The Army will not redeploy or restation the two Heavy Brigade Combat Teams that it is pulling out of Europe in 2013 and 2014, Gen. Ray Odierno, the service’s Chief of Staff said this morning. The two brigades are based in Germany and have been identified as the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade and the 170th Infantry Brigade. That leaves the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, as the last Army brigades to be permanently based in Europe.
Instead of having units permanently based on the continent, Odierno said that the Army will rotate units into the Army garrison at Hohenfels to train with partners in Europe. “It’ll benefit us in the long run,” he said, “since more units will get to take part in training exercises with NATO allies” than previously.
Odierno painted the upcoming slash of the Army’s end strength in the most positive light possible, maintaining that “the time is strategically right” to cut at least eight Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), while holding out the possibility that future decisions “could lead to the reduction of additional brigades if we decide to increase the capability” of current BCTs by adding battalions to them. The drop to 490,000 soldiers from the current 570,000 will occur over the next six years, according to budget documents.
The general was quick to point out that the budget “reflects the Army’s modernization priorities, that includes the network, a replacement for our infantry fighting vehicle, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and our soldier systems.” What the equipment mix in these new brigades might look like is still unclear, but Odierno made sure to tell reporters that while the past decade of large-scale combat may soon end, this new force will still perform stability operations “but it will be on a much smaller scale and rely on partners to assist us.” If the Army is called on again to perform Iraq or Afghanistan-sized missions, it will have to depend much more “on our ability to reverse and expand” which would be “highly dependent on our Reserve component initially in order for them to help us meet our initial requirements which would then buy us time to potentially look at expanding the Army again … and I feel comfortable with that strategy.”
While it’s early in the game to get too much into the nuts and bolts of this new strategy, reconfiguring BCTs and keeping the Reserves at a higher level of readiness will have a real effect on the pace and size of modernization programs, particularly the Ground Combat Vehicle, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, and communications and unmanned capabilities. This is only just getting started.