The Washington Times: Major overhaul eyed for Army

A U.S. Army that for decades has fought in brigades and battalions is taking on new-age terms such as “units of action” and “modules.”

The new terminology is the brainchild of Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the once-retired former “snake-eating” commando who was reactivated last summer by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to remake the Army, from tail to tooth.


Gen. Schoomaker, after a series of meetings with Mr. Rumsfeld, his staff and officers in the field, already has come up with a general plan to mix and match his 10 active divisions, according to confidential Army documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The first battlefield laboratory is the vaunted 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Gen. Schoomaker is remixing and adding to the basic building block of most divisions: three brigades of about 6,000 soldiers, armed with 60-ton Abrams M-1A tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Apache attack helicopters.

All the people and systems will stay, the documents show. But they will be broken up into “brigade-like maneuver units of action with assigned support and service support elements to provide … combatant commanders more deployable/flexible forces for employment.”

Each “unit of action” will be outfitted with support units — such as military police — that today are added at the last moment before deploying to war. The idea of backfitting from the start is to cut down on the time it takes to “round out” a deploying division.

Interesting. To some extent, this just renders the operational reality that the Army almost always fights as task force units into the organizational charts. For the sake of esprit, though, I hope the time-honored unit designations don’t actually give way to “units of action.” That would be exceedingly lame.

Still, getting the support units in the mix early, including during training, makes a lot of sense. Indeed, it may help solve some of the problems noted in the AAR that came out earlier today.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, , ,
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. craig henry says:

    Didn’t the Army try something like this in the 50s with their “pentomic divisions”?

  2. Tim says:

    There are combat units that are designed and trained for this type of response. They are called Marine Expeditionary Forces.

    The Army could save themselves alot of time and money just by asking the Marines to fax over some of their Order of Battle documents and the like.

    Semper Fi

  3. James Joyner says:

    Tim: There’s something to that. But the Marines can only do that because they’re not self-sustained units. They rely almost entirely on the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force to take care of their logistical needs.