Brigade Combat Team

Brigade Unit of Action

Boots on the Ground - Active
Boots on the Ground - ARNG

As of 2017, Army leadership said just three of the 58 brigades [includng National Guard] would be ready to deploy. When we say fight tonight, that means that unit needs no additional people, no additional training, and no additional equipment. And three is where we're at today, said Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Armys vice chief of staff 07 February 2017. According to the general, about one-third of the 58 BCTs in the Army were deemed ready, but only three of those could be called upon to fight tonight in the event of a crisis. The rest would require about 30 days to prepare.

As part of the BCT 2020 model, the U.S. Army made the decision to inactivate 10 brigade combat teams, or BCTs, one of those being the 4th BCT. The Army announced 25 June 2013 that 10 brigade combat teams based in the United States are slated to be reorganized by the end of fiscal year 2017. These changes reduced the number of BCTs in the Army from 45 to 33.

As part of the conversion of the US Army to the new modular force structure, the Secretary of Defense approved an increase in the number of active modular Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) from 33 to 43 on 30 January 2004. The Army intended to increase the number of Active Component brigades from 33 to 43 by FY07, at which time the Army would decide whether to continue the process to achieve 48 brigades. It was expected that that further increase would be achieved by establishing 5 separate brigades. The decision to implement resourcing of final 5 Unit of Actions was subject to operational necessity and Office of Secretary of Defense approval. If these changes was implemented, the new units would include one additional heavy brigade for the 1st Armored Division, one additional heavy mechanized brigade for the 1st Infantry Division, 2 additional brigades for the 2nd Infantry Division, and an additional separate Airborne / Air Assault brigade to be stationed in Alaska.

During the same time period, Army National Guard Brigades was to reorganize into 34 brigade-size units using the same modular design as the Active Component. This would entail standing down 4 existing brigades, and increasing the number of so-called "Enhanced" brigades, with a higher readiness standard, from 15 to 22. It appeared initially that separate brigades were destined to be stood down, while the strategic brigades were to be retained. The end state would consist of 32 Brigade units of action (22 light and 10 heavy), 1 Stryker brigade combat team, and 1 scout group. In the end, the decision was made to convert the scout group into a new modular battlefield surveillance brigade, a replacement for tactical military intelligence brigades.

On 27 July 2005, the Department of the Army announced the locations for the active component modular Brigade Combat Teams. The modular design and their stationing were both critical to ensure the Army was properly postured to maintain the high degree of readiness needed to meet its strategic commitments, including ongoing operations globally in the war on terror. The decisions implemented the Defense Department's Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy (IGPBS) recommendations, which were intended to allow the Army to return up to 50,000 soldiers from overseas locations by the end of the decade. Two key recommendations of the global force presence realignment decisions included the return of the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley, Kansas and the relocation of the 1st Armored Division to Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Infantry Division was to return in FY06 and the timing for the return of the 1st Armored Division was initially under review. By this the mid-2000s, the "Brigade Combat Team" moniker had also begun to replace the developmental term "Unit of Action."

By the end of FY06 the Army was also expecting to have stood up its first Future Force Unit of Action. This would be a brigade headquarters and at least one combat battalion, and would be equipped with Future Combat System (FCS) prototypes. That unit would become the central point of experimentation. 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division was subsequently activated and designated as the Army Evaluation Task Force (AETF). In 2009, the decision was made to terminate the FCS program and the AETF was refocused to work on other future improvements to the existing brigade structure. In 2010, 5th Brigade, 1st Armored Division was inactivated and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division assumed the AETF mission as part of the Army's Brigade Modernization Command.

The major elements of the 1st Infantry Division returned to the United States between 2006 and 2007. The 1st Armored Division's major elements had all returned to the United States by 2010. By 2010, all of the Army's active 10 divisions had activated a fourth brigade as per the modular force structure. Two additional separate brigades had also been activated in Germany by that time, but both had been inactivated by 2012. The cavalry regiment organization under the modular force structure had become essentially identical to the modular brigade combat team. By 2012, the remaining maneuver cavalry regiments were effectively Stryker-equipped brigade combat teams and the term "Heavy Brigade Combat Team" (HBCT) had been replaced by "Armored Brigade Combat Team" (ABCT). In 2012, the US Army also reactivated the 7th Infantry Division Headquarters at Fort Lewis, Washington to provide administrative control for the elements of the 2nd Infantry Division not forward deployed and other elements at that location.

On 25 June 2013, the Department of the Army announced force structure and stationing decisions associated with the active component end-strength reduction of 80,000 soldiers, resulting in an Army end-strength of 490,000 by 2017. These reductions were consistent with fiscal constraints resulting from the Budget Control Act of 2011 and defense planning guidance issued in 2012, but did not reflect additional reductions that could be required if sequestration-driven funding reductions remained unmitigated. Based on extensive analysis, the lessons of a dozen years of combat and the need to increase operational capability and flexibility, the Army would make the following changes to its force structure: Reorganize infantry and armored BCTs to restore the third maneuver battalion and increase engineer and fires capability; reduce active component BCTs from 45 modular to 33 reorganized BCTs; and continue growth in aviation, special operations, missile defense and cyber capabilities.

The active component force structure announced in June 2013, in conjunction with Army National Guard and Army Reserve capabilities, supported the existing defense strategy and met combatant command requirements through regional alignment of forces and global responsiveness for contingencies. The decision to restructure armor and infantry BCTs helped mitigate the loss of BCTs by eliminating the headquarters but preserving 13 armor and infantry battalions that would be lost without the reorganization. The result would be a net increase in maneuver battalions.

Stationing decisions necessitated by the reductions and reorganization announced in June 2013 were based on a comprehensive analysis of installation quantitative and qualitative considerations to include training, power projection, well-being, expansibility, regeneration, geographic distribution, environmental and socio-economic impacts, cost, and alignment with the defense strategy. Opportunities for community input were included through both the programmatic environment assessment public comment period and community listening sessions conducted in parallel with the military value analysis and qualitative stationing analysis, prior to the final decision. Based on this comprehensive analysis, under the proposed force structure plan, a BCT would inactivate at each of the following locations by 2017: Fort Bliss, Texas (1st Armored Division); Fort Bragg, North Carolina (82nd Airborne Division); Fort Campbell, Kentucky (101st Airborne Division); Fort Carson, Colorado (4th Infantry Division); Fort Drum, New York (10th Mountain Division); Fort Hood, Texas (1st Cavalry Division); Fort Knox, Kentucky (1st Infantry Division); Fort Riley, Kansas (1st Infantry Division); Fort Stewart, Georgia (3rd Infantry Division); and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington (2nd Infantry Division). The 2 legacy Heavy Brigade Combat Teams (170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades) stationed at Baumholder and Grafenwoehr, Germany, would complete their inactivation in FY13 (their headquarters had already been inactivated by January 2013), leaving 2 BCTs (2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade) in Europe to fulfill strategic commitments.

The reduction of 80,000 soldiers from the force represented a 14 percent reduction across the Active Component force. The specific impacts of these decisions on individual installations were provided to affected Congressional delegations as part of the June 2013 announcement. The Army would conduct Congressional notification in accordance with Section 993, Title 10 U.S.C. prior to taking any irrevocable actions to implement these decisions.

Infantry Brigade Combat Team Stryker Brigade Combat Team Armored Brigade Combat Team Airborne Brigade Combat Team Air Assault Brigade Combat Team Inactive
Active Component
OPFOR 1-4th Infantry 1-509th Infantry 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
Separate Brigade 170th Infantry Brigade1 172nd Infantry Brigade1 173rd Airborne BCT4
Cavalry Regiment 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment4 3rd Stryker Cavalry Regiment
1st Armor Division 1st SBCT 2nd ABCT2 3rd BCT 4th ABCT 5th BCT2
1st Cavalry Division 1st ABCT 2nd ABCT 3rd ABCT 4th ABCT 5th Brigade3
1st Infantry Division 1st ABCT 2nd ABCT 3rd BCT 4th BCT
2nd Infantry Division 1st ABCT4 2nd SBCT 3rd SBCT 4th SBCT 5th SBCT
3rd Infantry Division 1st ABCT 2nd ABCT 3rd ABCT 4th BCT
4th Infantry Division 1st ABCT 2nd ABCT 3rd ABCT 4th BCT
10th Mountain Division 1st BCT 2nd BCT 3rd BCT 4th BCT
25th Infantry Division 1st SBCT 2nd SBCT 3rd BCT 4th Airborne BCT
82nd Airborne Division 1st BCT 2nd BCT 3rd BCT 4th BCT
101st Airborne Division 1st BCT 2nd BCT 3rd BCT 4th BCT
  • 1 - Legacy Heavy Brigade Combat Team
  • 2 - Army Evaluation Task Force
  • 3 - Provisional
  • 4 - Forward Deployed
Army National Guard
28th Infantry Division 2nd BCT 53rd BCT 55th BCT 56th SBCT
29th Infantry Division 116th BCT 58th BCT 30th ABCT 92nd BCT
34th Infantry Division 1st ABCT 2nd BCT 32nd BCT 116th CavBCT
35th Infantry Division 33rd BCT 39th BCT 48th BCT
36th Infantry Division 56th CavBCT 72nd BCT 45th BCT 256th BCT 155th ABCT
38th Infantry Division 37th BCT 76th BCT 278th ACR
40th Infantry Division 29th BCT 40th BCT 41st BCT 207th BCT 81st ABCT
42nd Infantry Division 27th BCT 50th BCT 86th BCT

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 09-03-2017 19:22:33 ZULU