Army Undergoing Biggest Makeover since World War II

By Kennedy, Harold | National Defense, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Army Undergoing Biggest Makeover since World War II


Kennedy, Harold, National Defense


The U.S. Army has embarked upon what is described as its most important and controversial reorganization in decades in an effort to improve its ability to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while defending the home front.

If they take place as planned, the changes eventually will affect virtually every soldier in the service. Steps already under way or recently announced include:

* Transferring 60,000 to 70,000 service members--mostly Army--and 100,000 family members and civilian employees from Germany and South Korea back to the United States during the next decade.

* Reducing the number of large military installations particularly in Western Europe; replacing them with smaller, more austere bases in places closer to Middle Eastern trouble spots, and expanding facilities in the United States to accommodate returning soldiers.

* Restructuring the Army from a division-based force into one fi3cuscd on smaller, more rapidly deployable organizations that are called "brigade combat team units of action."

* Increasing the size of the active-duty component, which has an authorized strength of 482,400 soldiers, by at least 30,000 during the next three years.

* Strengthening the ability of National Guard components to play their assigned roles in frequent overseas deployments.

The politically sensitive changes reflect "a comprehensive review of America's global force posture, the numbers, types, locations and capabilities of U.S. forces around the world," according to President George W. Bush.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker called the reorganization "the most significant changes ... that we have made since World War II." In 1940, Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act, expanding the small, under-equipped standing Army into a mighty force that included millions of adult males.

At the end of the war, many U.S. servicemen and women remained in Europe and Asia, at first to help restore order and then to deter invasion by the Soviet Union, China and North Korea. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States cut these forces in half, from about 400,000 in 1990 to approximately 200,000 currently on permanent overseas assignments, said a recent Congressional Budget Office report. That number does not include forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army now stations 56,000 troops in Germany and 28,000 in South Korea. Under the Pentagon's plan, the two heavy divisions stationed in Germany--the 1st Infantry and the 1st Armored, both based at Wiesbaden--would returnto tothe United States and be replaced by a much smaller, more rapidly deployable Stryker Brigade.

This brigade will join V Corps, which is headquartered at Heidelberg. V Corps, the Army's contingency force for Europe and the Middle East, is being made more deployable, disclosed a senior Pentagon official, who requested not to be identified. Also, a battalion has been added to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which will remain based in Vicenza, Italy, he told reporters.

In addition, Pentagon officials intend to remove 12,500 service personnel, largely infantry soldiers, from South Korea. That process already may have begun. The Army has begun redeploying the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade from South Koreatocombat duty in Iraq. When the unit's tour in Iraq is complete, it is likely to return to the United States, not South Korea.

Troop reductions will be possible in South Korea--which continues to face a large conventional army in North Korea--because U.S. military capabilities in surrounding Pacific region are increasing to help compensate for the smaller number of forces actually in the country, a senior military official said. Also, the U.S. troops who remain will be consolidated south of Seoul, which makes them "a more credible fighting component," he said.

As troops depart for the United States, many of the bases they occupied will be shut down, a senior Defense Department official said. …

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