With a resurgent Russia and China threatening U.S. and Western interests around the world, the military must adapt accordingly to address the threat. Part of this process is the reformation of the U.S. Army to a more modern and efficient fighting force.
For close to two decades, the Army has operated based on the concept of the brigade combat team (BCT), which was well suited for counterinsurgency operations. As warfare refocuses on state-level conflicts, however, the Army is seeking to adapt to meet any possible threats. Although effective against guerrillas and very flexible, the BCT concept is inadequate in the face of dozens of Chinese divisions, for example. Such scenarios would necessitate organizational and support echelons larger than a mere brigade can provide.
According to Lieutenant General Eric Wesley, the director of the Futures and Concepts Center, “There is going to be a fundamental change in the organizational structure to fight the way we are describing.”
The Army’s Future and Concepts Center is responsible for designing how the Army will operate in the next 15-plus years. Analyzing current and future military and geopolitical trends, the center develops concepts, establishes requirements, and conducts extensive wargaming and experimentation to determine the best course for the Army.
“You will see us seek to build out echelons above brigade—the division, the corps, even potentially a field army— to get into theater that can manage these theater problems that otherwise wouldn’t be achieved,” added Lt. Gen. Wesley.
The director of the Futures and Concepts Center emphasized the requirement for bigger formations by citing the new technology that Army units have been or will be getting. “When you talk about long-range precision fires, for example, having an appropriate theater fires command. When you talk about air-and-missile defense and first unit equipped, what kind of force structure do we have to enable that? And it can’t just be at the brigade level, it has to transcend echelons,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Wesley also wants more troops to be forward deployed to be able to deal with contingencies more rapidly, highlighting the strategic desire for a proactive, rather than reactive, force.
“The National Defense Strategy talks about the contact and blunt forces. Contact are those that are in theater all the time—either rotational or permanent—and blunt are those that can rapidly move into theater as necessary,” added Lt. Gen. Wesley. “You have to have contact forces. What we are working on is how to optimize what that balance is. You have to have headquarters and fires commands and that can be a deterrent effect immediately.”