, who also looks to use this model to provide greater Army representation at combatant command headquarters. In turn, combatant commanders will be able to influence training to better shape their region.

"There are a lot of people that want to put the Army in a box," Odierno said. "They want to say, ‘This is what the Army can do. They can do this little thing over here.' I'm here to tell you that the Army is probably the most flexible, adaptable organization across all the services."

One of those boxes is a">doctrine called "Air-Sea," which has an overwhelming focus on naval and air assets and significant support among analysts and lawmakers alike. Odierno was quick to point out that Air-Sea is a contingency operation and "certainly not a new DoD strategy." The Pentagon's priority missions still require an expeditionary Army to deter and defeat aggression.

"Sure, there is a lot of blue in the Pacific theater. But people don't live in the blue," Hodges said. "They live in the greens and the browns."

And that is why you can expect to do a lot more training there in the coming years.

Pacific training

Rotational unit training, such as that already in the works for Europe, will take place in the Pacific and possibly the Middle East, Odierno said. The chief recently discussed multilateral training events and exercises with the Australian army's chief of staff. The Marine Corps already has committed to">six-month deployments to Australia. It also forward-deploys forces to Okinawa and participates in regional exercises such as">Cobra Gold.

Odierno said the Army model would rotate everything from headquarters elements to companies or battalions for joint theater training.

He also pointed out that there are more soldiers in the Pacific theater than sailors or airmen.

And with good reason: Seven of the world's 10 largest armies are in the Pacific theater. Gen. James Thurman in October described the Pacific region as "key to U.S. security and prosperity." Thurman is commander of United Nations Command, ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea. North Korea has the world's fourth-largest military, 70 percent of which is on the demilitarized zone something Thurman called "a no-kidding threat."

North Korea also has made significant progress on the construction of a new nuclear reactor. The "six-party talks"">have worked to find a peaceful resolution to security concerns arising from this nuclear weapons program, but leadership of four of the six will change or be challenged in 2012, adding to regional instability.

North Korea has 11,000 underground facilities and the world's largest artillery force, which boasts 13,000 systems, Thurman said. Its 60,000-strong special operations force is the world's largest. While U.S. ground forces are available to deter and defend, current strategy puts a greater emphasis on advanced technologies and air superiority.

Just around the corner is the People's Liberation Army of China. With 3 million members, it is the world's largest military force. More than two-thirds are ground forces, but the PLA Navy is catching the attention of many defense strategists.

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