Small Wars Journal

A Proposal for Building a ‘Cadre’ Organization Into the Brigade Combat Team

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 2:55am

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 – ShapingPhase 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.


About the Author(s)

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Dixon, U.S. Army, is a Strategic Plans and Policy Officer (Functional Area 59), currently assigned to U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC). He has previously served as an Infantry Officer and as a Psychological Operations Officer. He has multiple deployments in support of OEF and OND.  Prior to his current assignment, LTC Dixon was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division – US Division North in Iraq, where he served in the G5 Chief of Plans.  LTC Dixon has a Masters of Public Administration from City University.   

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Talley, U.S. Army, is a Strategic Plans and Policy Officer (Functional Area 59), currently assigned to U.S. Army Africa, in Vicenza, Italy. Through the course of his career, he has served as an Infantry Officer, Ordnance (maintenance) Officer, and a Civil Affairs Officer. He has deployed twice in support of OIF, and once in support of OEF.  Prior to his current assignment, LTC Talley was assigned to United States Africa Command, where he served in the Strategy Division and as Executive Officer to the civilian Deputy to the Commander.  LTC Talley has a Masters of Science in International Relations from Troy University, and a Masters of Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  



Wed, 10/31/2012 - 6:49am

In reply to by Morgan

Why bother assigning them? Why not make permanent AAB's filled with trainers. When a BDE deploys, they get a BN or two attached... Better yet hand the respndsibility back to SOCOM and they can stick the responsibility back with SF... The conventional Army cannot afford to pay for stuff they don't feel like doing.


Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:27pm

In reply to by jholm

The proposed Cadre BN could come from the AC/RC formations. Each AC/RC Training Support BDE (TSB) has at least one BN that is manned entirely with AC troopers (some have two BNs). Moving these units into BCTs as the Cadre BN could work because the BCT would not have to give up people already in its formation, DA would be moving an already existing unit from one command to another, and it should not significantly change career progression timelines/ expectations since officers and NCOs are still expected to serve in such OC billets.

As for what the Cadre BN would do when not deployed....focus on language/ cultural training (emphasis on language), foreign equipment/ weapons training, schooling/ professional development (grad school?), and execute internal evaluations (OC) of their BCTs units prior to a CTC rotation (which will also allow the Cadre members to work on their "teach/ coach/ mentor" skills which they will need as advisors to foreign forces).

DA would have to authorize a partial mobilization of one or more remaining training support BNs (TSBn) to cover the loss of the AC one. But given given the draw-down and decreased use/ mobilization of RC forces, the cost of such partial mobilizations, mainly during summer AT periods, would be offset by the lower number of RC units being mobilized. Additionally, given the experience now resident in many/ most RC units, RC mobilizations, whether for overseas duty, homeland security, or natural disasters, would involve less of a learning curve reducing train-up time and lessening "teach/ coach/ mentor" oversight.

This is an interesting though imperfect concept (as I'm sure the authors would admit). I think the most important thing is looking at what our civilian leadership and the GCCs are asking for. After all, at the end of the day, we do what we're told. The simple truth is as much as we might like to avoid FID/SFA, COIN, peacekeeping, and other "unconventional" or "MOOTW" or "irregular warfare" types of missions, these types of stability operations have become the norm and there are as many conceivable contingencies that would require stability operations as would require conventional warfare. Stability operations is now enshrined in our doctrine, has become increasingly the responsibility of DOD (like it or not), and has been embraced by senior leaders. Our leadership is as, if not moreso, interested in us being able to train allies and conduct stability ops as they are for us to clear trenches or send a tank formation screaming through enemy lines. This is the Army and when it comes to executing stability ops, we don't have to like it but we still have to do it.

The Army is moving toward Regionally Aligned Forces largely because the GCCs are asking for more FID/SFA capability in support of their Phase 0 Shaping operations. I disagree with the argument that the increased emphasis on FID/SFA is primarily intended to enhance the fighting capability of allies that we will "fight alongside." I think that is certainly a benefit but I think the primary intent is to enhance regional stability more broadly. If our allies in a region have greater capability within their military, they have greater leverage to prevent or mitigate some contingency that may have otherwise drawn in US forces. In short, stronger regional allies allow us to economize force in that region. Economizing force is a beautiful thing when resources are limited.

The question becomes what is the right force to regionally align. The old conventional wisdom was SF Groups. As the SF community has taken on a greater responsibility for counter-terrorism and Direct Action (and GCCs and senior civilian leaders seem pretty pleased by the results of SF's increased CT/DA emphasis over FID), are they still the right tool for the job? Are there enough to go around to meet the increased demand for SFA? This is a conversation I'm sure has occured between GCCs and SOCOM and I assume the answer is "no," otherwise there wouldn't be so much emphasis on implementing the concept of Regionally Aligned Forces. The RAF concept is moving into execution mode and shifts like this are not done on a whim so, again, I assume an assessment has been made at senior levels that the SF priority is still focused on CT/DA and there are not enough left over to meet the FID/SFA requirements of the GCCs.

Again, it doesn't really matter either way because the decision has been made to regionally align forces and we don't have to like it, we just have to do it. So it comes back to a question of how. The Cadre BN really is an interesting idea. I have the following concerns.
o How would career progression work? If you're the Cadre BN CDR and your BCT is regionally aligned with a GCC, and the ASCC doesn't use you for much FID/SFA because few of the host nations are asking for it or the ASCC staff has been able to cover the needs, how do you compete with the other BN CDRs who are planning/training/executing Gunneries and CALFEXs? Likewise for the PSG who isn't executing PLT LFXs?
o What do they do in Garrison when they aren't training a Platoon in Tanzania or a BN Staff in Argentina? Their training time will be even more constrained than their counterparts in the BCT because they will be deployed/TDY to do FID/SFA within their regionally aligned COCOM's AOR. Do they "re-green" on Warrior Tasks and Drills and basic conventional tactics? Do they focus on language/culture training? Do they develop a training plan for Tanzanians/Argentinians or for themselves?
o How are they equipped? If their mission is to train the Argentinians, shouldn't they be equipped with Argentinian tanks and artillery? Even maintaining a training set within FORSCOM that gets passed from RAF to RAF would have to be huge (to include Soviet, NATO, Chinese, etc equipment that spans multiple generations) or incomplete and therefor useless for certain missions. Of course, if they're equiped with Argentinian tanks, they can't maintain proficiency on American equipment.
o Where would the people come from? I could maybe see an SFA staff section at the BCT and maybe a SFA PLT+ in the STB. The SFA PLT could maybe serve as a BCT reserve or TOC/TAC security or meet some other need during HIC. I just can imagine where we would find the guys to fill Cadre BNs in the 45 AC BCTs.

Like it or not, the Army is told what it will do, not asked what it wants to do. We are being told to regionally align and to execute SFA. I don't think the Cadre BN is feasible as laid out here but I do applaud the authors for proposing a solution.


Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:08am

What I want to know is since when did the training of foreign militaries, become the respondsibility of the conventional Army? We have units withing the Army who have this as a core respondsibility... Special Forces. (No I am not anti SF at all, they are great dudes). If the US military needs a larger capibiblity in this area, then expand them. I certainly don't want to take away from them, but short deployments to theater, time spent getting training we all could use and deploying to some sunny tropical area? We should have made better use of them. Low level CT could be conducted by most light infantry units. They are they expert trainers of foreign forces, so put them to it. All MITT teams etc were basically low cost SF trainers, without the all the bennies like schools we all want to attend, extra money, highspeed equipment etc. SOCOM kinda got one over on us... Don't ya think?

Ken White

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 11:21am

1. Such an organization will never be filled, personnel will be locally diverted to normal operational Bns / Sqns and to the various SD 'positions' on every Post.

2. This is planning to fight the last war -- that's as bad as planning to never fight such a war again. History shows both approaches are wrong.

3. HRC is not going to look kindly at this... :>

4. I'd enjoy watching the fights among the energetic and ambitious to avoid being assigned to such an organization. I would not enjoy watching the, umm, less ambitious, working to be assigned to it.

5. If the idea were to be implemented and such organizations existed, the push to 'use' them, put them to work doing <i>something</i> would be irresistible.

6. Visualize the Cadre Bn being taken from the 4/1 BCT to support the 173d BCT...

Outlaw 09

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:43am

In reply to by thujasx2

The drawdown coming is really similar to the 1993 drawdown---the suggested 3/4 year tours were part of the 1993 savings concept meaning the longer periods of being assigned resulted in cost savings in the form of not moving people around as often. It also contributed to a full manning of units.

The drawdowns of 1993 and now are actually very similar for the soldier--both occurred in a periods of bad economic recessions which resulted in longer unemployment periods even for officers that were forced out in 1993.

With the coming drawdown this Cadre unit has to come out of hide--not sure how that will help anything.


Mon, 01/09/2012 - 10:24am

In a no growth Army how do you plan on paying for these spaces? Is there a Cost Benefit Anaylsis that supports your recommendation?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 9:40am

Just a side comment:

After Vietnam the senior leadership felt that the Army had failed and it failed because of the concept of leaving the flags of the units in VN and simply rotating personnel in and out of the units based on the one year rule. Interestingly that inadvently allowed for a substantial institutional knowledge base to remain in the unit and at all levels.

We then shifted to first the Regt concept and then on to the modular BCT with the idea that the complete unit would make the one year and personnel disruptions would be at a minimum.

Reality was that we saw if we are all honest BCTs deploying to Iraq especially in the surge phase with a manning level of 67-73%---we could not somehow field fully manned BCTs as the school houses were struggling to produce the necessary manpower that was needed---for example to fully man say interrogators in 2006 we would have needed 6K plus produced by the schoolhouse just to met the required manning strenghts---that never did occur---again say with intel analysts we are doing now the same thing and even shorting their training just to get them to the BCTs. Then with this limited manning flow we would give priorty to say the Strykkers vs the BCT---example some SBCTs deployed with over 90 interrogators and many BCTs deploying had a max of six to eight.

This might sound as a radical idea---as the Army draws down simply truly fill the remaining BCTs to full strenght and require ALL personnel to serve a full 3 or in peace time a FULL 4 year tour within the unit as was common prior to GWOT. Kills two birds----one the unit is at full strength and more importantly the institutional knowledge base remains within the unit especially in the junior levels and it would allow the BCt to train as a complete unit for the 3 or 4 years.

Right now many of the MTTs that are being thrown at the BCTs during their Reset/ARFORGEN cycles are not helping because the training audience is constantly shifting thus the ones that need it never seem to get the training and the ones that get trained never deploy.

We need to rethink what worked prior to GWOT and then get back to it in a real hurry.

While this article is interesting it is simply throwing another layer of complexity into the BCTs that does not need to be there and it just moves the problem further to the right without addressing accurately WHAT the core problems really are.

The "cadre battalion" as described sounds similar to a training support battalion one sees in AC/RC formations. Though I disagree with the idea of placing LTs and SSGs in these units (I'm assuming the platoon leaders and company XOs would be LTs and the team leaders would be SSGs) because I feel they would not benefit professionally from such an assignment, and might actually be hurt career-wise if they were placed in units where they had little (if any) opportunity to exercise leadership, I believe this concept has merit.

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I'd like to recommend using the organization I recommended here:…

as the "cadre battalion" that would be added to a BCT.

It is organized a bit differently...teams instead of companies...but it is capable of essentially the same duties as the unit the authors describe.

gian gentile

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 6:57am

In reply to by major.rod


your last sentence nailed it. Although thought provoking this article is recommending to do just as you say, "fight the next war like the last one." More over I would say that in the years ahead we are going to have to make hard choices with regard to the future organization of the army. Why would we want to dedicate these personnel to an advisory cadre in each brigade? What is the bill payer, fewer functional companies in whatever kind of brigade this applies to? We need to focus on building combat organizations that can integrate effectively all arms in a decentralized fashion and that are premised on firepower, protection, and tactical and operational mobility. If we have brigades that can do this, then if policy demands a combat brigade to do some sort of fid, then it can easily shift in that direction.

The strategic guidance issued last week was right to highlight the importance of allies. But we should view this as fighting alongside of them and not necessarily training them (except for SF Fid which is what they are trained and optimized to do) as we have tried to do for the last 10 years in astan and iraq, at huge expense, and with very problematic results.

Lastly the army must move away from the notion of having "wide area security" as a core competency equal to "combined arms maneuver." Instead our core competency should be singularly the latter, because it is the latter that allows the army to do wide area security missions and anything else.

What is important here is laser like focus on what is important, and in the greater mix of things as well look to the years ahead, relatively speaking, an advisory cadre is not.


Mon, 01/09/2012 - 4:17am

How does this support the "regreening" of the Army?
How do leaders assigned to these units learn the skills needed to operate in advisory roles in a peacetime army let alone their parent branch (or are we talking about whole new MOS's)?
How do we sell to Congress keeping "excess" leaders around "just in case" we get into another war requiring a multiyear presence?

Some reflection on how the Army used a cadre approach to grow itself in the early WWII years might be helpful. This sounds like an idealistic concept not wargamed in a resource restrictive environment that will undoubtedly plague us in the coming years nor does it address how it may be a combat multiplier in other sorts of conflict and finally what leader's career paths would look like.

Great idea though if we fall into the old planning to fight the next war like the last one.