Army Reorganizes Rather than Expanding

Unable to expand its roster sufficiently, the U.S. Army has quietly reorganized to maximize its combat power.

Army Reorganizes to Boost Its Combat Power (WaPo, A2)

The Army has embarked on a six-year plan to boost its combat power by 40,000 troops while reducing the number of noncombat jobs — essentially giving the nation more forces to deploy without a costly increase in the active-duty Army’s authorized strength of 482,000. But the plan is based on two key conditions that remain far from certain: That no major new demand will arise for U.S. soldiers at home or abroad, and that the Army will be able to recruit between 75,000 and 80,000 new soldiers each year through 2011 — a target the service missed this fiscal year, when 73,400 signed up.

Moreover, under the reorganization, the Army no longer plans to shorten tours for U.S. soldiers in Iraq from 12 months to six or eight. “We’ve found this year deployment to be optimum, and we don’t have any plans to change it,” Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey told reporters yesterday. Another reason for retaining year-long tours is that Army statistics show most casualties occur in the initial and final phases of the deployments, he said. Shorter deployments mean a greater number of soldiers will spend time in those dangerous periods.

The reorganization reflects an optimism within the Army leadership that progress in increasing the number of combat brigades — along with an anticipated “ramp down” of forces in Iraq — will allow a moderately sized Army to meet long-term global demands without undue strain. “Given our current missions as we understand it” — and barring the outbreak of a large-scale war or a domestic catastrophe — the Army will not ask Congress for an increase in its authorized troop level, Harvey said. Instead, the planned internal shifting of manpower “will give us the resources” the Army needs, he said.

The Army has increased the number of active-duty brigades — each with about 3,500 soldiers — from 33 in 2003 to 37 today, with plans to reach 43 by 2007. With those numbers, the active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve units should be able to meet the goal set by the Army leadership of sustaining a pool of 20 brigades for worldwide missions.

The creation of the new brigades means that active-duty soldiers will replace many of the Army National Guard combat troops in the upcoming rotation in Iraq. Guard brigades in Iraq will fall from seven to two, Harvey said, as newly built brigades from the 101st Airborne Division, the 4th Infantry Division and other units flow in.

The plan is a pragmatic response to tight budgets — every 10,000 additional troops cost $1.5 billion a year — as well as to war-time recruiting difficulties that constrain efforts to expand the Army overall.

The Army’s divisional structure, which predates WWII, is now largely nominal, preserved mostly for the sake of heraldry. The fighting unit is now the brigade combat team, a much more flexible building block which allows the easy creation of joint task forces with skill sets appropriate for the particular mission.

Army Plans To Reorganize, Not Expand, To Meet Combat Needs (LAT)

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said Thursday that the Pentagon had no plans to ask Congress to permanently increase the size of the Army, saying that the service, strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be able to boost the number of available combat troops by reorganizing from within. Congress last year authorized a temporary increase of 30,000 troops in the Army, and senior military leaders suggested in recent months that they may try to make the increase permanent to help relieve the stress on the service. The Army has carried the heaviest burden since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But Harvey said that by 2011, the Army plans to return to its previous troop level of 482,000 soldiers, barring another significant military commitment abroad.

Many in Congress have supported a permanent expansion for the Army. But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has long opposed an increase, in part because of the cost. The Pentagon estimates that permanently enlarging the Army by 30,000 would cost approximately $3 billion annually.

Army’s Plan for Growth Is Adequate, Secretary Says (NYT | RSS)

The Army can sustain current troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as it builds additional combat brigades, without personnel increases beyond the 30,000 already approved by Congress, the service’s senior civilian said Thursday. The senior civilian, Francis J. Harvey, the Army secretary, said in an interview with a small group of reporters that the number of active-duty personnel is scheduled to peak at 512,400 in 2007 before dropping back to 482,400 from 2008 to 2011. The number of people within the “operational” part of the Army – troops who can deploy to plan, command and carry out missions – will grow to 355,000 by 2007, from 315,000 in 2004, he said.

The increase in troops assigned to combat, combat service and combat support jobs will be accomplished through a variety of new personnel policies, including trimming the institutional and administrative branches to 75,000 people from 2008 to 2011, from 104,000 in 2004. Mr. Harvey also described plans to reduce the number of people assigned at any one time to training slots to 52,400 by 2011 from 63,400 in 2004.

Increasing the so called tooth-to-tail ratio has long been a goal of military reformers. We shall see how it goes. Certainly, many of the professional military education courses could be shortened, taken online, or eliminated altogether.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    Come on, let’s not spread the anti-war hysteria here. The LAT and the NYT say this is in response to being “strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”. It really sounds to me a lot like an extension of Shinseki’s reorganization of combat brigades already underway, does it not?

    “The Army has increased the number of active-duty brigades — each with about 3,500 soldiers — from 33 in 2003 to 37 today, with plans to reach 43 by 2007.”

  2. legion says:

    LJD- It is Shinseki’s concept, but it’s the drop in recruiting that’s made it a lot more important to follow through on. A lot of senior Army people didn’t agree with Shinseki, but if the current manpower trends continue, it pretty much ends their arguments.

    My big concern is that the Army might try to get there by converting too many uniform jobs to civilians and/or contractors. The Air Force learned the hard way that that’s a bad solution in wartime, because a) there’s too many things you can’t order a GS to do, and b) as the risks go up, so does the cost of getting a contractor to do things – not to mention, there are some things you just can’t pay people enough to do; they only get done by people dedicated enough to put on a uniform…

  3. Sneem says:

    The plan is basically a response to the end of the Cold War and the realization of the Army after Bosnia that they were too heavy to get anywhere fast. The Stryker units now in Iraq were one solution to the problem. This idea and re-organization plan has been on-going for a long time. It long preceded the current recruiting shortfall. I, too, smell a little NYT spin in pinning the whole thing on a manpower shortage.

  4. T-Bone says:

    No! In the current fight, PME, language training, graduate school and other forms of education become more, not less, important. We need to be expanding education exponentially, not cutting it. You want to find efficiencies and put more bodies in the fight, cut the regional and joint staffs sharply, as proposed by Col T.X. Hammes. In counter-insurgency, most of the chain of command just gets in the way.

  5. Mike says:


    Ah, the infamous recruiting scandal. Sorry, doesn’t exist. Yes, there Army couldn’t meet the goal of the additional people authorized. Why? Well, some of it has to do with historic low unemployment rates, some of it has to do with the media painting all in Iraq with a bloody brush and some of it has to do with parents encouraging their children not to enter the service. This is nothing new.
    Reenlistment ‘shortage’ has been offset by the very high (with back-up facts, I would call unprecidented) reenlistment rates. The soldiers on the ground, in harms way are reenlisting to continue the fight. God bless ’em.
    On to what caused me to pontificate here – more reduction in the Army educational system is not needed. All that can be done with distributed learning has been done. Perhaps to much so. The time a soldier used spend at ANCOC, CAS3(completely gone), CGSC or other schools were invaluable in building a common eduation base and forging relationships with peers. For better or for worse, the personal relationships built in these institutions often ‘greased the wheels’ on getting the Army’s business done out side the normal paper drills required by standard means.
    I won’t even go into the valuable family time CGSC provided. There are many wives who called CGSC the best year of their military life. Frankly, the put up with enough everyday and deserve some time to recharge and rebuild their marrage as well.
    Sigh, sorry for the soap box – well, maybe not really.:)

  6. James Joyner says:

    T-Bone: I agree that education and grad school are important, I just distinguish it from PME. Almost universally, people who have gone to BNCOC, ANCOC, AOC, CAS3, and the like think it was largely a waste of time.

    The War College, Sergeants Major Academy, and several other courses maintain good reputations. Others, though, can be consolidated without much impact. CAS3 and CGSC have largely done that with no obvious detriment to military readiness.

  7. Wayne says:

    Damn, post from people who actually know a little about the military. How unusual. I might add that many of those in the “tail” are for oversight and dealing with red tape. If we could streamline those areas, we can realign those forces for other task. One of the reason there is so much oversight is the expectation of no mistakes. Congress and media is a big factor in that. Perfection should be reach for but not at the cost of accomplishing the mission in a reasonable manner.

  8. legion says:

    Reenlistment ‘shortage’ has been offset by the very high (with back-up facts, I would call unprecidented) reenlistment rates. The soldiers on the ground, in harms way are reenlisting to continue the fight. God bless ‘em.

    All true – but that only helps in the short term, it does nothing to get adequate numbers into the ‘front end’ of the pipeline. And while I don’t think the recruiting situation is quite the crisis some do, I do believe it has a lot to do with the growing support for Shinseki’s ideas.

    And while I heartily agree with the need for proper PME, that’s just one part of the larger need to make military life attractive (or at least acceptable 🙂 to modern recruits… Developing the troop for future success, in or out of uniform, is just one aspect of the social contract – we send you out to risk your ass for things you might not understand, and we promise to take care of you and yours. Break that pact and the military ceases to function.

  9. ken says:

    Reenlistment shortage has been offset by the very high (with back-up facts, I would call unprecidented) reenlistment rates.

    This is due to the threat of being stop-lossed if they don’t reenlist.

    At least with the reenlistment they get paid an additional bonus and earn the goodwill of their superiors. Those stop-lossed pay a heavy price for their decision not to reenlist. Using the carrot and the stick the army has indeed improved it’s reenlistment numbers. Not that they mean anything.

  10. Mike says:

    Ahh, the stop loss bogeyman. Stop loss only kicks in if deployed. Last I checked (and could be wrong rules change all the time) people within 90 days of ETS are non-deployable. Granted, if you are in Iraq, you might as well reenlist – but once you do its not for the next remainder of your tour, it is for multiple years.

    I will submit that the people who don’t want to reenlist in country could give a fig what their superiors think – pleasing the CPT or LT is not very high on some peoples list. 😉