Army Chief 'Adamantly Opposes' Added End Strength
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2004 The Army chief of staff "adamantly opposes" an end-strength increase to the size of his service.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee today that an unfunded end-strength increase "puts readiness at risk, it puts training at risk, it puts modernization at risk, it puts transformation at risk - and that's why I'm resisting it."
Many in Congress believe the Army is stressed with worldwide operations. One proposal calls for adding two more combat divisions. Another calls for a 40,000-man increase in the Army, while other, more general proposals just call for end-strength increases.
Schoomaker agrees the Army is stressed, but believes it is a temporary spike and that any plus-up can be done with current resources. He said transforming the Army will result in manpower savings that can be plowed into the combat force. "What we are doing is to transform the Army simultaneous with meeting the security commitment of the nation," he noted.
He also disagreed that the service is facing a recruiting and retention crisis. He said that in 2003, the Army made all its retention goals except for one: Army Reserve mid-careerist missed by 6 percent. He explained that away by saying stop/loss prevented mid-career NCOs and officers - the primary pool for the Army Reserve - from leaving the service. "Indications this year is that we're on track to make 100 percent of goal across all components," he told the representatives.
But, he said, the Army must make "significant moves" to change the way it does business. He said he has permission from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "to grow the Army by 30,000 people." He said this will give the service the personnel needed to handle the stress on-going operations are placing on it.
"We're making very serious moves to modularize the Army, standardize the Army, developing an Army that's more lethal, more agile, more capable of meeting the current and future operating environment task," Schoomaker said.
The general emphasized that this is an evolutionary process. He said a permanent end-strength increase will drive the service back into the late-Vietnam era Army.
"In the early '70s, we had an Army with a lot of people that was hollow," Schoomaker said. "It couldn't train, couldn't move, couldn't fly, couldn't do the kind of things the Army was required to do."
Schoomaker, who came out of retirement to take the chief of staff job, said it costs about $1.2 billion a year for every 10,000 people added to the Army. Congress often gives the military an unfounded order - meaning that the service must take the money from other areas to fund the requirement.
Schoomaker said Army planners believe the service can get 10,000 spaces from military to civilian conversions. He said he believes stabilizing the force - giving soldiers longer tours - will increase retention. And, he said he believes there are significant efficiencies as the service examines the global footprint and restructures overseas overhead and headquarters.
He said if the Army is allowed to pursue the course now charted, the country will get "a better Army more capable of doing what it needs to do, within our current level of resourcing."
Schoomaker detailed some restructuring elements for the representatives. He said there are currently 10 active duty divisions. The service will retain the 10 division headquarters as battle command headquarters but move some enabling resources - such as air defense, signal and intelligence - to the brigade level. The Army would increase the number of brigades under those divisions. "Tentatively we think we can go from three brigades under a division to four," he said. That alone would take the service from 30 brigades under the division structure to 40.
The service has already decided to go forward with five Stryker brigades in the active structure. The service also has two airborne brigades and an armored cavalry regiment. "That moves us from 33 active brigades under 10 division headquarters to a force of 48 active brigades - more lethal, more capable, more agile, more modular - that will allow us to be much more strategically agile than we are today," he said.
The chief also wants to standardize the divisions. "Today we have six heavy divisions in the active force - all of them are different," he said. "Today we have two light divisions in the active force - each different. Then we have the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st and, of course, they are different. This we need to fix."
On the reserve side, the Army has eight division headquarters, which the service plans to retain. "But we want to go from 15 enhanced brigades today to 22," he said. He wants to increase these reserve brigades levels of readiness and equip them with the very best equipment available. This would increase those brigades' capability to become part of a broader rotation base to meet the future strategy, he said.
Overall, there are more than 100,000 structural changes to be made to the Army. "We're going to convert 36 field artillery battalions to 149 MP units, increase the number of transportation units, medical, aviation restructuring," he said. "This is the biggest internal restructuring we've done in 50 years, but it must be done to make us relevant and to allow us to meet the real threat to the United States."