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Major Theater War Readiness

Readiness is a product of many factors, including high-quality officers and enlisted personnel, full staffing by active troops, extensive training and exercises, well-maintained weapons, efficient procedures, and the capacity to operate at a fast tempo. Because US forces emphasize all these factors, they have higher overall readiness than any other forces in the world. The consequences on the battlefield are immense. Air Force and Navy pilots conduct training missions at an average of 220 hours per year. The NATO average is 170 hours. Air forces of potential enemies often train only about 50 hours per year. US pilots are far better at flying the full spectrum of air missions and thus better prepared to win the air battle decisively. A US Army heavy division can fire over 1,000 tons of ammunition per day, and its battalions can perform complex combined-arms operations at a high tempo. A typical enemy division might be able to fire and operate at only half this rate.

Air Combat Command standards require experienced F-16 pilots [with more than 500 hours of F-16 flying time] to have at least 60 training sorties annually to be basic mission-capable, and at least 96 training sorties a year to be combat mission-ready. Pilots with fewer than 500 flying hours require about 120 training sorties per year to achieve the same mission-capable status. A typical training sortie lasts about 80 minutes.

The pace of peacetime operations has a major impact on service members. The Army's goal is no more than 120 days away from home per unit per year. The Navy uses three criteria: no continuous deployment longer than six months; at least a two-to-one turn around time in homeport between deployments; and a goal of 50 percent of the time in homeport over a five-year period. The Marine Corps limits deployment away from home station to no more than 180 days per year, averaged over three years. The Air Force goal is for individual airmen to spend no more than 120 days away from home base per year. The Air Force has also reduced the length of Southwest Asia (SWA) flying unit deployments from 90 to 45 days to better manage tempo.

The Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) communicates the readiness and capability. The JCS has developed capabilities levels (C-Levels) that are defined in qualitative terms and derived through quantitative criteria. The Defense Department does not attempt to keep all active units at the C-1 level. Instead, units are assigned a C-level goal consistent with their intended mission during a contingency. For example, units slated to deploy in the initial days of a contingency are directed to maintain themselves at a C-1 readiness level, while units deploying later might be assigned a C-2 or C-3 standard. C-levels indicate capability of performing wartime missions. There are five categories as follows:

    C-1. Unit possesses the required resources and is trained to undertake the full wartime mission. One should not be C-1 rated unless they know their potential destination and have properly planned for potential threats accordingly.
    C-2. Unit possesses the resources and has accomplished the training necessary to undertake the bulk of the wartime mission. One is trained and has most equipment but lacks knowledge and preparation for the potential destination.
    C-3. Unit possesses the resources but has only accomplished the training necessary to undertake major portions of wartime missions. The training accomplished fulfills the required areas of combat medicine but has not been tailored to a real world situation. Essential equipment is lacking.
    C-4. Unit requires additional resources or training to undertake its mission. Definitely not ready at any level and cannot fulfill the mission in the event of war. Will take some time to be trained and equipped.
    C-5. Unit is undergoing a service-directed resource change and is not prepared. Troops are neither trained nor has required gear been issued. Total unpreparedness.

These comprehensive metrics assess a number of factors affecting the overall readiness of a unit: personnel readiness, manning levels, the amount of equipment issued to a unit and the state of the equipment's maintenance, and the state of the unit's training. The highest readiness rating is C-1; this means that a unit is ready at the time of the rating to deploy and perform its mission. The lowest rating acceptable for an active unit ordinarily is C-3; this means that the unit requires additional training time, as well as additional equipment and personnel, to deploy and perform its mission.

The Department of Defense, through the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), specifies the resourcing levels applied to various echelons and units, based on deployment guidelines. The Army views tiered resourcing as a function of prioritization in recognition of a constrained resource environment. Tiered resourcing provides the Army a unique plan in supporting its Reserve components in support of "first to fight" forces.

Forward-deployed forces are available immediately for employment or repositioning. Naval Reserve units, elements of units, and individuals are separated into categories of Crisis Response-Immediate (CR-I) or Crisis Response-Delayed (CR-D). These categories are assigned, regardless of the unit's status, as combat or combat support. As participating reservists, members assigned to Reserve billets designated CR-I are required to meet the same qualifications as their Active duty counterparts. These CR-I designated units maintain 100 percent readiness and are prepared to deploy within 14 days of any mobilization. Certain units and individuals not required for immediate deployment will be less than 100 percent ready and are designated CR-D. Mobilization times for ships in Inactive Ship facilities and the National Defense Reserve Fleet are sufficiently long that they will be available only in a crisis that has a lead time in excess of 180 days.

Marine forces are deployed as fully integrated MAGTFs of different sizes, all of which are task-organized, combined arms forces consisting of air, ground, and combat service support units. MAGTFs come in four sizes: Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), Marine Expeditionary Force-Forward (MEF-FWD), Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and Special Purpose MAGTF (SPMAGTF). Each MEF-FWD is capable of limited independent combat operations and can sustain itself for 30 days. A MEU is normally forward-deployed aboard amphibious shipping as part of the fleet and carries sustainment for 15 days. However, an MEU can be formed on short notice and deployed by air. The SPMAGTF deploys by air or sea depending on the mission, the wishes of the CINC, and the size of the force. Presuming well constructed training plans and inclusive of ancillary support such as training personnel, facilities, and gunnery ranges, the Marine Corps Reserve requires a minimum of 14 days of training and mobilization support before sending combat units into a combat situation. Four to 14 days for members/units of combat service or combat service support (4th Force Service Support Group and 4th Marine Aircraft Wing support squadrons) would be required before going into a combat situation.

Air Force units in the Active Force and Selected Reserve are programmed, budgeted, and trained to be ready to deploy within 72 hours after notification. Some units can deploy earlier. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve forces do not require a training period before going into combat. While all Air Force units are allowed up to 48 hours to prepare for deployment, the Air National Guard is allowed an additional 24 hours for personnel recall and mobilization processing. All Air National Guard forces are capable of deploying within 72 hours notification.

Army National Guard combat units can be available for deployment anywhere from 14 through 90 days. An Army enhanced heavy or light brigade could be ready in 90 days or less while a Force Package I or II combat unit, aviation or field artillery unit, could be available in a minimum of 14 days. The fifteen ARNG enhanced Separate Brigades (eSBs) are the Army's principle reserve ground combat maneuver forces and are fully integrated into the two MTW scenarios. On the other end of the spectrum, an Army National Guard division will require considerably more time for deployment due to the complexity of battlefield operating system (BOS) integration, the synchronization brigade maneuver, and the vast amount of resources needed to support a division deployment. The QDR accelerated the pace for the Army National Guard Division Redesign program, converting lower priority combat brigades into higher priority CS/CSS forces.

The 218 ARNG units designated in the Force Support Package (FSP) are the highest priority units for the Army National Guard. Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) units primarily comprise the Guard's FSP roster. Consistent with the National Military Strategy, these units are doctrinally aligned to support the nearly two simultaneous Major Theater War (MTW) strategy. They feature one full and one partial corps HQ, one theater element, and one theater opening element. The FSP is divided into two Packages: FSP 1 supports 5 1/3 divisions, one full corps HQs and one theater element and FSP 2 supports the remaining crisis response forces.

Although readiness remains a top priority, not all Army units, active or Reserve, are resourced to the highest levels. Resources are prioritized among major units to sustain different levels of readiness based on missions, response requirements, and force characteristics. This resource prioritization reflects the fact that transportation capacity and equipment maintenance cycles put constraints on ability to respond. The current readiness approach provides a varying degree of resources to units according to the likelihood that the unit will be required to respond to a military conflict and the time in which the unit will be required to respond. Later deploying units receive fewer resources because the response time would allow the unit to get ready before it is required in theater.

The overarching principle in assigning priorities for Army equipment distribution is the DOD policy of "First To Fight, First to be Resourced." The assignment methodology (current DA Master Priority List (DAMPL)) assigns priorities commensurate with the claimant's contribution to the warfight. Units are ranked in the DAMPL based upon their strategic priority as identified in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) and the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP). Combat, combat support, and combat service support forces are assigned a DAMPL priority based upon their position in the strategic force packages (FPs), or by their projected employment dates based on an approved CINC's OPLAN. FPs are established in The Army Plan (TAP).

In general, Army Force Package 1 and 2 units are required to meet a C-1 rating, Force Package 3 a C-2 rating, and Force Package 4 a C-3 rating. Some Force Package 2 units could be expected to deploy within 24 hours.

One impact of a resource-constrained environment is that the Army is currently pursuing a policy called "cascading." As new equipment is purchased, it goes first to those units most likely to use it, primarily Force Package 1 (FP1) units. Force packages are based on the "first to fight" principle, with those units most likely to go to war first being equipped with the most modern, most capable equipment. Equipment replaced in FP1 units is "cascaded" down to FP2, FP3, and FP4 units, each in turn. The Army sees this as a way of ensuring that the most modern equipment is in the hands of those most likely to use it (i.e., the contingency corps).

During the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review [QDR], an assessment was undertaken as to whether reducing the readiness of selected units would meet strategy requirements and result in significant cost savings. The conclusion of the QDR assessment was that such "tiering" would significantly increase risk at the gain of only modest savings while limiting the flexibility required to execute the current war plans. Constraining factors included the time when units are required to be in theater, the difficulty in regaining the highly perishable skills required to operate sophisticated weapon systems, the capacity of the training infrastructure, the need to optimize match-up of deploying units with transportation assets, and the requirement to adjust plans based on the strategic and tactical situations.

The Army examined reducing the readiness of all but its four Force Package I divisions - including the bulk of its permanently stationed overseas forces - to a less than fully trained status. It found that existing infrastructure and training facilities were not designed to meet the training surge required to bring units up to peak readiness in time of crisis under this posture. In addition, the mobilization system would have difficulty supporting tiered readiness surges as Individual Ready Reserve soldiers were brought in to fill out lower tier units. Employing any of the four Force Package I divisions for peacetime engagement or smaller-scale contingencies would further increase the delay in meeting major theater war timelines, and could put the halt phase at risk.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:31:11 Zulu