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10 BRIGADES TO GOThe five BCTs to inactivate next year are:
■4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas
■3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.
■4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
■4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
■4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
The remaining five BCTs to inactivate in fiscal 2015. They are:
■3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas
■3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
■4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
■2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
■2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. (The Army previously announced it would inactivate the division’s 3rd BCT, but the brigades were switched to adjust for deployment cycles, officials said.)
The Army has identified new units for inactivation as part of a sweeping reorganization that will cut 10 brigade combat teams and affect as many as 740 units across the force.
The reorganization, one of the most comprehensive organizational changes the Army has undertaken since World War II, is linked with an ongoing effort to cut the Army’s end strength by 80,000 soldiers.
“You are either going to see changes within your unit … or if there isn’t a change in your unit, you’ll most certainly look to your left and right and see change,” said Col. Karl Konzelman of the force management directorate in the Army G-3/5/7 (operations). “There are about 740 units that will be impacted in the next few years.”
Added to the list of affected units are the active Army’s two Maneuver Enhancement Brigades — the 1st MEB at Fort Polk, La., and the 4th MEB at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
The inactivation of these units means the Army’s MEBs will reside solely in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
The Guard has 16, and the Reserve has three of these formations, Konzelman said.
The MEBs have “just sort of run their course” in the active Army, he said.
“At this point, as we looked everything over, the MEBs weren’t as critical as they were in the past,” Konzelman said. “And because the Guard and Reserve are so quick out of the blocks, they can meet the requirements for any sort of deployment.”
The MEB, which is a fairly new formation and was a product of the Army’s modularization effort, is one of the Army’s most versatile units. It can be tailored to meet whatever mission it receives, can provide command and control for up to seven battalions, and is capable of owning battlespace in combat.
Over the years, the Army has moved the companies assigned to the MEBs, so most of what remains of these units is the headquarters element, Konzelman said.
Most of the 150 soldiers in the 1st and 4th MEBs will likely be moved to other units, he said. Many of the soldiers in the MEBs are engineer and signal soldiers, he added.
“It has a multifunctional flair to it,” Konzelman said.
The Army also is going to convert its Battlefield Surveillance Brigades into a new formation called the Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, Konzelman said.
The BfSB also is a relatively new formation — it is a reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering unit designed to operate primarily at the division or corps levels. It has two MI battalions and a reconnaissance squadron of scouts. Each BfSB has about 1,300 soldiers.
The Army has 10 BfSBs. Only three are in the active Army, and officials had initially announced plans to inactivate the 525th BfSB at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The 525th, along with the 504th BfSB at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 201st BfSB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., will be converted into Expeditionary MI Brigades, Konzelman said.
“They’re going to convert to this new formation, which will have more capacity and capability, and the majority of the men and women serving in those BfSBs now will find themselves serving in the same place, just under the new E-MIB design,” he said.
The intent is to have one E-MIB per corps, Konzelman said. Each of these brigades has about 700 soldiers, and they “provide an unrivaled rapid exploitation and [signals intelligence] and [human intelligence] capability,” he said.
These newly announced changes to the MEBs and BfSBs are just the latest additions to an already complex reorganization, a process that takes on even more urgency as the Army seeks to compress all of these changes into two years.
The acceleration of the drawdown was solidified in the 2014 defense authorization act, passed Dec. 19, which authorized the Army to cut its end strength more quickly.
“The impact of the Budget Control Act and the prospect of further cuts to defense spending caused by sequestration have forced the Army to implement significant reductions to end-strength, readiness and modernization,” an Army official said in a statement to Army Times. “The Army has a plan to accelerate the downsizing of the Army’s active component end-strength to 490,000 by [fiscal year 2015] instead of FY17 in order to achieve necessary cost savings to fund critical programs. As always, our priority is to ensure that all soldiers in Afghanistan, those next to deploy, and forces in Korea are properly equipped and ready.”
To help meet its accelerated timeline, the Army will inactivate five BCTs this fiscal year, and the remaining five BCTs are expected to be inactivated in fiscal 2015.
In addition to these 10 BCTs, the Army has inactivated two BCTs in Europe — the 170th and 172nd BCTs.
In the future, another BCT, this one overseas, will be identified for inactivation, officials have said, bringing the final number of BCTs to 32.
No announcements have been made about that remaining BCT, but the Army appears to be moving closer toward bringing home its brigade combat team in South Korea and replacing it with rotating brigades.
In an interview with Defense News, a sister publication of Army Times, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said, “It is about rotating brigades.”
“We are working very closely with the Republic of Korea on that,” he said. “I think we will move forward on that pretty quickly, [and] probably execute that sometime in the near future.”
Odierno on Oct. 23 said he is “confident” the Army will be able to make the switch to rotational forces.
The South Koreans “are our strong partners, and we make sure we are building confidence that they understand that we will provide them a more ready brigade and a more capable brigade if we rotate,” he said.
In addition to cutting 10 BCTs, the Army also will reorganize most of its remaining BCTs by adding a third maneuver battalion to its armored and infantry brigades. The Army’s Stryker brigades each have three maneuver battalions, and the BCTs stationed outside of the continental U.S. — four in all — will remain at two maneuver battalions, mostly as a way to save on military construction costs, officials said.
The BCTs also will receive additional engineer and fires capabilities.
Once the reorganization is completed, each BCT will have about 4,500 soldiers, nearly 1,000 more than in their current configuration.
“There’s a lot swirling around out there, and we continue to look at a whole range of options,” Konzelman said. “We really had to get down to that granularity to get this plan in place. We still continue to look at all our options, but we’re at 490,000 now, and that’s what we continue to work at.”