Every year, the Chief of Staff of the Army hosts a Future Study Plan designed to examine issues critical to current and future force development. The Future Study Plan is not a singular event; it is a series of events that can include conferences, seminars, workshops, wargames, and symposia. Collectively, the Future Study Plan is known as Unified Quest (UQ). This January, one of the conferences for this year’s UQ is titled ‘How the Army Fights.’ We expect it to focus on the roles and missions the Army assumes responsibility for as part of the joint force. And we expect it to discuss the roles and relationships between the echelons of command above brigade - the division, corps, and theater army. But as the modular brigade combat team (BCT) is the basic building block of Army combat power, we would like to contribute to the debate by focusing on what we feel is the critical issue impacting operations within the BCT – the depth of junior leaders. For the purpose of this paper, we broadly define junior leaders as Soldiers from the rank of sergeant to major.
The purpose of this paper is not to discuss ‘how do you grow such leaders?’ That is not the issue; our Army knows how to do that, and our Army has a rather enviable track record to prove it. Rather, we believe the critical question is how do you ensure you have the right amount of those leaders where you need them, when you need them? This paper proposes an organizational solution that provides exactly that depth where it is most sorely needed – as an organic element within the BCTs.
If there are two things that the past decade of combat experience has taught us about the future of armed conflict, it is this – first, that combat operations will increasingly depend upon well-trained, operationally adaptive, junior leaders. Secondly, the U.S. Army doesn’t have enough such leaders; at least not in our BCTs, where the demand for leaders far exceeds the available supply.
One should sympathize with the burdens we’ve placed upon our BCT commanders. In Iraq and Afghanistan, our BCT commanders were often responsible for controlling areas that were, quite honestly, unparalleled in previous conflicts. It was not unheard of for a single BCT to be responsible for areas that included tens of thousands of square miles and literally, several million people. BCTs had to become adept at conducting operations 24/7, 365 days a year; operations that included simultaneous efforts at planning, preparing, executing, and recovering from combat missions, while simultaneously liaising with higher headquarters and engaging with the host nation government – training and partnering with their security forces and civil government agencies in an effort to expand the writ of the legitimate government. Additionally, our BCTs were called upon to integrate and facilitate the efforts of multiple Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), which in turn expanded the scope of the BCTs engagement to include dealing with many International Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations.
The challenge is further exacerbated by the fact that BCTs are not adequately manned to conduct such complex operations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; the brigade and battalion staffs need augmentation. The Army transformed deploying BCTs into Advise and Assist Brigades (AABs), or cross attached enablers, but for the most part, that augmentation came from only one place – out of hide. Likewise, when BCTs were initially assigned the mission of simultaneously providing training and partnering support to the Iraqi or Afghan security forces, the manning for those training teams placed an additional demand for junior leaders within the BCTs. And, throughout, the BCT Commanders had to keep a watchful eye on their subordinate leaders, ready to rotate them out if they required respite or proved unequal to the task. But where would their replacement come from, if required? Again, from within the two- maneuver battalion BCT.
The demand these efforts and this unending optempo placed upon our BCTs, and particularly upon the junior leaders within those formations, is simply incredible. Time and again, the operations of our BCTs came up against a critical shortfall: there simply weren’t enough junior leaders. And, once we factor in the impact of casualties and the R&R leaves, the demands and pressures placed upon the remaining junior leaders increased substantially.
Of course, the most incredible and noteworthy fact isn’t what was asked of our junior leaders …it was the fact that they delivered. But it is a fair observation to note that we did more than place an awful lot of tasks and responsibilities on the shoulders of our BCT commanders – in truth, we placed the burden of success or failure for the entire enterprise on their shoulders. One can fairly ask: did we have to make it so hard on them; and by extension, ourselves? Is there not a means by which we can make more well-trained, operationally adaptable, junior leaders readily available to a BCT commander?
We believe there is.
And of equal importance, we believe the solution we offer will likewise meet the requirements of the other ‘stakeholders,’ too – the Army itself, the Geographic Combatant Commands and their respective Army Service Component Commands (ASCC), and the requirements of our individual Soldiers, too.
Our solution is to empower those BCT commanders by giving them the capability they require – both to train their forces and to execute the myriad tasks and missions they are assigned – as an organic element of their brigade. This is not a solution in search of a problem; this is a solution to a broad set of very real, very pressing, challenges. Before we lay out our proposed organizational solution, it is worth appreciating the complexity of the requirements of the other ‘stakeholders.’ While each stakeholder necessarily looks at the question from a different perspective, and has different requirements, it is important point to keep in mind that their requirements are not mutually exclusive. We believe that our organizational solution – to augment each BCT with an organic ‘cadre’ structure – meets all these requirements.
The Other ‘Stakeholders’ and their respective requirements
A. The Army. In the 2009 Army Capstone Concept (ACC), the Army looked out to 2028 and saw a near future of persistent conflict in an uncertain and complex world. Now the fact remains that the Army was built for conflict, and uncertainty and complexity are actually relative, not unique, conditions. So, as one reads the assumptions and implications within the Army Capstone Concept, it is fair to say that the Army’s view of the future is realistic, necessitating increased situational awareness and prudent planning, but certainly not alarmist. However, since 2010, the Nation and the Army have entered an ‘Era of Fiscal Constraint’ as a key, defining condition of that vision. The implications of a ‘fiscally constrained’ environment are perhaps the most unsettling of all, because history has shown that there is no corresponding decrease in demand simply because supply decreases. And so, while we can all hear the calls for reducing the Army, we see no reduction in the demands placed upon our Army.
Quite the opposite is occurring, in fact. Our nation, our interests, our allies and partners, and our shared interests and values still face real and substantial threats posed by current and potential adversaries. In light of these threats, the U.S. military must remain vigilant, fully capable, and fully engaged. History has shown that U.S. military engagement can be a positive, stabilizing influence; our engagement can enable our partners to professionalize their militaries, build their capacity, deter aggression, and bring stability and peace. In an era of uncertainty and complexity, the one constant will be the need for reassurance; and U.S. military engagement – a visible, credible sign of our nation’s commitment and capabilities – provides that reassurance.
Accordingly, there is neither talk of nor expectation that the Army will be relieved of any of its current responsibilities nor asked to do any less than it does now. So, as the Army draws down, it must measure and balance cuts in the force structure against seven key criteria:
1) The Army must retain the type of capabilities it requires, and in sufficient depth;
2) The Army must maintain the quality of the force (active and reserve);
3) The Army must reset and re-equip the force;
4) The Army must re-‘green’ the force; which means the Army must expand the scope of training to encompass the broader range of military operations that the Army may be expected to do, as opposed to the almost single-minded focus of COIN for the past decade;
5) The Army must train the force in the mindset and capabilities of being operationally adaptable;[i]
6) The Army must ensure the force retains a characteristic of expansibility;[ii] and
7) The Army must build in a mechanism of ensuring reversibility.[iii]
It is a tall order, to be sure: draw down without degrading critical capabilities, improve the quality of the force at the same time you are reducing its numbers, and, in the event we are wrong, build in the mechanism for reversing course and expanding – all at the same time. Is this even possible?
At the risk of sounding naively optimistic, we believe it is.
The one consistent element that is critical to each of these seven tasks is the need for well-trained, operationally adaptive, junior leaders. If the Army builds an organizational structure that retains sufficient depth of these high-quality junior leaders, then these leaders become both the solution to the requirements as well as the means of mitigating the risk inherent in a drawdown. We believe that our organizational solution – to augment each BCT with an organic ‘cadre’ structure – helps the Army meet these challenges. In effect, the BCTs will carry within themselves the seed corn the Army will draw upon on that day in the future when the need once again arises.
B. The Geographic Combatant Commands and their respective Army Service Components. With the exception of CENTCOM’s operations in Afghanistan, every other Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) is conducting their respective theater engagement activities in what is known in the Joint Phasing Construct as Phase 0 – Shaping. Phase 0 activities include security force assistance (SFA) and building partner capacity (BPC), but the practical application of these terms in Phase 0 is significantly different from the Army’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, which occurred in Phase IV – Stabilize and Phase V – Enabling Civil Authority.[iv] It is worth appreciating just how significantly different the same activity, conducted in two different phases. The following list makes this point:
Why is this important? Because right now, the Army approach to SFA is to apply a BCT to the problem; as is demonstrated by the Regionally-Aligned Brigade (RAB) concept.[v] However, as this comparison illustrates, the Phase 0 requirements generated by the GCC is not for a BCT. As the Army knows full well, the requirement for training any military is small teams of well-trained, operationally adaptable, junior leaders. In other words, the GCCs and their respective ASCCs don’t need a BCT, per se; they need access to the well-trained, operationally adaptable, junior leaders within those brigade combat teams. But is it possible for the GCC and the ASCC to gain access to these leaders without simultaneously taking key leaders away from their troops? Is it possible for the Army to train and improve the readiness of our partners without degrading our own training and readiness?
We believe it is.
Looking to our recent operational experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, we believe the most successful training teams were those fielded by the BCTs themselves, because of the depth of the relationship. You see, both the training teams and the host nation units knew their partnership enjoyed the full backing and support of an entire BCT. The Soldiers assigned to the training teams didn’t simply feel like orphans or that they were partnered with a BCT – they knew they were part of the BCT. The Soldiers assigned to the training teams were committed to the mission because it was their sole mission; it was neither a temporary duty nor a secondary duty. They knew that the success of the training team and the partner unit was their responsibility, until such time as they were relieved of those duties. And the BCT wasn’t simply committed to the partner unit, they were committed to their own, and therefore had a sense of ownership in the success of the partner unit. The psychological comfort provided by that sense of belonging is a tremendous advantage, to everyone concerned. This brought a Unity of Effort to the mission.
The GCCs and the ASCCs say they want access to our junior leaders to support their security cooperation activities. But in truth, what they are seeking is to establish military – to – military relationships. The fact is, if all a country wants is U.S. military trainers, it can get civilian contractors with U.S. military experience through a Foreign Military Sales case with the Department of State. And plenty of countries do just that. It’s fast, cheap, and meets the intent. But that isn’t a real partnership; it’s simply a transactional relationship. A real relationship would require a U.S. military unit having a sense of ownership in the success or failure of the partner nation’s unit.
The RAB concept is a step in the right direction insofar as it builds mil-to-mil relationships at the BCT level. But the RAB concept ignores the most important lessons of our recent operational experience – the real value of the relationship is less a measure of the quality of the trainers and more a measure of the sense of commitment to the relationship and ownership of the mission that all concerned feel.
We believe the Army should build an organizational structure that provides a BCT with a dedicated capability of high-quality junior leaders available as trainers. The junior leader who knows his primary responsibility is to train and partner with foreign troops has a far different perspective than the junior leader who views an opportunity to train with foreign nationals as a two-week distraction from their normal duties. Both may be equally committed to providing professional training. But only one would have the sense that someday he may be fighting alongside that foreign national. That is where the difference in commitment to the relationship becomes apparent. And in case you were wondering, Department of State-funded civilian contractors are under no illusion whatsoever that they will ever fight alongside the foreign nationals they are training.
C. The individual Soldier – the officer, noncommissioned officer, and enlisted. The individual Soldier has a simple requirement – to know that they are being taken care of in the here and now, as well as in preparation for what comes next. And training is the single best means of convincing an individual Soldier that you are taking care of them. But to truly be convincing, that training must be relevant, properly resourced, professionally conducted, measured against demanding, realistic standards, and valued by the entire chain of command as the best use of a Soldier’s time.
The individual Soldier knows the importance of training and education; but we often present a false dichotomy – the idea that training is something that happens in a unit, while education is something that happens in a schoolhouse. The truth is that education is simply a fancy word for learning, and learning never stops; we believe that the emphasis on continued learning is never more important than when you are actually leading troops in the field.
But just as the individual Soldier needs to know that training – and learning – is valued, they also need to know that trainers are valued. Over the past decade, to meet the personnel requirements generated by the growth in BCTs, the Army drew many of its Soldiers out of the schoolhouses; and junior leaders were kept in the BCTs for longer tours than in the recent past. While necessary, this has sent a not-too subtle message: time in the schoolhouse isn’t valued as much as time in a deployable unit.
How do you square this circle: build in time for junior leaders assigned to a BCT to truly study – and learn – their tradecraft; and to demonstrate how much the Army values its trainers, without degrading the capability of the BCT? We believe that our organizational solution – to augment each BCT with an organic ‘cadre’ structure – helps resolve this conundrum.
The Organizational Solution: A ‘cadre’ structure organic to each BCT.
A. Mission Sets. The ‘cadre’ organization would be charged with three unique missions: partnering, training, and staff augmentation. Partnering is externally focused; training and staff augmentation are internally focused. Should the BCT once again be deployed to a combat theater like Iraq or Afghanistan and once again have the mission of building, training, and partnering with host nation security forces, it would then have the capacity to do so, without simultaneously degrading its own capacity – which requires it to strip away key junior leaders. If the mission is to support the Phase 0 –Shaping theater security cooperation missions of the GCC, the BCT will likewise have the organic capability to do so – again, without being forced to strip away junior leaders from their units (which, even if for only a short duration, degrades the training and readiness of those units).
This cadre organization is not a new idea; rather we see it as an evolution of the current Advise and Assist Brigades (AAB) or Security Force Assistance (SFA) Brigades that have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The AAB was essentially a 48-man cadre organization grafted onto an existing BCT. But a key difference is that the officer structure in the AABs was weighted towards field grades – no less than six of the 48 cadre positions were lieutenant colonel billets. Likewise, NCO billets were weighted towards senior NCOs. The reason for the rank-heavy structure of the AABs was the expectation that the cadre would principally be partnering (i.e., mentoring) with senior individuals, vice units, and that these individuals were the division, brigade, and battalion-level leadership. Our proposed cadre organization would have less field grade positions but more NCO structure. The expectation is that this cadre would focus on partnering (i.e., training) on small unit tactics. Focusing at these echelons is more commensurate with the experience levels of our junior leaders – and the retention of these junior leaders remains the principal purpose driving this proposal. As an aside, the Army is currently looking at other structures and capabilities to engage with our partner nations at the more senior echelons – division to ministerial level. Clearly, while large-scale stability operations might not be envisioned for the near future, the U.S. Army recognizes the need for persistent and precise engagement with our partners.
The second mission of the cadre organization is training. We all accept that every leader should be a trainer of their subordinates, but the fact remains that good training[vi] takes time to plan and coordinate. For the better part of the past decade, most of our junior leaders never had to develop training calendars – it was done for them, courtesy of the ARFORGEN model and very detailed ‘road to war’ training schedules managed by higher headquarters (starting all the way at the top with HQDA and FORSCOM). Our deploying units, and all their assigned personnel, were essentially ‘on a train,’ moving along a breakneck speeds, stopping only occasionally for prescribed iterations of training and equipping. Those of us in the Army with memories of life before 9/11 recall a totally different approach to training. For us, training calendars were gospel, and training times were jealously guarded affairs. But even then, one common criticism was that while we put aside time to conduct training, we seldom put aside the requisite time to prepare for that training (or to properly recover from said training, for that matter).
Additionally, it is worth stressing that time spent preparing for a training iteration is not the same as time spent learning about a new task. This is not a matter of semantics; the distinction between the two is real and profound. The cadre organization provides the brigade commander the best of both approaches – the cadre unit has the time to develop the training iterations, and the remainder of the brigade has the opportunity to focus on learning and then mastering the task.
Another advantage of the cadre organization is the ability for the Army to quickly disseminate new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), as well as educate its forces on any new emerging operational concepts – and, if history is any guide, there will always be ‘something new.’ This isn’t to say that ‘new’ concepts are a bad thing. But what is bad is how unevenly they are disseminated and put into practice. Consider the latest emphasis on counter-insurgency (COIN). The Army trained and evaluated deploying forces on COIN techniques during their mission rehearsal exercises, introduced blocks of instruction into the various schoolhouses, and worked hard to disseminate TTPs and ‘best practices’ out to the deployed forces. Even then, the information flow was uneven and a large number of individuals simply never received the training. A cadre organization helps the Army address the uneven dissemination and application of new concepts, TTPs, and ‘best practices.’ And within the BCTs, the cadre organizations provides brigade commanders with the capability to establish, train, and evaluate performance against a single set of training and readiness standards across the brigade.
A cadre organization is more than simply the solution to this training challenge – it is a solution that draws upon the very best of the American military tradition. The very template for this solution is the example set for us by Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben at Valley Forge. Faced with the need to train an Army, he began with a ‘model company’ – 120 chosen men who successively trained other personnel throughout the Continental Army.[vii] It is to von Steuben’s credit that the highly-trained, formidable Army that marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778 – and on to eventual victory – bore only a superficial resemblance to the roughly 12,000 half-starved, raggedly equipped Continentals that had staggered into Valley Forge just six months prior.
The third mission for the cadre organization is to provide the BCT with an organic staff augmentation for the brigade and battalion staffs, as required. As discussed in the beginning, we ask a great deal of our BCTs … and the fact is, they simply aren’t manned to handle the demand. Designating this as a third mission set for the cadre organization creates a profound effect – every battalion within the brigade will view the cadre as a key element of their individual success as much as the collective success of the brigade; not only do the cadre help train the battalions, they may very well fill key leader shortfalls or provide critical staff augmentation within the battalions during combat operations. It is our sense that every key leader within the brigade would feel a sense of ownership for the cadre organization. It is our hope that the battalion commanders would come to view duty within the cadre organization as a critical development opportunity for their most promising junior leaders.
There is another purpose for the cadre organizations; but this would be on behalf of the Army, and not the BCT. Should the Army be faced with the need for a rapid expansion, it could look to the cadre organizations as the foundation for filling out newly formed maneuver battalions or entire BCTs. When you talk about the need to rapidly grow force structure, the fact remains that Soldiers can be trained fast; but it takes years to train a leader – and the more senior the leader, the longer it takes to train them. Everyone familiar with the PERT[viii] approach for project management understands that training leaders is the key predecessor event when it comes to building units. Leaders must be built before units, period. This fourth purpose plays the key determining role when we discuss the next characteristic of the cadre organization – its size.
B. Size of the Cadre Organization. While the cadre organization could be of any size, we believe that the optimal formation is battalion centric … think of a battalion structure – officers, noncommissioned officers, but no junior enlisted Soldiers. We present the following four points in defense of our proposal for a battalion-centric cadre organization.
First, a cadre organization led by a battalion commander automatically gains a ‘seat at the table,’ when the brigade commander meets with his subordinate commanders. Given the roles and missions that the cadre organization can be called upon to play in support of the BCT, we believe that it is of paramount importance that the commander of the cadre be a peer of the other key subordinate leaders of the BCT.
Exactly how big could the Cadre Battalion be? To start the debate, we propose a 160-man structure. This structure would consist of a 16-man HHD and three 48-man line companies. The HHD would consist of the Battalion Commander, Command Sergeant Major, Battalion Executive Officer, an Operations Officer and three Operations Sergeants, an Intelligence Officer and two Intelligence Sergeants, a Supply Officer and two Supply Sergeants, an Adjutant and two Administration Sergeants. The Adjutant would be dual-hatted as the HHD Commander; his senior admin sergeant would be the HHD First Sergeant.
The three line companies would include a six-man Company Headquarters and three 14-man platoons. The Company Headquarters would consist of the Commander, First Sergeant, Company Executive Officer, Operations Sergeant, Supply Sergeant, and an Administration Sergeant. The three 14-man platoons would consist of a Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant, four Squad Leaders, and eight Team Sergeants. This organization would have its own UIC and MTOE.
A 160-man battalion-centric structure is large, to be sure. But it has to be, in order to meet the Army’s requirement of expansibility, which is the second rationale – and the key determining criteria. Let’s suppose that the Army was suddenly faced with a requirement for affecting a rapid expansion in combat forces. But our recent operational experience has shown that more combat power alone isn’t the answer. What we will need to do is to strike a balance between fielding more BCTs and providing more combat power (i.e., maneuver forces) within each BCT.
Let’s suppose the Army pulled out 30 Cadre Battalions from their respective BCTs and flushed them out with Soldiers. It could then provide an additional two maneuver battalions to up to 15 BCTs. As our current BCT structure only has two maneuver battalions, the Army would effectively be doubling the amount of maneuver battalions on the ground. Or the Army could take the same 30 battalions and organize fifteen of them into five 3-battalion brigades, and use the other fifteen battalions to augment 15 other BCTs with an additional maneuver battalion, increasing their combat power by 50%. Either way, that is expansibility with a purpose!
A 160-man cadre battalion is essentially the skeleton of a maneuver battalion – and makes no pretense it is anything other than that. The increase and decrease of Army end strength is cyclical; one will surely follow the other. But while it is all-too easy to draw down, it is extremely hard, and time-consuming, to build back up. Every military that has successfully built back up its combat power – the Prussians after Napoleon, the Germans and the Americans after WWI – did so by adhering to the same imperative during the lean years: you must retain the leaders! The cadre organization retains critical mid and senior NCOs, which are the backbone of the BCT. But there is something else that must be retained: the spirit and identity of the Army. Combat units are not simply aggregations of well-trained Soldiers; they have a shared identity. A cadre battalion does more than simply retain the leaders – it retains the identity, lineage and honors of a combat unit. The importance of this identity cannot be understated; it gives Soldiers a sense of meaning, a sense of being part of something bigger than themselves, it challenges them to live up to the standards of those that came before.
The third rationale for having a battalion-centric cadre organization is that it is of sufficient size to provide the depth of junior leaders that a BCT fully engaged in combat operations will require. We have already discussed the requirement to augment brigade and battalion staffs, to enable 24/7, 365-day operations; and we have discussed the likely mission of having to train/partner with a host nation security force. We should also consider the likelihood and impact of casualties, particularly amongst our junior leaders.
It is often said that commanders fight two levels down … division commanders fight their battalions, and brigade commanders fight their companies. A battalion-sized cadre organization ensures the BCT commander is able to maintain the fighting power of his companies, even in the face of significant casualties amongst the junior leaders. We recognize that the Army doesn’t like to talk about incurring casualties; you have to look long and hard to find serious discussion about how to carry on the fight in the face of crippling casualties. Which is actually rather surprising because our Army has proven to be quite adept at inflicting crippling rates of casualties upon our enemies.
We believe this dearth of discussion does a disservice to our junior leaders. We can understand if the conversation is simply avoided because it is uncomfortable. But if the reason that the conversation is avoided is because we simply don’t believe it will happen to us, that is unconscionable. And it is simply not true. Consider the following quote from General Matthew Ridgeway, speaking of his combat experience as the Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division during the Normandy campaign:
“I went in with 12 infantry battalion commanders – four regiments – and I had 14 new ones when we came out; for some battalions lost as many as three commanders during the 33 days we were in that fight.”[ix]
General Ridgeway was speaking of the need to know your men – all of them, not simply the key leaders, but also their likely replacements. As he wrote: “…be constantly on the alert for potential leaders – you never know how soon you may need them.”[x] But that is an impossible task if your organizational structure simply doesn’t provide any real depth of junior leaders. The Army must provide this depth to our BCTs. We should also note that this, too, is consistent with American military tradition. U.S. combat divisions tended to have large numbers of lieutenant colonels on their division staffs; these men were the ready source of replacements for casualties amongst the battalion commanders.
The fourth rationale for having a battalion-centric cadre organization is to help manage – and protect – the careers of our junior leaders. Officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the cadre organization would have the same rating chain as their peers in the other battalions across the BCT. A battalion structure provides the opportunity for officers and noncommissioned officers to cycle in and out of the cadre battalion during their tour with a BCT. Establishing this type of internal rotation builds a greater sense of cohesion across the entirety of the BCT, and it provides leaders with an opportunity to step back and truly learn their profession without feeling like they are removed from troops – and subsequently being placed at a disadvantage to their peers. As we alluded to earlier, the BCT should be more than just the ‘tip of the spear.’ It could also be where the Army carries its seed corn; ready to grow leaders or additional units, as the case may be. A cadre battalion within a BCT sends the message ‘loud and clear’ that training is important, and time spent learning and mastering one’s profession is advantageous to one’s career.
The U.S. Army is facing many pressing challenges – how to conduct a responsible drawdown while ensuring reversibility, how to adapt training and leader development, how to revitalize home station training, how to improve small unit capabilities, and how to build a real capacity to conduct security force assistance operations. As we examined these issues, we were struck by one commonality – the key to resolving each challenge is almost entirely dependent upon having well-trained, operationally adaptive, junior leaders. This then, became the question we sought to answer: How do you ensure you have the right amount of those leaders where you need them, when you need them? To be sure, this is a question that has plagued military commanders over the centuries. For the U.S. Army, facing an uncertain and complex future of increasing demand and decreasing resources, finding a viable answer to this question couldn’t be more important. We believe that our proposal – to add an organic cadre organization to the brigade combat teams (BCTs) – is one such viable option, and so we offer it for consideration.
Our proposal recognizes that the requirements of the various stakeholders are unique, but not mutually exclusive; and our proposal supports the needs of each stakeholder.
On January 5th, 2012, the Secretary of Defense released new strategic guidance “…to articulate priorities for a 21st century defense that sustains U.S. global leadership.”[xi] Concerning the strategic guidance for shaping the Joint Force of 2020, the SecDef noted that the first principle guiding the drawdown is maintaining a broad portfolio of military capabilities. The new strategic guidance then stressed what we believe to be the very foundation arguments for fielding a cadre organization in the BCTs:
“Likewise, DoD will manage the force in ways that protect its ability to regenerate capabilities that might be needed to meet future, unforeseen demands, maintaining intellectual capital and rank structure that could be called upon to expand key elements of the force (italics in the original).”[xii]
Our proposal is consistent with the parallel efforts underway in the Army’s Concept Framework. A cadre organization organic to a BCT enables operational adaptability as detailed in the 2009 Army Capstone Concept, and supports the commander’s responsibilities to establish wide area security and employ combined arms maneuver, as detailed in the Army Operating Concept (published 19 Aug 2010).
Our proposal also draws upon our Army’s rich heritage, whether it be the lessons learned in Valley Forge on how to train an Army, or the importance placed on educating leaders during the lean years between the World Wars. We believe that our proposed 160-man cadre organization in each BCT is a small investment that guarantees a large return. This proposal is both practical and doable. The Army has the capability to build this structure now; the emphasis on how quickly this proposal can be acted upon cannot be overstated.
Perhaps most importantly, this proposal is not about trying to forestall the force reductions that are coming; we accept that the fiscal constraints are real, and the rationales for resizing the force are both strategically sound and legitimate. Rather, this proposal is entirely focused on ensuring that the Army employ serious foresight now, about how it protects and safeguards its seed corn – its junior leaders, who provide the Army with the ability to grow anew – before the pressures to reduce force structure become too overwhelming and forestall any measured reduction in capability. We believe a 160 soldier cadre organization in each BCT, a potential bill of 6000 spaces to the Army is a wise investment during this era of fiscal constraint. It is our hope that this proposal both encourages and contributes to this debate.
[i] The Army Capstone Concept (2009) defines Operational adaptability as “…a quality that Army leaders and forces exhibit based on critical thinking, comfort with ambiguity and decentralization, a willingness to accept prudent risk, and an ability to make rapid adjustments based on a continuous assessment of the situation. Operational adaptability is essential to developing situational understanding and seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative. … It also requires Army forces that are proficient in the fundamentals and possess common understanding of how to combine joint, Army, interagency, and multinational capabilities to assist friends, to protect and reassure indigenous populations, and to identify, isolate, and defeat enemies under uncertain and dynamic conditions. Operational adaptability also requires cohesive teams and resilient Soldiers who are capable of overcoming the enduring psychological and moral challenges of combat.” Army Capstone Concept (2009), page 16.
[ii] Expansibility is understood as asking ‘how do you grow combat power in the Army?’ We must stress that expansibility is not simply mobilizing the reserves. The Reserve Component is no longer a strategic reserve; the experiences of the past decade have transformed them into an operational reserve. This means that reserve component forces are already part of the Army’s total force, and are a part of the force generation process (ARFORGEN). To meet a sudden growth requirement, expansibility of the force must look somewhere other than the force structure reserve component.
[iii] The Army is in the process of defining reversibility, but the underlying question is rather straightforward: how do you make sure that you aren’t cutting a capability beyond the point where you can’t regenerate it?
[iv] Per Joint Pub 5-0, Joint Operation Planning (dated 11 Aug 2011), the six phases of an operation are, in order from 0 to V: Shape, Deter, Seize Initiative, Dominate, Stabilize, and Enable Civil Authority.
[v] The RAB Concept. A RAB is really nothing more than a BCT with the additional duty of supporting the GFM-validated security cooperation activities of a GCC/ASCC. RAB is a designation, not a mission. It is important to understand that the RAB is not made available to a Combatant Command as a theater reserve/contingency force; and there is no pot of funding associated with the RAB. The RAB can support the full range of security cooperation activities, such as mil-to-mil events and exercises. However, the RAB is but one of several source pools the GCC/ASCC can draw upon for their SC activities; it will complement, not supplant, the contributions of the Army Reserves and National Guard, which will continue to support the security cooperation activities of a GCC/ASCC. The RAB supports the GCC/ASCC during its trained/ready phase, but only after it is certified as fully trained and ready for the full range of combat operations. The RAB is part of the CEF, meaning its primary mission is not to support the GCC/ASCC, but rather, to be available for worldwide deployment. As for funding, SC Activities will continue to be funded as they are now – being cobbled together from a wide range of authorities and funding sources.
[vi] Recall our definition of good training: relevant, properly resourced, professionally conducted, measured against demanding, realistic standards, and valued by the entire chain of command as the best use of a Soldier’s time.
[vii] As an aside, most Americans are vaguely aware of how well von Steuben’s training approach worked. What is less appreciated, but equally profound, is how fast it worked. The Continental Army literally staggered into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. But von Steuben did not arrive until two months later, on February 23, 1778. General Washington immediately assigned von Steuben duties as Acting Inspector General and put him to work developing a training program. On May 6, 1778, the Continental Army formed itself up for a parade to celebrate the French alliance. The good order, discipline, and appearance they presented was a clear demonstration to one and all of the effectiveness of von Steuben’s training program – but that was only a short 72 days after von Steuben first arrived.
[viii] PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. PERT is a project management tool used to schedule, organize, and coordinate tasks within a project.
[ix] General Ridgeway’s essay, titled Leadership, originally published in Military Review (October, 1966), is Chapter 4 of Military Leadership, 2nd edition, edited by Robert L. Taylor and William E. Rosenbach, Westview Press, 1992. Page 51.
[x] Ibid., p. 51.
[xi] Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., January 2012, page iv.
[xii] Ibid, page 6.