Where in the World is the US Army?

Brigadier General Daniel Kaufman
Dean of Academic Board, US Military Academy at West Point

October 16, 2002

Note: The opinions expressed below are those of the author only and do not represent the views of West Point, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

Today, I would like to address the state of the US Army. Specifically, I want to address the changes in Army budget and force structure, the underlying challenges facing the Army today, and the transformational capabilities planned for the future. Finally, I would like to comment on the strategic setting facing the Army—both around the world and within the Pentagon.

First, while the largest Service in terms of manpower, the Army consistently garners the smallest share of defense dollars relative to the other Services. In 1989, the US Army budget was 26.8% of the total budget, while, by 2007, the Army budget should total only 25.3% of the annual defense budget. In addition, over the 1989-2007 time frame, there also is significant growth in Defense-wide Agency budgets, which climb from 7% of the budget in 1989 to 16.0% in 2007.

In terms of the Army budget itself, the Army received $78B in FY2001. Of that, over $29B supports Personnel, nearly $28B pays for Operations and Maintenance (O&M), and nearly $11B supports Procurement. Ever since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of multiple, long duration contingencies overseas, the O&M accounts typically get first priority for resources—often at the expense on longer term investments in Procurement and Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation.

As for the size of the Army, the number of Active Army divisions fell by over 40% from 1989 - from 18 divisions then to 10 divisions now. In addition, the current Active divisions are really five different kinds of organizations (light infantry, airborne, air assault, mechanized, armored), which means little commonality across units. This lack of commonality makes efficiencies difficult to achieve and increases the costs of fielding, training, and equipping US ground forces. In addition, there are eight National Guard divisions and 15 Enhanced Separate Brigades that compliment the Active component. While the Active Army would desire fewer National Guard combat forces in favor additional Combat Support and Combat Service Support capabilities, the adroit political skills of the 54 Adjutant Generals and their supporting organizations make such a proposition difficult to foresee actually happening.

Four of the ten Active divisions are based outside the Continental US—two in Europe and two in the Pacific. Of the 480,000 total personnel in the Army, 300,000 are in operational units and represent the deployable core of the Army. The remaining 180,000 are people like me—personnel in non-deployable units, headquarters elements, training facilities, and the like.

In addition to these quantitative indicators, there are some institutional and operational factors to consider when examining the Army. First, there are critics that claim the Army is "too slow, too heavy, and too dumb" for today's world. While extreme, the critique does capture some of the changes confronting an Army long adapted to fighting the Cold War. While 50% of the Active Army used to be based in Europe to confront the Soviet threat, only 65,000 remain in Europe now—and many of those are supporting active contingencies in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Moreover, the equipment of the Army reflects a heavy, armor-centric Cold War posture, but the strategic environment is demanding Army capabilities more frequently and in ways quite different from the Cold War. For example, the Army still has over 7,000 M1 tanks and 7,000 M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles alone, and this legacy force is still supported by an "iron mountain" of supporting materiel. Based on the historical performance of the Army supply system, commanders still tend to horde spares when deployed and add to the overall deployment requirement for any mission. Symbolizing this, 75% of the containers shipped to Desert Storm were returned unopened.

In addition to legacy equipment, the Army is also challenged by high operations tempo. On any given day, an average of 29,000 personnel were deployed and over 124,000 personnel were based overseas in 110 countries. Deployments to the Sinai Peninsula (one battalion deployed since 1982), Bosnia, Kosovo, South West Asia, and Afghanistan have placed consistent demands on a shrinking force. Moreover, the Army maintains an extensive exercise and mil-to-mil contact program with nations around the globe. For instance, the Army component of only the Partnership for Peace program includes over 36 countries.

Given this baseline of force structure and internal considerations, what are the broader strategic challenges facing the Army? First, as alluded to earlier, there is a new strategic environment that does not suit the capabilities of a slow deploying, extremely heavy Army. Second, the political imperative of "transformation" demands a compelling story and a convincing case for the continued relevance of land forces.

Central to the Army's response to these challenges is the Transformation Campaign Plan. As mentioned earlier, today's Army consists of legacy forces, and these legacy forces will still be required as we modernize and transform the Army into a future force. Accordingly, the Legacy Force will be recapitalized and sustained over the near term. However, the Army recognizes that this is not the optimal force, and is implementing a two-track plan to transform our forces. First, the Interim Force, consisting of six brigades of Stryker wheeled combat vehicles, will support both a rapidly deployable combat force as well as a test bed for solving myriad technical and operational challenges. While the Legacy Force and the Interim Brigade Combat Teams will support near-term needs, the Army is also investing heavily in Science and Technology initiatives critical to fielding the Objective Force in the long term. Recognizing that the invulnerability of a heavy tank like the M1 is not optimal for many combat situations, the Objective Force will maximize the benefits of distributed combat systems that may separate the sensor, shooter, and decision-maker into three networked parts—not one large system.

However, the true character of the future Army will reflect the institutional setting of the Department of Defense. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 gave great power to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff while further diminishing the role of the Services in planning and strategy. Many current senior leaders in the Army are still not used to this new environment, reflecting their (and my own) initial experiences as young offices when the Army Chief of Staff had great authority—rather than only sitting below the Chairman and often the Vice Chairman of the JCS. Moreover, the Combatant Commanders now possess authority that extends far beyond the command of forces provided to them. In addition to theater war planning, these four star officers are influential in requirements and strategy development, as the Services become more focused on the core Title 10 functions of organizing, training, and equipping forces.

In addition to a powerful Joint Staff, the Army also "competes" with the more politically savvy Air Force and Navy. In particular, the Air Force is unified behind a compelling story of conflict that minimizes the number of people in harm's way. While the Army possesses the inherently dangerous mission of ground operations in major wars and/or peace operations, the Air Force posits a technological solution to these challenges in the form of long-range precision strike. In many ways, the Navy puts forward a similar strategic rationale. These risk-averse approaches of the Air Force and the Navy resonate with decision-makers in the Congress and the White House—and the Army is confronted with the challenge of balancing the strategic debate.

As the Army Transformation Campaign Plan clearly reflects, technology is and will be a central component of defense policy for the 21st century. Looking at the declining density of soldiers on the battlefield from Waterloo to Desert Storm, the Army recognizes that the era of massed ground attacks may be passing. However, the power to impose the will of the US on others is not a simple question of technology alone and will still require ground forces. Operations since the end of the Cold War support this proposition—the success or limited success of operations in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and Afghanistan have roots in the integration of boots on the ground.

What's in the future for the Army? Iraq, Afghanistan, and homeland security will all be short and long-term operational concerns. However, as an institution, the future of the Army profession also will require attention. In relation to air and naval forces, the Army needs to assure the proper role of land power in the national defense and maintain a principled voice in the defense debates of the future.

A graduate of the United States Military Academy, BG Kaufman also holds a Masters of Public Administration from John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His military education includes completion of the Airborne, Ranger, and Jump Master Schools, the Armor Officers Advanced and Basic Courses, and the Armed Forces Staff College. Prior to BG Kaufman's appointment as the eleventh Dean of the Academic Board at the United States Military Academy, he was the Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences.

His military service includes tours with cavalry and armor units in the United States and Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star for heroism and two Purple Hearts for wounds inflicted during combat. He has also served as a member of the National Security Council staff and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Most recently, BG Kaufman served as a Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army. He was also a member of President Clinton's Transition Team for the Department of Defense.

Rapporteur: Oliver Fritz

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