Rapid Deployment has become a popular topic for Western military forces. Politicians want problems resolved quickly, but Generals must explain the problems of logistics and strategic lift, although most don't understand these topics themselves. For example, last year the U.S. Army announced plans to deploy a medium brigade from Fort Lewis to anywhere in the world in 96 hours; "fort to foxhole" was the sales slogan. However, if the Army performs a no notice exercise, it would find it difficult to deploy a brigade with sufficient supplies from Fort Lewis to nearby McChord Air Force base within 96 hours. It would also learn that the USAF is lucky to assemble enough transport aircraft to deploy a battalion within 96 hours.
The USA has about 16 active duty divisions (three marine, ten regular army, and three divisions worth of army brigades/groups). If modern seaports and airports are available and free of enemy fire, in the first 30 days the USA can deploy one airborne division (82nd), one armor division (3rd Mech), one marine division, and one armor (3rd ACR afloat) brigade. During the next 60 days, another two army divisions and marine division could be deployed; which is about the same rate as the 1990 rapid deployment to Saudi Arabia. At this point, most of the U.S. strategic lift must be devoted to sustaining these six divisions, along with supporting Navy and Air Force components. Deploying further forces depends on the combat demand for ammunition, local water-food-fuel availability, any nearby pre-positioned stocks, the potential to contract for additional sea and airlift, and the ability to keep old reserve sealift ships manned and running.
Deploying six divisions within 90 days is optimistic because without modern seaports and airports, the most the USA can deploy and support is one airborne and two marine divisions. This weakness persists because the U.S. Navy has no interest in transport ships, and the U.S. Air Force has little interest in air transport. The U.S. Army has recognized this problem and wants a huge increase in strategic lift to deploy a brigade in 4 days, a division in 7 days, and five divisions in 30 days. To meet these goals, the U.S. military will have to spend billions of dollars more each year to double its strategic lift. Therefore, the U.S. Army's top three procurement objectives should be more sealift, more airlift, and seaplanes; not light armored vehicles, stealth helicopters and computerized divisions.
Funding strategic lift falls outside the Army's budget, so it should negotiate a tradeoff with civilian leaders to cut two active divisions and 50,000 active duty troops if savings are used to buy 50 more transport ships, 100 more transport aircraft, and 200 CL-130 seaplanes. This would double the expeditionary power of the U.S. Army, but would require Generals to abandon their post-Cold war; "We're stretched to the limit" sales campaign. Despite the rhetoric about an over-tasked Army, a recent GAO report revealed that fewer than 5% of active-duty soldiers had been deployed to the Balkans. There are cases in which some soldiers are over-deployed, but that's a manpower management problem. If the U.S. Army shrunk from 470,000 to 420,000 active troops, it would have no problem keeping 14,000 in the Balkans, even without tasking reserve units, even assuming President Bush backs off his campaign promise to pull U.S. troops out. Cutting 50,000 troops will also help the Army's recruiting, retention, and housing problems.
Only one Army division is tied down to a specific mission (the 2nd Infantry in Korea), and they aren't needed there anyway (see January G2mil). Since it would take at least 120 days to deploy seven Army divisions, two of the ten regular divisions are clearly excess. In a "two-war" crisis, the Army can mobilize the 15 reserve "enhanced readiness" brigades to form five more divisions; six of these brigades already belong to active duty headquarters for the 7th and 24th divisions. These brigades are trained to be combat ready 90 days after mobilization, although regular Army Generals dismiss them as a threat to the active duty force. However, even the ridiculed 48th reserve brigade was declared combat-ready by active duty officers in 1991 after just 60 days of training.
It will take strong civilian leadership to force senior military officers to stop unprofessional games and reallocate resources to develop a rapidly deployable U.S. military. The U.S. Army should be the "bill payer" by cutting excess units and soldiers, while the U.S. Air Force would need additional manpower and funding for the airlift increase. The U.S. Navy would also need funds to double the number of ready sealift ships. The first step is to establish a squadron of roll-on/roll-off ships in the Tacoma area to rapidly deploy brigades from Fort Lewis, similar to the proven rapid deployment concept for the 3rd Mech division on the East coast.
The lack of strategic lift is the most important issue in the U.S. military today, but all you hear from the Pentagon are sales pitches for new expensive weapons, and stories about how units are over-deployed, which is just a game to justify force structure. Funding for strategic lift was added in recent years, but it only replaced older assets which were retired at the end of the Cold war. It's time for U.S. military leaders to stop playing politics and wasting money on excess active duty soldiers and start addressing the limits of rapid deployment.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
April 2001 Articles
have been returned to the Members Library
Letters - comments from G2mil readers
Guard Battalions - special "rearguard" units are needed
CL-130 Seaplanes - can land on 70% of the earth's surface
Diesel Tank Engines - are far superior to gas turbine engines
Landing Ship Tank - LSTs are vital power projection weapons
Gold-plated RAH-66 Comanche - a $40 million target
Airmobile Self-Propelled Artillery - truly mobile firepower
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All material in G2mil Copyright 2001 G2mil, patents pending on some items. Links to the index page (www.G2mil.com) are encouraged, other page names change often.