Despite the threat of additional spending cuts, Army leaders are not backing away from a plan to add more firepower to its brigade combat teams.
Later this year, the Army intends to start adding a third maneuver battalion and engineer support to its BCTs under the plan to reorganize 32 active BCTs by 2017, said Gen. Robert Cone, the head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium held here.
I think the headline is a bit misleading. The total number of maneuver battalions (infantry, mech infantry, Stryker, Armor, Cav) will decline. But each remaining Brigade Combat Team will eventually pick up a third maneuver battalion.
Aside from the short lived Pentomic Army of the 1950s, the regiment/brigade level combat unit has had three maneuver battalions from 1941 to early in the 21st Century. While BCTs have tended to use their recon/cav squadron as a third maneuver battalion, that is not its intended role, and it is quite ill suited for it.
There is little question that the active Army will shrink. But by adding a third maneuver battalion to those BCTs that will remain, the core capability of the Army will not diminish as badly as the raw numbers of BCTs would indicate.
Of course, if manpower and Operations and Maintenance funding is cut as badly as the worst case scenario tells us my happen, only a handful of the BCTs remaining will be manned at anything approaching full strength, or trained at anything like an acceptable level of readiness.
When the “peace dividend” drawdown of the Clinton years came to pass, the guidance from senior Army leadership was “no more Task Force Smiths” referring to the bloody defeat of a poorly trained and equipped battalion dispatched to Korea in 1950. The Army might shrink, but the remaining units would be fully trained and, if not fully manned, at least to a level that allowed realistic training.
That will likely not be the case this time. Units will become hollow shells of their former selves, and training will be increasingly hampered, to the point where units are incapable of performing their wartime taskings.
This is a strategic risk. If you have 18-24 months to repair the worst of the damage, that’s fine. If you need competent warfighting capability on day one, well, you’re out of luck.
Guess we’re gonna roll the dice.