Leaders Outline Force Structure Changes

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

TACOMA, Wash., March 11, 2006  - The U.S. faces a new enemy and must adopt a new operational approach that focuses on joint operations and irregular warfare, military leaders said here yesterday.

At the Pacific Northwest National Security Forum, leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps explained changes being made in their forces to better meet the changing landscape of the 21st century battlefield.

All the leaders emphasized that the war on terrorism is essentially a conflict of ideas that cannot be solved with traditional operational concepts. To meet the irregular threat, each service is changing in unique ways to become more effective.

Fundamental to the Army's transformation is the idea that a hybrid mix of forces is needed for the future, said Army Maj. Gen. David A. Fastabend, deputy director and chief of staff of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. "The worst thing we could do right now is try to make a choice between light and heavy (forces) ... because the future is unpredictable," Fastabend said.

The Army is building a force with a mixture of brigade types to ensure there are no vulnerabilities the enemy can attack, Fastabend said. Heavy brigade combat teams, infantry brigade combat teams, Stryker brigade combat teams and light brigades are available to be mixed together to best fight in whatever environment the Army finds itself in, he said.

The Army also is increasing its number of brigades and the mix of active-duty and reserve forces to help sustain the intense pace of deployments, Fastabend said. "We're going from the big war, big mobilization model to 'you're at war forever,' so everybody's on a cycle," he said.

The Air Force also is changing its structure to better address the global war on terror, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Ronald J. Bath, special assistant to the Air Force vice chief of staff.

The Air Force, like the Army, has to balance its reserve and National Guard forces with its active-duty forces to ensure deployment cycles are balanced and resources are being used properly, Bath said.

The Defense Department has been drawing down its air forces since 1990 and by 2024 will have reduced them by 42 percent, Bath said. The force that's left will be completely embedded in a single, more advanced weapons system, he said. "We're trying to get smaller while we have more capability," he said. "The capability will increase."

The Air Force is more than deployable forces, Bath said, pointing out the importance of strategic airlift, tankers and missile and space wings. While balancing funds and priorities, these combat enablers will not be forgotten, he said. "All of these make that stuff that goes forward combat-ready," he said.

The Navy has the expeditionary model of warfare ingrained in its culture, but it is far from perfect and is also looking at major changes in the future, said Navy Rear Adm. Peter H. Daly, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11.

More than ever, the Navy is recognizing the importance of sea power, Daly said. People tend to assume ships at sea will be unmolested by enemies, he said, but the amount Americans depend on the sea requires leaders to be more vigilant.

"The fact is, is that a huge proportion of U.S. trade -- over 90 percent -- travels by sea," he said. "(About) 2.2 billion people in this world live 100 kilometers from the shore. Fifty thousand tankers out there carry 60 percent of our oil, and if we had to live without it, we'd be having a very, very bad day."

Americans shouldn't have to worry about the maritime environment, and that's where the Navy comes in, Daly said. But the key to the Navy's success is cooperation and help from partners inside and outside the U.S., he said. "For the first time, we're seeing synergy with other nations that we've talked about having for 10 or 15 years," he said.

The international community is coming together to deal with maritime issues like piracy, illegal drugs, human smuggling, weapons of mass destruction, and environmental issues, Daly said. It's sometimes hard to match the capabilities of the U.S. Navy with other countries, but cooperation is important, so Navy leaders have been developing partnerships and trying to increase other nations' capabilities, he said.

The Navy also is shifting from doing mostly sea-based operations to other areas, Daly said. In the Central Command area of operations, 10,000 Navy personnel are on the ground, performing missions such as detainee operations, air ambulance support, provincial reconstruction teams, and intelligence operations, he said. The Navy also is expanding its ability to do expeditionary operations, such as river operations, and civil affairs, he said.

The Marine Corps will be partnering with the Navy to provide an important joint capability to all the services, said Marine Col. Timothy C. Hanifen, director of the capability development directorate at Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Sea-basing is a naval and national capability that will give the U.S. an option to enter an area when access to air bases or ports is not available, Hanifen said. A Marine pre-positioning force will join with an amphibious force to form a sea base from which personnel and equipment can be flown to an advance base, he said. This will be an important capability to make the force even more versatile to meet the changing threats of the 21st century, he said.

The Marine Corps is making other changes to better meet future threats, Hanifen said. Training for small unit leaders will be expanded to include calling in artillery and air support, going on long-range patrols and making tactical decisions, he said. Cultural and language training is being given to Marines now, he said, and the Marine Corps is undergoing some force structure changes, such as the addition of Marines Special Operations Command and foreign military training units.

Hanifen emphasized that as the Marine Corps and other services change, the most important thing for leaders to remember is that everyone has to work together to win in the war on terror. "We all have a joint perspective," he said. "We know that the nation fights and wins with joint forces."