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Structuring the Total Force:
Push More Power Into Guard, Fund Modernization

Francis Greenlief
(Retired Maj. Gen. Francis Greenlief formerly served as the chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau.)

Obviously, the U.S. Army must maintain highly lethal forces to wage war in at least one, and possibly two, nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts (MRC), and also provide the mobile forces for peacekeeping missions. Considering the likelihood of a significant reduction in the active Army's manpower authorization in 1998, devising the best way to meet these mission requirements should receive immediate attention.

The Total Force concept, as first enunciated by former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, actually was derived from the Total Force planning processes employed for years in war and contingency planning by the United States and its allies. Laird, in his application of this established process, simply stated that providing for active force shortfalls by increasing the planned use of Guard and Reserve forces would enable the nation to maintain higher force levels at the same cost, or the same force levels at less cost.

But since the Total Force has been established as DoD policy, this approach has been distorted to the point that a reduction in active force levels is now considered justification for a proportionally equal, or an even greater, reduction in Guard and Reserve force levels -- a complete reversal of the original concept.

In Total Force war planning, the United States reduced its force commitments by not duplicating the military assets and special capabilities of its allies. Equally important, U.S. allies were not assigned responsibility for missions for which they were unsuited or unable to perform in an effective manner. Similar Total Force criteria should be applied today in allocating missions to the Guard and Reserve.

Mission characteristics must be taken into account. Obviously, a mission that requires a high tempo of day-to-day training to maintain the required proficiency, such as the physical conditioning of alert status special forces, is inappropriate for drilling units. Also, if the operational platform is in short supply or hugely expensive, such as a nuclear submarine, it is impractical to provide them for drilling units.

However, given the necessary tools, the Reserve components can perform most of the personnel-intensive missions exceptionally well -- more effectively than the parent services usually are prepared to admit.

Since the active Army has not provided itself with enough combat support and service units, it is unable to respond to the full spectrum of peacekeeping operations in areas such as Somalia and Bosnia without utilizing the National Guard and Reserve. In this respect, the Guard and Reserve have become part of the standing Army.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S. armed forces have been engaged in more than 50 operational missions. The number and frequency of these actions are accelerating, and Pentagon planners do not expect the demand for contingency operations to decrease over the next 10 to 15 years. Therefore, the active Army needs to become self-sufficient in support functions for these peacekeeping operations.

Exposing guardsmen and reservists to such frequent call-ups is unacceptable. It is not the purpose of the militia to be mobilized in times of peace. The National Guard also must respond to the state-directed domestic missions involving civil disorders and natural disasters. Failure to correct this situation not only ignores the sacrifices and dual responsibilities of the citizen-soldier, but it is also not cost-effective.

In terms of combat units, the Army force structure is much too large. Nearly 70 percent of the active Army's 10 divisions are in the continental United States. An article in the September 1996 issue of Naval Proceedings magazine reported that U.S. strategic lift assets will allow no more than five divisions to be deployed within the first 90 days.

With proper planning and preparation, the Army Guard divisions could be readied to respond, in the same time frame, to the second nearly simultaneous MRC scenario. For those who would cite the mobilization for Desert Storm as a reason to question the Army Guard's ability to meet this requirement, it should be remembered that the active Army units trained in the desert for five months before they were judged ready for combat.

The Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Va., recently concluded a study of the 49th Armored Division of the Texas Army National Guard. The study found, if properly resourced, Guard combat divisions are capable of rapid mobilization and deployment. Specifically, the division validated its readiness in 94 days, and was deployed in-theater in 132 days.

With no field manual on how to prepare a division for war, the 49th's officers wrote their own. Other preparatory measures were identified that could further reduce response times. This should give Guard combat units an appropriate role in the war plans for executing our national security strategy.

The ongoing, congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the follow-on efforts eventually will propose a force structure balance between fighting and winning wars and preventing them. With Defense Secretary William Cohen's report to the Congress in mid-May, and the National Defense Panel's critique of the QDR by December, the implementation of any substantial QDR-generated changes do not seem likely before 1999.

However, the necessary actions to correct the costly imbalances cited here seem to be in consonance with current QDR concepts.

For peacekeeping and low-level contingencies, one or more active Army divisions stationed in the continental United States could be converted to an elite force specifically designed to accomplish the missions in the so-called Spectrum of Peace. This force should be balanced, and self-supporting. It also must be highly mobile, air deliverable and equipped with appropriate state-of-the-art equipment. This type of force could meet the nation's peacetime goals.

The usual public relations ploy is for the Army to announce, for example, a cut of 60,000 troops. To the unwary, this sounds impressive until they learn that the active Army is only losing 15,000 while the Army Guard and Reserve the remaining 45,000. Such deceptive force reductions cost a lot of manpower, but recover few dollars.

The fundamental question is how to maintain a force structure capable of dealing with today's realities and still generate sufficient resources to invest in technologies crucial to tomorrow's battle. Reducing the total Army's manpower and eliminating force structure is not considered prudent until the QDR and the follow-up efforts complete a comprehensive examination of overall U.S. defense strategy, force structure and force modernization requirements.

However, realigning the Army's Total Force structure by moving more of the deployable combat power to the National Guard could save substantial amounts of the military personnel and operations and maintenance funds being spent to maintain the 4 divisions that cannot be moved to a conflict in less than 90 days.

This would go a long way toward providing the funds to finance essential Army modernization programs and still preserve its military capabilities despite severely constrained resources.

© Defense News, 1997
Reprint Courtesy of Defense News
Copyright by Army Times Publishing Company
Springfield, Virginia

Francis Greenlief, "Structuring the Total Force: Push More Power Into Guard, Fund Modernization," Defense News 21-27 July 1997, p. 37.

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