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Army Structure Memorandum - October 2015

The Army Structure Memorandum for fiscal years 2018 through 2022 documents the service’s most recent force structure decisions. During the the determination of organizational authorizations, the Army undertakes its annual Total Army Analysis (TAA) process, during which it determines how it will allocate its end strength among its units and manage risk.

  • Operating Forces: Those force whose primary mission is to participate in combat. Operating force units comprise combat forces and enabler forces.
  • Combat Forces: The Army’s combat units are responsible for fighting enemy forces in a contested environment and include the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams (Armored, Infantry, and Stryker) and combat aviation brigades.
  • Enabler Forces: Units that provide support to the Army’s combat units when they are deployed. They often provide critical support in early deployment (such as port opening), as well as for long-term sustainment (such as those that transport supplies or establish bases from which combat units can operate). Combat units are dependent on enabler units for long-term sustainment in theater and the Army generally deploys both types of units to meet operational demands.
  • Generating Force: Army organizations whose primary mission is to generate and sustain the operating force, including the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command—which oversees the Army’s recruiting, training, and capability development efforts—and Army Medical Command—which provides health and medical care for Army personnel.
  • Trainees, Transients, Holdees, and Students: Active component soldiers not assigned to units are counted as part of the Army’s end strength, separately from its operating force and generating force. Soldiers in these accounts include soldiers in training, cadets attending military academies, injured soldiers, or soldiers en route to a new permanent duty station.
In 2013, the Secretary of Defense announced the conclusion of the department-wide Strategic Choices and Management Review. As part of this review, DOD examined ways to obtain cost savings by altering the Army’s future force structure.22 According to Army officials, the Secretary of Defense’s review had, at one point, considered whether the Army could reduce its end strength to 855,000, which would correspond with a force structure of 36 BCTs, including 18 in the regular Army and 18 in the reserve component.

Army leaders, reacting to what they considered to be unacceptable reductions, commissioned analyses to determine the end strength and number of BCTs the Army needed to execute the missions specified in defense planning guidance. The analysis determined that the Army should retain a minimum of 52 BCTs, including 30 in the active component, in order to best meet the missions specified in defense planning guidance. Ultimately, Army senior leaders decided to retain 56 BCTs based in part on these analyses as well as their assessment of global events and the potential for increased demand for BCTs.

In retaining 56 BCTs in its force structure, the Army took additional steps to redesign its force, reflecting its priority to retain combat capacity. Specifically, the Army plans to eliminate 17 BCTs from its force structure relative to its fiscal year 2011 force (a 23 percent reduction in the number of BCTs). However, because the Army decided to redesign its BCTs by increasing its composition from a two maneuver battalion to three battalion formation, the Army estimates that it will be able to retain 170 maneuver battalions in its force structure — a net reduction of 3 battalions compared to fiscal year 2011 (less than 2 percent.

The Army prioritized retaining combat units, as well as other segments of its force structure, when planning to reduce its end strength to 980,000 soldiers and as a result will take proportionately more position reductions from its enabler units. In fiscal year 2011 enabler unit positions constituted 42 percent of the Army’s planned end strength (470,000 positions), but the Army intends for 44 percent of its reductions (58,000 positions) to come from its enablers. In contrast, the Army’s combat units constitute 29 percent of the Army’s end strength (319,000 positions), but will account for 22 percent of the planned reductions (29,000 positions).

During the 2000s Army plans and efforts to redesign its combat force, an effort known as “modularity”, persistently experienced shortfalls for both key enabler equipment and personnel as it restructured its combat units into brigade combat teams.

Army officials, based on senior leaders’ professional military judgment, decided that concentrating reductions in enabler units was more acceptable than further reducing the Army’s combat units because combat unit shortfalls are more challenging to resolve than enabler unit shortfalls. Prior Army analysis showed that it would take a minimum of 32 months to build an Armored BCT. The Army cannot contract for combat capabilities in the event of a shortfall in BCTs. In contrast, some types of enabler units could be built in as few as 9 months. Additionally, the Army has successfully contracted for enabler capabilities during recent conflicts.

The Army assumed active component enabler units could be deployed indefinitely, which may overstate their availability unless the Secretary of Defense authorizes indefinite operational deployment. Similarly, the Army assumed that it could deploy its reserve component enabler units more frequently than DOD’s current policy allows.

Net Reduction in Combat Battalions

Component / UnitFy2011Fy2017Fy2017
Change (%)
Active Component
Armored BCT: Combined Arms Battalions4127-14-34%
Infantry BCT: Infantry Battalions4041 #13%
Stryker BCT: Stryker Battalions1821317%
Active Component Total9989-10-10%
Reserve Component
Armored BCT: Combined Arms Battalions1715-2-12%
Infantry BCT: Infantry Battalions *5460611%
Stryker BCT: Stryker Battalions363100%
Reserve Component Total7481710%
Total Number of Battalions173170-3-2%
  • Source: Department of the Army. | GAO-16-327
  • # - Army officials said that this includes two Infantry Battalion Task Forces, which are converted Infantry BCTs.
  • * - All of the Army’s reserve component infantry battalions reside in the Army National Guard except for one which resides in the U.S. Army Reserve.
  • Note: The percentages shown are approximate due to rounding

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    Page last modified: 14-04-2016 20:07:53 ZULU