Structuring the Army for Full-Spectrum Readiness


From Parameters, Summer 2000, pp. 19-32.

Go to Summer issue Table of Contents.

Go to Cumulative Article Index.

"If we do not do something, we run the risk of a return to the hollow Army and a risk of not being able to execute our national strategy."[1] -- General Dennis J. Reimer, 1998

Ironically, in the years since the US Army triumphantly watched the Berlin Wall crumble, archived its war plans for the defense of the Fulda Gap, and stepped past the Cold War threat of global war, its warfighting readiness challenges have grown with each passing year. Building for almost a decade, the military's dilemma came to a head on 29 September 1998 when, at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged declining readiness levels and sought additional resources to mitigate risk. The Chiefs described the degree of risk in stark strategic terms, stating that although the military was still ready to carry out the national strategy, "The United States now faces moderate risk of increased casualties and prolonged conflict if it gets involved in one war, and high risk if it becomes involved in a second war."[2] More recently, after two of the Army's ten active divisions reported a readiness rating of C-4, the lowest rating possible, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki assessed the Army's ability to fight and win two major theater wars as "high risk."[3]

At its core, the Army's readiness challenges stem from a mismatch between mission requirements and forces. In the wake of the bipolar stability of the Cold War, major theater war (MTW) has supplanted global war as the nation's biggest security concern. As such, it is the most significant military requirement in the National Security Strategy (NSS) and it has driven the Army's current force structure to resemble a cut-down version of the Cold War Army. Defining a two-MTW requirement, the NSS states that "for the foreseeable future, the United States, in concert with regional allies, must remain able to deter credibly and defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames."[4] However, since 1989 the Army has been called upon to do much more than prepare for MTWs. In order to exert American leadership in an increasingly dynamic and uncertain post-Cold War world, the two-MTW requirement has been folded into the broader imperative of engagement.[5]

Until recently, senior Army leaders resisted reorganizing the Army's force structure to more effectively and efficiently focus unit capabilities and training on the full spectrum of missions required by the National Security Strategy. They pointed out that the military's primary purpose is to fight the nation's wars and argued that the force structure should not be shaped to perform lesser missions. Nevertheless, as the national strategy has evolved to increase emphasis on global engagement, the Army's leaders have recognized the need to adapt the size and shape of Army force structure to provide capabilities required by the NSS for the full spectrum of missions.

To increase the military's emphasis on the more relevant post-Cold War engagement requirements, while maintaining focus on warfighting as the military's most critical mission, then-JCS Chairman John Shalikashvili adapted the National Military Strategy in 1997 to require an integrated approach. This approach obligates the military to manage the competing requirements to shape the international environment to deter or prevent threats, to respond to the full spectrum of potential crises, and to prepare now for an uncertain future.[6] Implementation of this strategy has evolved slowly as the United States explored the requirements of its role as the remaining superpower and increased its commitment to shaping and smaller-scale responding opportunities. For the Army, maintaining acceptable readiness levels to meet the competing demands and diffused focus of this strategy, with a significantly smaller force and budget, has been an ongoing struggle.

To the Army, "readiness" specifically refers to a qualitative assessment of its ability to provide sufficient trained and ready ground combat forces to successfully execute all of the requirements of the National Military Strategy. Anything less than full-spectrum readiness engenders increased risk of either unacceptable expenditure of resources to achieve success, such as too many casualties, or mission failure.

The Army's first purposeful step toward full-spectrum readiness was taken upon the arrival of General Eric Shinseki as its new Chief of Staff in 1999. In his vision of the future Army, he stated that while "our core competency will remain fighting and winning wars . . . we will also demonstrate our flexibility, our versatility, and our agility when responding to a wider range of missions--including peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and operations designed to counter emerging threats."[7] To achieve his vision, General Shinseki recognized the important role of each of the Army's components, declaring an end to the term "Total Army" and insisting, "We are the Army, and we will march into the 21st century as the Army."[8] He further defined his intent for structuring the Army for full-spectrum readiness when he said, "We acknowledge our components and their unique strengths. But we are the Army, and we will work to structure ourselves accordingly."[9] In expressing his vision, the Chief of Staff has pointed the way ahead toward a 21st-century Army that is ready for the full spectrum of missions.

The balance of this article examines the roots of the Army's readiness dilemma and discusses potential approaches to restoring readiness. It then focuses on framing an approach for the reorganization of the Army's force structure and mission allocation to more fully exploit the vast manpower assets of the reserve components. The article suggests that by reshaping the Army's force structure and reallocating its missions, it will more effectively and efficiently provide ready and responsive forces to both major theater war and smaller-scale contingency requirements.

The Army's Readiness Dilemma

The increased readiness risk for the Army is the cumulative result of many factors, including a strategy that overreaches the military's current capabilities, increased deployments with fewer forces and a smaller budget, and the competing budget requirements for modernization.

General Colin Powell published the first post-Cold War National Military Strategy in 1992, establishing a minimum "Base Force" capable of responding rapidly to defeat a regional aggressor, while maintaining enough forces so that the United States and its allies would not be vulnerable to potential aggression elsewhere.[10] To accomplish its post-Cold War military objectives, the Base Force strategy envisioned an Army with 12 active divisions, six reserve divisions, and two cadre divisions.[11]

The following year, the Bottom-Up Review refined the Base Force strategy, formally establishing the two nearly simultaneous MTW strategy that we have today. The Bottom-Up Review acknowledged that the Base Force was sized to allow us to fight two MTWs plus conduct other concurrent operations. Nevertheless, it recommended that the military's force structure be reduced to ten active divisions and five-plus reserve divisions in order to achieve the expected post-Cold War "peace dividend." Additionally, it called for 15 Army National Guard (ARNG) brigades to be enhanced to improve their readiness and offset the risk of the reduced number of active divisions in a two-MTW scenario.[12] The Bottom-Up Review acknowledged that while this strategy allowed "us to carry forward with confidence our strategy of being able to fight and win two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously . . . it leaves little other active force structure to provide for overseas presence or to conduct peacekeeping or other lower-intensity operations if we had to fight two MRCs [major regional contingencies] at once."[13] Thus, the Bottom-Up Review knowingly created an ends-means mismatch in the strategy by requiring the Army to conduct engagement missions with forces required for the two-MTW mission. It also sought to offset the risk associated with reduced active forces by enhancing the National Guard's readiness to fight.

In 1997 the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) reaffirmed the two-MTW strategy and further emphasized that we must be able to transition to fighting MTWs from a posture of global engagement.[14] The QDR acknowledged that withdrawing forces from smaller-scale contingency operations, reconstituting, retraining, and then deploying to an MTW in accordance with required timelines "may pose significant operational, diplomatic, and political challenges." However, with no apparent alternatives identified in the strategy, the QDR simply dismissed those challenges by insisting that "the ability to transition between peacetime operations and warfighting remains a fundamental requirement for virtually every unit in the US military."[15] Calling the transition of forces from smaller contingency operations--where little or no relevant combat training is likely--to an MTW a "challenge" is an understatement of the highest magnitude. At best, this strategy is wishful thinking; at worst, it is creating the conditions for a future high-casualty disaster.

The QDR reaffirmed the Bottom-Up Review's allocation to the Army of ten active divisions and 15 reserve enhanced separate brigades (eSBs). The eSBs were specifically tasked to "provide an important hedge against adverse circumstances--such as the use of weapons of mass destruction--in major theater wars by augmenting or reinforcing active combat units."[16] The QDR pointed out that the ARNG's eight divisions are not included in existing major theater war plans, and called into question their continued relevance.[17] So, while the current strategy appears to place too many mission requirements on too few forces, the ARNG's divisions represent additional uncommitted force structure available to the Army.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Army's senior leaders have sized, shaped, and justified the Army to fight two MTWs. They structured the active force to provide the Army's primary combat forces. At the same time, they organized the Army's reserve forces, the Army Reserve and National Guard, to provide critical individuals and units to augment and reinforce active forces in time of war or national emergency. To conduct the secondary shape and respond missions, senior leaders have generally drawn units from the MTW forces under the assumption that they could be quickly extracted from a smaller-scale contingency if necessary.

A force structured exclusively to fight two MTWs seemed more reasonable immediately after the Cold War when the military was searching for reasons to retain force structure, and when smaller-scale contingencies were historically the exception and not the rule. However, since the end of the Cold War the frequency of deployments for smaller contingencies has grown greatly. The United States responded to a total of 16 contingencies during the entire Cold War period, from 1947 to 1989. But from 1989 to 1997, the United States responded to a burdensome 45 contingencies.[18] In 1997, on average, more than 31,000 soldiers were deployed every day to 70 different countries around the world.[19] Since the substantial Army forces that are globally engaged will generally not be immediately ready to respond to an MTW, the Army has implicitly accepted the risk of this loss of responsive combat power.

Perhaps the truest measure of diminishing warfighting readiness, short of wartime performance, is the performance of combat units at the combat training centers. In early 1999, the Army's Inspector General confirmed for senior leaders that "entry-level performance at the combat training centers `continues to decline,' in part because units have fewer opportunities to train at home station."[20] The IG's report goes on to cite several factors that inhibit unit training, including lack of resources, absent or distracted leaders, unsynchronized modernization, the high pace of operations, personnel turbulence, poor understanding of training doctrine, and diffused mission focus.[21]

The significant increase in deployments to smaller-scale contingencies is a primary reason that unit training suffers from a lack of mission focus throughout the Army. US Army training doctrine recognizes that units do not have the resources to be prepared for all missions; therefore, it calls for unit training to be focused on essential tasks derived from missions. Although the Army focuses its peacetime training on its primary warfighting mission, frequent deployments to non-combat operations divert the attention of an increasingly large share of the force. Most active divisions have experienced one or more major deployments to conduct smaller-scale contingency missions in the past decade. At any given time, many units are either in the preparation, deployment, or post-deployment training cycle for a contingency mission, or supporting a unit that is. When not involved with a contingency, however, most units focus their peacetime training on MTW tasks. Currently, the Army plans on six months of retraining as a rule of thumb following a six- to 12-month smaller-scale contingency deployment.[22] Thus, by drawing its contingency forces from the MTW force pool, the Army has instituted an inefficient cycle of unit training, shifting from a focus on warfighting tasks to smaller-scale contingency tasks for a deployment, and back to warfighting tasks after redeployment.

The decrease in the Army's readiness has also resulted from other post-Cold War realities. Without the imminent threat of global war and without a clear understanding of what the post-Cold War requirements would demand of its military, the US government significantly cut military end-strength and force structure and slashed defense spending. From 1989 to 1997, the Army reduced its ranks by more than 630,000 soldiers and civilian employees and cut its combat divisions from 18 active and ten reserve divisions to ten active and eight reserve divisions.[23]

The Army's significant decrease in buying power, especially with the increase in deployments since the Cold War, is also certainly a major contributing factor to its readiness difficulties. Since the Cold War ended, the Army's budget has decreased almost 39 percent, with the annual budget falling from $102 billion in FY89 to $64 billion in FY99.[24] While the Army provided the preponderance of forces--more than 60 percent--in 28 of the 32 significant operations from 1989 to 1998, the Army's share of the DOD budget dropped from 27 percent in FY89 to 24.9 percent in FY99.[25]

Although maintaining current warfighting readiness remains the Army's top budget priority, underfunded modernization requirements are in growing competition for limited budget dollars. Without significant and continuing investment in new equipment, the Army's long-term readiness is threatened by old equipment that is expensive to maintain and no longer dominates its competition. With information technology offering a possible revolution in military affairs, and unexpected contingencies and current readiness requiring immediate funds, the Army has squeezed money from efficiencies and made tough budget decisions in order to try to invest in its future.

Though presidential and congressional support for a modest increase in resources over the next five years looks promising, returning to a level of acceptable risk will require the Army to do more than garner its share of a slightly increased defense budget.[26] Whatever additional resources Congress may decide to give the Army will fix only part of the problem. Certainly more resources will improve the funding of current readiness training, base operations requirements, quality-of-life programs, and modernization accounts. But what about the negative readiness effects on the Army of frequent deployments to smaller-scale contingencies? Even with more money, as long as the Army continues to deploy its first-to-fight MTW forces to smaller contingencies, it still faces a significant, long-term readiness challenge.

The Army is not likely to regain much of its lost end-strength, and an increase in the budget alone will not address the destructive mismatch between mission requirements and forces available. It is time for the Army to apply internal solutions to address its readiness shortfall.

There is perhaps no clearer signal that the Army has readiness problems that additional money will not solve than the fact that it was recently compelled to deploy one of its first-to-fight divisions, the 1st Cavalry Division, to Bosnia to conduct peacekeeping operations. On top of that, the 3d Infantry Division and 101st Air Assault Division are now scheduled for rotations to Bosnia. In 1997, the QDR stated that "employing any of the Force Package I divisions for peacetime engagement or smaller-scale contingencies would further increase the delay in meeting major theater war timelines, and could put the halt phase at risk."[27] While the 1st Cavalry Division was focused on peacekeeping tasks for more than a year (including train-up, deployment, peacekeeping, and redeployment time), how ready was the division to deploy to a possible MTW?

If the Army does not have the forces necessary to execute the mission requirements of the national strategy, then what about changing the strategy? Does the Army really need to be ready to fight two overlapping MTWs? The National Security Strategy describes the reasoning behind this policy decision, saying that it "deters opportunism elsewhere while we are heavily committed to deterring or defeating aggression in one theater. . . . It also provides a hedge against the possibility that we might encounter threats larger or more difficult than we expected."[28] The two-MTW strategy remains prudent and has withstood close and continuous scrutiny by many who seek to reduce or redistribute the defense budget.

If the two-MTW requirement of the strategy is valid, then what about decreasing the frequency of engagement missions around the world? Again, the National Security Strategy correctly rejects the alternative of isolationism and asserts that "we must . . . continue to exert global leadership and remain the preferred security partner for the community of states that share our interests."[29]

So, how can the Army improve its readiness to fight and win two MTWs at the same time that it improves its capabilities and readiness to respond to the spectrum of potential smaller-scale contingencies? In response to recent questions concerning the Army's readiness dilemma, General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked, "We never said we had enough to do two major theater wars and also do peacekeeping activities around the world."[30] A larger budget can provide only temporary and incomplete relief to the Army's readiness challenges. It cannot cure the debilitating mismatch between mission requirements and forces available. The remedy for this mismatch will require major renovation of the Army's force structure.

Organizing for the 21st Century

The mismatch between mission requirements and forces available is not a result of the inadequate size of the current force, but a result of the inappropriate shape of the force structure inherited from the Cold War strategy. Within the Army, enough manpower exists to meet all of the mission requirements. It remains for the Army's leaders to articulate a more concrete vision for the integration of the Army's components, organizing its force structure for successful execution of the national strategy. This vision should describe a future force structure with unit-specific MTW or smaller-scale contingency mission focus and organization. Essentially, the Army needs to reshape its forces to more effectively and efficiently meet the full spectrum of requirements, thereby reducing the degrading effects of smaller-scale contingency missions on the Army's readiness to conduct MTWs.

The Army's Manpower Reserve

An approach to improving the Army's readiness that has promise is to more fully exploit the vast manpower resources of the reserve components. Out of necessity, the Army has already significantly increased its use of reserve component forces to conduct current missions and relieve active-force deployment tempo. For example, in 1997 an average of 25 percent of the Army's forces in Bosnia were from the reserve components.[31] Due to the Army's integrated force structure, a result of the Defense Department's "Total Force Policy," the reserve components provide unique and essential capabilities to any force deployment package. Additionally, as noted above, a smaller active force has led the Army to rely on reserve forces to pick up some of the increased mission load in order to relieve active-force deployment tempo. Furthermore, deployment of citizen-soldiers is appropriate to invoke the nation's will for all major contingencies, not just major wars.

Although the reserve components are busier than ever reinforcing and augmenting active forces all over the world, the combat brigades and divisions of the ARNG remain largely on the shelf. Although General Reimer's white paper on active-reserve integration offered that there are more than sufficient missions to justify the size of the whole Army, only the 15 enhanced separate brigades have been assigned combat missions in current war plans.[32] The eight ARNG divisions were generally assigned "to missions which include easing Army personnel tempo in peacetime operations, providing rotation forces for extended contingencies, responding to domestic emergencies, and hedging against the emergence of a more threatening international environment."[33] Though the eSBs and divisions have been used very little, their potential contribution is clear. Elements of the divisions and the eSBs are now being tapped to support ongoing, long-term contingency operations. Rotations of ARNG divisional elements, such as the successful deployment of subordinate units of the 29th Infantry Division to Bosnia in 1997, and the projected deployment of several ARNG division headquarters and some eSBs to Bosnia (which began with the 49th Armored Division headquarters in March 2000), demonstrate the potential of the reserve divisions and brigades to contribute to the Army's capabilities to conduct smaller-scale contingencies over extended periods.

Recognizing the manpower potential represented by these units, the Army decided in 1998 to convert 12 ARNG combat brigades "to provide needed combat support and service support requirements identified as essential to the National Military Strategy."[34] However, such limited use and restructuring of reserve forces only begins to tap the reserve components' potential to provide "rotation forces for extended contingencies," as described in the QDR.[35] With the right mission focus, force structure, and readiness enablers, much more of the reserve components' combat force structure could contribute greatly to restoring the Army's readiness for the full range of missions.

Increased use of the reserve components is certainly not without cost. Without a careful, reasoned approach, the Army could break this force. As a result of frequent and recurring deployments of reserve soldiers, cracks in the reserve components have already begun to show. Lengthy deployments are straining employer support for the reserve program, especially in small towns and small businesses.[36] The increased deployment demands also tax the reserve components' training model. Thirty-nine days of training per year may not be enough to meet the increasing readiness demands on a force that is frequently turned to for quick-response smaller contingency missions. If the Army is to maintain healthy reserve components, trained and ready in time of war or national emergency, then it must develop a long-term strategy that capitalizes on the inherent strengths of the reserves in a way that meets the intent of the Total Force Policy without bankrupting the reserve system for the future.

It is time for the Army to adopt a strategy that does more than integrate the active and reserve components on the fringe. The Army should restructure its forces and reallocate its missions to more effectively and efficiently use its entire force to execute the two-MTW strategy.

A Two-MTW Force

The Army's most serious readiness shortfall is that it is not organized to provide sufficient forces ready to conduct two MTWs from a posture of global engagement. According to the Bottom-Up Review, an active force of at least 12 divisions and eight reserve-enhanced equivalent divisions are needed to win two nearly simultaneous MTWs plus conduct some smaller-scale contingencies.[37] Desert Storm required a US Army force of seven divisions, five of which were armored or mechanized. Today, the Army has only ten active divisions, including six heavy divisions. With at least three divisions currently committed or unavailable for rapid response to an MTW, simple math shows that the two-MTW strategy is bankrupt and in need of a more realistic balancing of the ends, ways, and means necessary for success. The Army is accepting unreasonable risk expecting units to quickly withdraw from smaller-scale contingencies, reconstitute, retrain, and deploy to an MTW.

The Army should adopt an integrated approach guided by the principle that the active component be sized and structured to do those missions that cannot be done by the reserve components. Generally, the active component brings to the table forces maintained at the highest levels of readiness; therefore, they are responsive to missions that require rapidly deployable forces. Likewise, the reserve components should generally be sized and shaped to provide the forces that are needed later in a contingency, such as augmenting and reinforcing forces or follow-on rotation forces for extended contingencies.

Accordingly, for the Army's two-MTW requirement, the primary combat forces needed for the first MTW and the halt phase of the second MTW should be active component forces. However, the combat forces required for the decisive counterattack phase of the second MTW should be primarily drawn from the Army National Guard.

The objective of the halt phase is "to halt the enemy invasion in forward areas and protect key assets and terrain features."[38] The Army's mission during this phase is "to establish blocking positions on key axes of advance while conducting a mobile defense in depth."[39] Key to preventing an MTW from becoming a prolonged and difficult war is the success of the halt-phase fighting.[40] There is no doubt that the halt-phase force for the first MTW must be ready to deploy immediately; therefore, it must be drawn from active forces maintained at the highest levels of readiness. The second MTW's halt phase will also require active forces, for even as the first MTW forces deploy, a second halt-phase force must be ready to deter an opportunistic rogue state from being tempted to initiate a second MTW.

Phases II and III of an MTW call for the buildup of large combat forces and the subsequent "decisive counterattack aimed at destroying enemy forces, restoring borders, and achieving key political goals."[41] Until recently, the Army planned to use improved prepositioned materiel, airlift, sealift, and deployment infrastructure to reach a goal of deploying a seven-division MTW force in 75 days.[42] In October 1999 General Shinseki announced his vision to develop a more deployable, medium-weight Army capable of responding anywhere in the world with five divisions in 30 days.[43] In either case, for the first MTW these timelines require using active component forces in order to deploy combat-ready soldiers. The 15 eSBs currently require at least 90 days to mobilize, train, and deploy to an MTW, although the General Accounting Office still judges their capability to be "highly uncertain."[44] If activated soon enough, later-deploying eSBs could be ready to augment the first MTW force, or they could deploy as the buildup or decisive force element for a second MTW following the deployment of the active component halt-phase force.

To make this a realistic strategy, the Army needs to identify, structure, and train reserve brigades, or divisions, for specific missions. Additionally, the national strategy must require these forces to be called up to begin post-mobilization training by the time active forces begin to deploy to the first MTW. That's imperative. These forces need to be called up for the dual purpose of preparing for their potential commitment as a hedge force in case of a more difficult first MTW, or deploying as the decisive force for a possible second MTW. Building into the system the acquiescence of civilian leaders to such a triggered early call-up of reserve component forces will be essential to achieving an acceptable level of risk for the Army's readiness to fight and win two overlapping MTWs.

Realists will also recognize that the Army must improve the current readiness of the reserve combat units in order to make this concept feasible. Even if the eSBs can achieve their aim of being ready for deployment within 90 days, current doctrine requires the Army to build counterattack forces around divisions. Without a fundamental change in the way reserve combat divisions are organized and trained, there is little hope of preparing them for combat within required timelines. Although the Army may be moving toward a medium-weight force organized around brigades, the near-term solution to improving reserve combat division and brigade readiness will require significant teamwork from the active and reserve components.[45]

The answer to this problem may be found by integrating active-duty officers and NCOs directly into key positions in reserve brigades and divisions and significantly increasing the number of full-time reserve support personnel within the reserve units. This concept has been used effectively by the Marine Forces Reserve to provide units of battalion strength or less to augment and reinforce their active divisions.[46] The Marine Corps integrates a combination of active reservists and active Marines into its Selected Marine Corps Reserve units at a level of about 20 percent to achieve deployment readiness by C+30.[47] During the Persian Gulf War, Marine combat battalions achieved credible results, although most observers recommended increasing post-mobilization training time.[48]

The Army is progressing in the direction of the Marine Corps with its ongoing initiative to stand-up two active/reserve integrated divisions. Two active Army headquarters have been given responsibility for the combat readiness of three eSBs each.[49] Although these divisions are not currently structured as deployable entities, they could be further expanded with personnel and units from each component to build full, multicomponent divisions.

The increased use of active and reserve observer-controller-trainers organized into Training Support Brigades to help train high-priority reserve units is also an organizational step in the direction of increasing the use of active forces to improve reserve force readiness. A further evolution of this concept would assign these leaders to key or shadow positions in the reserve component units in the same way the Marine Corps integrates its active instructor-inspectors into its reserve units. In addition to the direct benefit of improved readiness, the large-scale infusion of active officers and NCOs into the reserve forces would also improve understanding and trust between the active and reserve components. Although the active force structure costs associated with this plan would be high, the benefit of this structure would be a more relevant and ready Army.[50]

To be sure, achieving universal support for such a concept will be difficult politically and a tough sell. The Army's situation is more complicated than the structure of the federally controlled Marine Corps Reserve. The political feasibility of generating support for such an integration of National Guard forces is greatly complicated by the Army's need to gain support from the individual state and territorial governments, in addition to the federal government. As leverage, the Army would be offering a more relevant combat role to ARNG divisions and eSBs. Realistically, however, the end-state force structure would certainly require compromises in order to achieve necessary readiness levels while maintaining political acceptability.

To establish its MTW force, the active Army should identify its halt-phase forces for both MTWs--at least one heavy division each--and provide the resources and training needed to achieve the readiness levels required for that specific mission. The Army also needs to identify the buildup and decisive counterattack forces required for both MTWs, and, likewise, provide the resources and training needed to meet the readiness levels for this specific mission. This force will likely require four to six additional divisions for each MTW, assuming that five to seven divisions are required to win an MTW.[51] For the second MTW, the Army would need to organize and train four to six enhanced-readiness reserve component divisions--perhaps hybrid active/reserve integrated divisions--to reinforce the active component halt-phase force and to conduct the decisive counterattack. The units and individuals needed for these reserve component divisions would be drawn from that part of the active force structure not required for MTW or smaller-scale contingency missions, and from the existing ARNG eSBs and combat divisions.

Thus, a total of approximately six to eight active divisions and four to six reserve divisions would be needed for the two-MTW requirements of the strategy. These forces should generally not train for nor be deployed to non-combat, smaller-scale contingencies that erode readiness for their primary MTW mission.

A Smaller-Scale Contingency Corps

Key to preserving the readiness of the MTW forces would be a largely separate force, a Smaller-Scale Contingency Corps, organized and trained to conduct the non-combat smaller-scale contingency missions. Here again, the active component elements should be sized and structured to do those missions that require rapidly deployable, trained and ready forces. Likewise, the reserve components should be sized and shaped to provide the forces that are needed later in a contingency, such as augmenting and reinforcing forces, or follow-on rotation forces for extended contingencies. In both cases, these units should be modular in design to facilitate rapid tailoring into force packages for a wide variety of smaller-scale contingencies. Divisions may not be a flexible enough organization for this mission. Instead, perhaps command and control headquarters organized and trained for the combined and joint operations that characterize smaller-scale contingencies should be employed. Sub-units and individual augmentees could then be attached to provide required capabilities for specific missions.

Some smaller-scale contingencies, such as the peace support operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Sinai, are likely to require extended commitments of units. Therefore, the use of reserve forces for follow-on rotations is important to the success of this concept. In most cases, active forces should provide the initial one or two rotations of forces. Reserve component forces could then provide most of the follow-on rotations. Active forces could then train for the next possible contingency. The Army would thus preserve a continuous capability to rapidly deploy a smaller-scale contingency response force. With at least 12 months of lead time, reserve rotational units will have sufficient notice to mobilize and prepare for the mission. Building an integrated force and having the commitment of the National Command Authority and Congress to use reserve component units for extended deployments will also ensure that commitments are made with the full support of the American people.

Both the active and reserve forces that are a part of this "Smaller-Scale Contingency Corps" would need to be structured to provide the types of forces needed for smaller contingencies and given adequate recovery time between missions. Their force structure should be shaped to more adequately conduct the most likely smaller contingency missions (e.g., military police, civil affairs, light or medium infantry). The active forces should have sufficient redundancy of forces to allow at least 12 months at home station between deployments. Additionally, the units' soldiers and leaders should be rotated to the MTW units regularly to avoid retention problems due to deployment burnout. Likewise, the reserve forces should be structured with sufficient redundancy to allow enough time between missions, at least three to five years, to mitigate such adverse effects as strained employer support and recruiting and retention problems.


With a more integrated approach, the Army can reduce the risk of fighting and winning two nearly simultaneous MTWs from a posture of global engagement. With mission-focused structure, resourcing, and training, the readiness of the Army will improve.

This concept requires a two-MTW force that relies heavily on enhanced readiness and active/reserve-integrated divisions. It also requires a dedicated Smaller-Scale Contingency Corps that can deploy reserve component units for follow-on rotations in extended contingencies. The result will be a more relevant and ready Army force structure for the world of today, permitting the Army to place increased emphasis on preparing for the uncertain world of tomorrow.


1. Rick Maze, "Congress Hears Readiness Woes: Chiefs: Restore Value of Retirement, Close Pay Gap," Army Times, 12 October 1998, p. 4.

2. Ibid., emphasis added.

3. Sean Naylor, "Not Ready for Combat: Two Divisions Flunk Wartime Readiness Test," Army Times, 22 November 1999, p. 6.

4. The White House, A National Security Strategy for a New Century (Washington: GPO, October 1998), p. 12.

5. Ibid., pp. 1-3.

6. John M. Shalikashvili, Shape, Respond, Prepare Now: A Military Strategy for a New Era (Washington: GPO, 1997), pp. 15-16.

7. "Army Chief of Staff Arrival Ceremony, June 22, 1999, Remarks Delivered by General Eric K. Shinseki, 34th Chief of Staff of the Army," Internet,, accessed 2 September 1999, p. 4.

8. Ibid., p. 5.

9. Ibid.

10. Colin L. Powell, The National Military Strategy, 1992 (Washington: GPO, 1992), p. 7.

11. Ibid., p. 19.

12. Les Aspin, Report on the Bottom-Up Review (Washington: GPO, October 1993), pp. 7-8.

13. Ibid., pp. 28-30.

14. William S. Cohen, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (Washington: GPO, May 1997), pp. 11-12.

15. Ibid., p. 12.

16. Ibid., p. 32.

17. Ibid., pp. 32-33.

18. Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, 1998 Strategic Assessment: Engaging Power for Peace (Washington: GPO, 1998), p. 156.

19. Robert M. Walker and Dennis J. Reimer, A Statement on the Posture of the United States Army Fiscal Year 1999 (Washington: GPO, February 1998), p. 10.

20. Sean D. Naylor, "Army IG Confirms Combat Training Woes," Army Times, 15 February 1999, p. 20.

21. Ibid.

22. Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1998 Strategic Assessment, p. 157.

23. Walker and Reimer, p. 4.

24. Ibid., p. 67.

25. Ibid., p. 3.

26. Rick Maze, "Lawmakers Compete to Increase Pay and Benefits," Army Times, 1 February 1999, p. 18.

27. Cohen, p. 36.

28. The White House, A National Security Strategy for a New Century, p. 22.

29. Ibid., pp. 1-2.

30. Jon R. Anderson, "Shelton Responds to Readiness Questions," Stars and Stripes, 12 November 1999, p. 2.

31. Walker and Reimer, p. 6.

32. Dennis J. Reimer, One Team, One Fight, One Future (Washington: GPO, 1998), pp. 8-9; Cohen, p. 32.

33. Cohen, p. 32.

34. Reimer, One Team, p. 14.

35. Cohen, p. 32.

36. Tranette Ledford, "Employers Feeling Work Crunch," Army Times, 14 September 1998, p. 20.

37. Aspin, p. 30.

38. Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1998 Strategic Assessment, p. 146.

39. Ibid., p. 147.

40. Ibid., p. 148.

41. Ibid., p. 146.

42. Walker and Reimer, p. 14.

43. Sean D. Naylor, "Radical Changes: Gen. Shinseki Unveils his 21st-Century Plans," Army Times, 25 October 1999, pp. 1-8.

44. US General Accounting Office, Army National Guard: Combat Brigades' Ability to be Ready for War in 90 Days is Uncertain (Washington: GAO, June 1995), p. 3. The eSB concept had until FY99 to be fully implemented, so readiness has probably improved. Also, eSBs completing an NTC rotation will be more ready than other eSBs, and may be ready in less than 90 days. If so, these brigades may be available to deploy in time for a first MTW as an augmentation force.

45. Jane McHugh, "Reserves Key to Shinseki Strategy," Army Times, 25 October 1999, p. 10.

46. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, DoD 1215.15-H: The Reserve Components of the United States Armed Forces (Washington: GPO, October 1998), p. 47.

47. Center for Naval Analyses, USMC Active and Reserve Force Structure and Mix Study (Washington: GPO, December 1992), pp. 8-16; "United States Marine Corps Reserve Strength," linked from "Marine Forces Reserve" at "About Marine Forces Reserve," Internet,, accessed 16 December 1998; estimate of 20 percent is based on a total Marine Corps Reserve unit strength of 33,625 and 7,400 full-time support Marines (mix of active and active reserve).

48. Center for Naval Analyses, USMC Active and Reserve Force Structure and Mix Study, pp. 14-16.

49. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, DOD 1215.15-H, p. 26.

50. Based on the Marine Corps Reserve model of 20 percent full-time support in units, approximately 13,000 to 20,000 active and reserve component full-timers would be required to fill out this concept. To assign active component officers and NCOs to reserve component units in sufficient quantity would require the active component to increase its numbers of officers and NCOs and decrease its numbers of soldiers. This shift would increase the demand on retention and decrease the requirement for recruits.

51. This assumption is based on a minimum number equal to the five active divisions currently allocated to each MTW--half the ten active divisions--and a maximum of seven divisions as employed during Operation Desert Storm.

Colonel Mark E. Vinson is Deputy Chief of Operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, US Army, Europe. Colonel Vinson earned his B.S. at the US Military Academy and his M.S. in operations research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and he is a graduate of the US Army War College. An armor officer, Colonel Vinson has served in a variety of command and staff positions, including command of the 2d Battalion, 70th Armor. He participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with the 1st Armored Division. As part of the Army Initiatives Group on the Army Staff, Colonel Vinson was a member of the Active Component/Reserve Component Integration Council of Colonels. He also has conducted a variety of force structure studies as an operations research analyst with the TRADOC Analysis Command and J-8, Joint Staff. Most recently, Colonel Vinson has been selected as the TRADOC Systems Manager for the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer.

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Reviewed 8 May 2000. Please send comments or corrections to