HQ Bloat, Combat Loss in US Army’s BCT Re-org?
One of the centerpieces of the US Army’s transformation plan has been its proposal to break down divisions into something called “Brigade Combat Teams.” The idea is that the US would be able to deploy the brigades with minimal support from higher-level HQ, something like the US Marine Corps’ pioneering MEUs. By expanding the number of brigades in the army, moving some dedicated support units into the BCTs, and increasing each brigade’s UAV, reconnaissance, and C4SI capabilities, the idea was that the US would effectively have more deployable combat units.
Now some studies prepared by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) on behalf of the Pentagon’s Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate make the case that the result will actually be something else: growth of HQ staff at the expense of combat troops, reducing maneuver batalions by 20% while growing headquarters by 11.5%. According to InsideDefense.com, the 8 studies also…
- Noted that the proposed battalion structure inside the brigades doesn’t fit with what US commanders have actually done in test exercises
- Did not believe that Combat commanders were not widely consulted or offered alternative structures to consider.
- Expressed concern that the resulting brigades may well prove fragile in mid-to-high intensity combat.
There are a number of elements to this debate, but a great deal hinges on the question of whether the brigade’s improved reconnaissance, organic support, and improved C4SI capabilities can make up for the eliminated maneuver battalion’s combat value.
These GlobalSecurity.org links re: the US Army’s BCTs and USMC MEUs offer readers a useful overview of the new concepts, the precise composition of the 3 BCT types, and how they all compare. Then head to this Military.com reprint for more details concerning the IDA reports, and the US Army’s take.