The Army should put an armored brigade combat team in Europe, keep a combat aviation brigade in South Korea, keep some AH-64 Apaches in the National Guard, and look at possibly cutting two infantry brigades.
Those recommendations are among the key findings of a yearlong study by the National Commission on the Future of the Army, which was tasked by Congress to, among other things, look at what the Army should look like in the future. The commission’s long-awaited report was released Thursday.
Click here for the full report. Meanwhile, here’s a closer look at some highlights:
1. Stop further end-strength cuts.
The Army can’t get any smaller, the commission warned.
Targeted end-strength levels of 450,000 in the Regular Army, 335,000 in the Army Guard, and 195,000 in the Reserve give the Army “a minimally sufficient capability and capacity” to face near-term challenges, the report said. Any more cuts could force the Army to deploy units that aren’t fully ready or extend deployments beyond 12 months.
2. Put an armored BCT in Europe.
An armored brigade combat team should be permanently stationed in Europe.
The commission cited the “changing security environment in Europe” and the region’s “value as a stationing location for potential contingencies in the Middle East” for this recommendation.
The Army eliminated two heavy brigades from Europe in 2012 because of budget cuts. A Stryker brigade combat team and an airborne BCT remain in Europe.
3. More CABs, including one in South Korea.
The Army should keep 11 combat aviation brigades, including one permanently stationed in South Korea.
The service was planning to cut three of its 13 active-duty CABs because of budget cuts. The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, has been cut, and the 12th CAB in Europe is being converted into a headquarters element.
“Today, some aviation assets cannot meet expected wartime capacity requirements,” the report said. “Considering all types of Army units, peacetime demand for aviation assets is among the highest, and demand may grow as threats from Russia and other nations escalate.”
The commission also recommended the headquarters element of the 12th CAB be converted into a warfighting mission command element similar to a CAB headquarters.
4. Cut two infantry BCTs to boost other specialties.
The Army should consider cutting two infantry BCTs in order to make room for more manpower in critically shorthanded specialties.
One example is short-range air defense capabilities.
“In the post-Cold War era, the Army envisioned little threat from the air forces of potential adversaries. Recent activities in Ukraine and Syria have demonstrated the threat environment has changed,” according to the report. “Yet, no short-range air defense battalions reside in the Regular Army.”
In addition, a large chunk of the short-range air defense capability in the Guard is being used to protect the Washington, D.C., area, leaving “precious little capability” for other global contingencies, the report said.
Also short are tactical mobility; missile defense; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear; field artillery; fuel distribution; water purification; watercraft; and military police capabilities.
5. Use more multicomponent units.
The Army should increase the use of multicomponent units that combine members of the active force and reserves. Training together can improve readiness. These types of units also allow soldiers and leaders to learn how the components can best function together. To pursue this idea, the commission recommended the Army develop a “substantial pilot program” to test multicomponent aviation units.
6. Streamline recruiting efforts for all three components.
The Army should run pilot programs that bring together the recruiting efforts of the active Army, Army Guard and Army Reserve. The current separate programs force the Army to compete with itself for an ever-shrinking pool of qualified candidates.
“That is not only unproductive, it is inherently inefficient,” the report said.
7. Keep some Apache helicopters in the Army National Guard.
The commission recommended the Army keep 24 manned Apache battalions – 20 in the active Army and four in the Army National Guard.
This is in response to the Army Aviation Restructuring Initiative, which called for the service to divest its inventory of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and replace them with Apaches. This would include transferring the Apaches in the Guard to the active Army, a move rejected by many Guard advocates.
Under the plan put forward by the commission, all 20 Apache battalions in the active Army would have 24 helicopters, while the four in the Guard would have 18. This means the Guard Apache battalions would need to be beefed up before it deployed.
To help keep costs down, the commission recommends adding only two UH-60 Black Hawk battalions to the Guard; the Army had proposed adding four under the ARI.
The Army also should consider making available more flying hours for peacetime training. This would give aviators more time to conduct collective training up to the battalion level. Current hours permit typical aviation units to maintain platoon- or company-level proficiency, the report said.
8. Take a closer look at tactical wheeled vehicle shortages.
The Army needs more trucks, according to the commission.
“Commissioners received numerous reports from soldiers and commanders about tactical wheeled vehicle shortages,” the report said. “These shortages are most pronounced in heavy equipment prime movers.”
The commissioned called on the Army to provide Congress with an assessment of risks in current and planned tactical mobility. The assessment should be completed within one year.
9. Use the Guard and Reserve more.
The Army should use the Guard and Reserve more often, including for predictable, steady-state deployments such as the ones to Kosovo or the Sinai Peninsula.
“Although the total number of soldiers deployed remains below the peaks of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the range of missions and their geographic spread is now greater,” the report said. “Some units, such as the Regular Army Patriot battalions, are operating at a high tempo for long periods of time.”
The commission said the Army “all too often” deployed “stressed Regular Army units when it could have deployed similar Army National Guard and Army Reserve units.”
The report also called for the Army to increase the number of combat training center rotations for Army Guard BCTs beginning in fiscal year 2017.
10. Create opportunities for soldiers to serve across the three components.
Officers and noncommissioned officers should have more opportunities to serve in assignments across the three components, and the Army should develop incentives to make those opportunities more attractive.
This would give soldiers “from all components” the chance to fill positions to foster an Army Total Force culture and expand knowledge about other components,” the report said.
Army leaders should develop and run a pilot program to assign Regular Army officers and NCOs to Army Reserve full-time support positions within one year. The program should be evaluated in two years to determine its effectiveness.
The commissioners also called on the Army secretary to develop “selection and promotion policies that incentivize Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve assignments across components and within multicomponent units,” the report said.