February 26, 2004

February 26, 2004 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security

Long-Term Goals Key For Army Restructuring Success, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, FEB. 25, 2004-It is good news the Army decided to abandon the Comanche helicopter project, says James Carafano, an expert in homeland and national security at The Heritage Foundation.

It's better news that Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, wants the money redirected to a campaign to fix all of Army aviation, Carafano says.

But it would be even better, as he points in a new paper from Heritage, if the Army established a long-term plan for how it wants to look for the next 50 years and beyond, then made all its decisions on procurement, aviation, strategy, force structure, weapons, combat capabilities and post-conflict operations accordingly.

Today, weapons and delivery systems are being proposed and deployed even as debate continues about how they would fit into the new Army's force structure or battle plans, says Carafano. Force levels are being debated before we know how many soldiers we'd need for the fighting force of the 21st century. And post-conflict operations are not being retrofitted for the wars we're fighting now.

A long-term plan would address new realities. For example, the Army must be prepared to fight its way into countries and to survive indefinitely without the strong supply lines and support bases it counts on now. It must be lighter and faster so it can deploy more quickly. Yet it can't break the bank establishing these capabilities because, in many cases, there will be other ways to ease the challenge of strategic deployment.

Carafano calls "network-centric operations"-which integrate elements that sense danger, decision-makers who order the response and operational units who carry out the orders-the "centerpiece of defense transformation." That means increased joint operations between land, sea and air forces, he says. It also means the challenge, again, is to come up with new weapons and new approaches, yet retain those proven to be the most reliable and effective.

Carafano also calls for refining research and development priorities of the Future Combat System, the major program to outfit the 21st century soldier and unit unveiled in November 2001. The FCS seeks to transform the Army from its current units to new organizations and to develop the new, lighter combat vehicles, equipment for individual soldiers and other combat assets-intelligence, communications networks, etc.-the new Army will need.

First, he says, planners should establish what that new Army would look like and concentrate on adding equipment that will add significantly to its capabilities. This will include-perhaps primarily-a shift to improving the equipment individual soldiers rely on rather than improving major weapons programs.

The Army likely will remain at war with terrorists for years, even decades, to come. But the need for soldiers will "wax and wane" as conditions change, Carafano says. As such, he urges the Army to rethink its recent moves to reorganize the 3rd Infantry Division from three to five brigades, each capable of autonomous operations. More brigades means more support, Carafano says, and that means units that are more cumbersome and less flexible.

The Army should expand the size, training and capabilities of its reserve components to provide a means for rapid expansion of military capabilities when necessary, improve the way it rotates soldiers into and out of combat zones, and develop "strike forces"-units improved through advanced training, new command systems and better logistics-to solve certain problems on an ad hoc basis.

Finally, the Army must address significant deficiencies in post-conflict operations and in assisting with homeland security, he says. "Such missions are not optional," he says. "They are an integral part of any military campaign."

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