The Army in transition

The Editor’s younger daughter will be coming home tomorrow afternoon, and missing class on Friday, because this is a three-day Army Reserve drill weekend for her; her unit and she will be going to Fort Indiantown Gap for M-16 requalifications. Both of my daughters qualified as Sharpshooters1 the last time they were at the range, but you have to requalify every six months. It’s kind of a bad weekend for her to have drill, because her final exams are next week, but orders are orders.

Army Will Reshape Training, With Lessons From Special Forces


WASHINGTON — The Army is reshaping the way many soldiers are trained and deployed, with some conventional units to be placed officially under Special Operations commanders and others assigned to regions of the world viewed as emerging security risks, particularly in Africa.

The pending changes reflect an effort to institutionalize many of the successful tactics adopted ad hoc in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as the Army shrinks by 80,000 troops over the next five years, its top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno,2 also is seeking ways to assure that the land force is prepared for a broader set of missions — and in hot spots around the globe where few soldiers have deployed in the past.

General Odierno’s initiatives are a recognition that the role — and clout — of Special Operations forces is certain to grow over coming years, and senior Pentagon policy makers briefed on the plans say they are fully in keeping with the new military strategy announced early this year by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With cuts ordered in the Pentagon budget — and cognizant of public exhaustion with large overseas deployments — the military will focus on working with partner nations to increase their capabilities to deal with security threats within their borders. The goal would be to limit the footprint of most new overseas deployments. Those scenarios would reflect a shift from conventional forces to Special Operations forces, and General Odierno’s plans would increase the support of Army general-purpose units to those types of missions.

Much more at the link. This is a New York Times article, and unless you are a subscriber, you can view only ten articles per month3 for free.

General Odierno wrote, in Foreign Affairs:

The U.S. Army in a Time of Transition

Building a Flexible Force
By Raymond T. Odierno
May/June 2012

After six months as chief of staff, I can see clearly that the coming decade will be a vital period of transition for the U.S. Army. The service will have to adjust to three major changes: declining budgets, due to the country’s worsened fiscal situation; a shift in emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region; and a broadening of focus from counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and training of partners to shaping the strategic environment, preventing the outbreak of dangerous regional conflicts, and improving the army’s readiness to respond in force to a range of complex contingencies worldwide.


To ensure that declining budgets do not lead to shortfalls in training and equipment, the size of the active-duty force will have to be reduced. The reductions will be painful, but they are necessary and can be done responsibly. We must do our utmost to ensure that the soldiers leaving the force are treated fairly and that they and their families are provided with support to help them successfully transition to civilian life. We must also cut units as we cut soldiers, to prevent units from becoming undermanned and ineffective.

Although maintaining a smaller active-duty army will involve some risks, those risks will be less than some believe because of the changes that have taken place in the army in recent years. Today’s force is qualitatively different from the army of a decade ago. It is more combat seasoned, more tightly integrated with the other military services and with special operations forces, and more technologically advanced.

Today’s army also has an unprecedented level of integration between its active and its reserve components. The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve have stood shoulder to shoulder with active-duty troops around the globe, and the level of trust, respect, and mutual understanding between them is unparalleled in the army’s history. Our reserve component soldiers are better than they have ever been, and we will dedicate resources to ensure that some of them will be either deployed or ready to deploy around the globe.

This is a premium article in Foreign Affairs, so, naturally, unless you are a subscriber, you can’t read it. Or, at least you can’t read it on Foreign Affairs’ website; you can read the entire article on the Army website. :)

This is a fairly important shift in the structure of the Army, or at least it will be if actually implemented; the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, and his civilian command personnel, might well change in 8½ months, well before the training involved in General Odierno’s plans could be completed. But whether former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) takes over, or President Barack Obama is re-elected, there will be some contraction in the Army: the funds available for the Army, and for all branches of the Armed Forces, will be reduced. The Army will be relying more heavily on the Army Reserve forces, and have to put more resources into the training of Reserve units while still being able to reduce the number of soldiers who are being paid full-time.

American involvement in the war in Iraq is over, and President Obama just signed an agreement with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan which would have American troops out of Afghanistan by 2014, supposedly after al Qaeda has been destroyed, if the terrorists are kind enough to follow our timetable. In the meantime, President Obama said that the Administration has been in direct contact with the Taliban, and:

We’ve made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence, and abide by Afghan laws.

Why does your Editor have a feeling of deja vu, remembering how President Ronald Reagan deceived himself into thinking that there were “moderate” Iranians with whom he could negotiate? Well, that’s an article for another time, one that I’m hoping Yorkshire will write. :)

  1. Headquarters, Department of the Army: Rifle Marksmanship M16/ M4 Series Weapons. Note: this link is to a 408 page .pdf document.
  2. Link added by the Editor; not part of the Times’ original.
  3. Per computer

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