An army of nearly one million troops is necessary to accomplish the service’s current mission as prescribed by the U.S. national security strategy, the commission tasked with prescribing a future path for the Army says.
A total Army of 980,000 soldiers should consist of 450,000 active duty troops, a National Guard 335,000 strong and 195,000 troops in the Reserve, according to the final report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army. The 208-page report was released Thursday afternoon during a formal ceremony in downtown Washington, D.C.
The recommendation jibes with the Army’s 2016 budget request, which calls for a decrease in endstrength to 475,000 active duty soldiers and 540,000 reserve component troops. The service’s targeted endstrength is 450,000 active troops by the end of fiscal 2018 and 530,000 total soldiers for the Guard and Reserve by the end of fiscal 2017.
Those are the “absolute minimums to meet America’s national security objectives,” the report reads. It is the “minimally sufficient force to meet current and anticipated missions with an acceptable level of national risk.”
Even at that level, the commission identified significant modernization challenges for the future Army and capability gaps for the Army at present as it carries out various missions. Most alarming is a lack of short-range missile defense capabilities to counter the proliferation of relatively sophisticated missile technology by potential adversaries. Tactical cyber capabilities and aircraft modernization also rank among the Army is facing in the current global strategic environment, according to the report.
Sustaining an all-volunteer force of nearly a million soldiers while accomplishing the Army’s modernization needs will require budgets at or above the level requested in the fiscal year 2016 budget, the NCFA says.
The commission was formed by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act to suggest legislative and administrative options to optimize the service’s ability to perform anticipated mission requirements within its foreseen budget. It will remain active for 90 days following Thursday’s report launch to provide guidance to Congress, Army officials and senior Defense Department decision makers in hopes of guiding some of the 63 recommendations in the report to fruition, according to Commission Chairman retired Army four-star Gen. Carter Ham.
The commission was created almost entirely as a reaction to the Army’s plan to restructure its rotorcraft fleets by moving Boeing [BA] AH-64 Apache helicopters from reserve to active units while retiring entirely the Bell Helicopter [TXT] OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout, among other aircraft shuffling. The NCFA ultimately recommended a middle-road between the ARI and an alternative construct proffered by the National Guard.
Regarding force structure, the commission found that integration of the Army’s three components in operations, training and other programs was essential for the service’s future. The report is shot through with recommendations aimed at achieving a Total Force, or One Army construct.
The Army has lacked focus on multi-component units that “bring together capabilities from all components” into single units and allow greater fluidity for soldiers to transition between the active and reserve components.
More than 14 years of fighting alongside active component troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have fundamentally changed the mindset of soldiers in the reserve components, said Vice Chairman Thomas Lamont, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs from 2009 to 2013.
“We are one Army acting under integrated operational total-force policy,” Lamont said. “We will strive to maintain that in whatever we do.”
“We are not weekend warriors anymore,” Lamont, who long served in the Guard, added.
To implement the Total Force Policy, the commission called for continued, if not greater, reliance on the reserve components for strategic depth in future fights. That will involve standardizing Army programs and systems among the components and establishing multi-component units in all of the service’s formations, the commission recommends.
“If we’re going to be one Army, we have to do more to integrate programs across the three components,” said Commissioner and retired Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz. An example is the Army currently has three separate personnel and pay systems, one for each component. Stultz said the current system is unnecessarily complex, redundant and wasteful.
“Such units can improve readiness and capabilities if they can train together. Multicomponent units also offer opportunities for soldiers and leaders to learn how the components can best function together,” the report says.