Academic journal article Military Review

The Modular Army

Academic journal article Military Review

The Modular Army

Article excerpt

We deliver relevant and ready land combat power to the combatant commanders and the joint team. . . . Our Army must move toward modular capabilities-based unit designs, nested within the joint networks, and enabled by a joint expeditionary mindset.

-CSA General Peter J. Schoomaker1

CHIEF OF STAFF of the Army General Peter J. Schoomaker's vision for the Army's Current and Future Forces provides the joint force commander a campaign-quality Army that will dominate this century's highly complex, uncertain, and dynamic security environments. To do so the Army will reorganize its combat and institutional organizations to best meet the needs and requirements operating today and tomorrow.

The Army seeks to solve the organizational design dilemma by retaining the advantages of relatively fixed structures as the basis for tailoring the force while furthering a commander's ability to creatively reorganize it to meet specific tasks. To achieve strategic responsiveness, deployability, modularity, and tailorability, the Army needs self-contained combined arms units smaller than current divisions. Now might be the time for the Army to break free of old concepts and refocus on its previous traditional tactical echelon-the brigade -to restructure the Army for the 21st century.

Employing modular, capabilities-based units for rapid packaging into lethal forces for sustained employment by combatant commanders requires the Army to create modular brigade units of action (UA). As the basic combined arms building block for force projection, the UA is smaller and more agile than divisions.

The Army's organizational design for ground combat has historically swung back and forth from totally fixed structures to totally ad hoc organizations. (See figure 1.) The challenge of organizational design is to maintain the advantages of relatively fixed organizations (strategic deployment, sustainment, and joint planning) while providing creative opportunities for adaptive, flexible task organization.

During the 1990s, strategists viewed units smaller than a division as the basis for information age or third-wave warfare. In War and Antiwar, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler describe their organizational concept for future warfare: "Until recently the 10,000- 18,000-man division was thought to be the smallest combat unit capable of operating on its own for a sustained period.... But the day is approaching when a capital-intensive Third Wave brigade of 4,000-5,000 troops may be able to do what it took a full-size division to do in the past."2

In 1997, U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor advocated a new organizational approach in his controversial book Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century.3 He suggested "reorganizing the Army into mobile combat groups [4,000-5,000 personnel]" because units "smaller than the contemporary Army division will have to operate independently for long periods of time."4

Schoomaker, Macgregor, and the Tofflers believe that the brigade, not the division, might be the primary unit of ground combat in future warfare. Separate brigades have officially existed since the implementation of the Reorganization Objectives Army Division in the early 1960s, but independent combined arms brigades capable of decisive action existed much earlier in the form of combined arms tactical units smaller than a division but larger than a regiment or battalion.

Early Brigades

Since 1776, the Army has often exercised the operational doctrine of employing elements smaller than a division on independent missions. During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington (who had been a colonial militia brigade commander in the French and Indian War) made the brigade the basic maneuver element of the Continental Army.

After taking command of the rebel army at Boston in 1775, Washington imposed greater organizational flexibility and control by introducing divisions and brigades as administrative echelons between his headquarters and the regiments. …

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