‘Fundamental fighting unit’ 

7/1/2011 

Medic exercise 
Soldiers and airmen participate in exercises Global Medic 2011 and Warrior 91-11-01 at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., on May 17.  Army Secretary John McHugh told lawmakers the Army was concerned about the current operations tempo and how that reduction would affect the force.

The Army will conduct an analysis of its "fundamental fighting unit," the squad, to ensure everything is being done to prepare those soldiers for the fight. (See related story.)

Secretary of the Army John McHugh and the Army chief of staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, appeared May 17 before the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee to discuss the Fiscal Year 2012 budget submission and Army posture.

"We’ll look at the squad as a collective whole, not nine individual soldiers, and determine how to enable it from the bottom up to ensure that the squad has the training, leadership, doctrine, power and energy, protection, and lethality to win when we send them into harm’s way," Dempsey told lawmakers.

He said other tiers of Army structure are already unmatched, and that he wanted to ensure the squad too was unmatched.

"As an Army no one can challenge us at corps level, division level, brigade level or battalion level," Dempsey said. "I want to ensure we’ve done as much as possible to make sure that the same degree of overmatch exists at squad level."

While Dempsey didn’t give a date to senators for when a review would happen, he did say it wouldn’t result in more gear given to individual soldiers, who are "already strained by the load they have to carry in combat."

Force reductions

The Army is facing two requirements to reduce the number of soldiers in uniform – a 22,000-soldier reduction that accounts for the temporary end-strength increase authorized by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in 2009, and a Gates-directed 27,000-soldier reduction three or four years from now to be taken out of the Army’s permanent end-strength.

McHugh told lawmakers he has been working with leaders in the Defense Department to make sure the cuts would happen, but that they would not affect the mission or put other soldiers at risk.

"We’ve spent a lot of time with the secretary and the people at OSD to make sure the way forward on this makes sense, that we are not buying an unreasonable amount of risk," McHugh said.

The reduction of 22,000 soldiers, he said was something that would have to come down in "the near term."

But McHugh told lawmakers the Army was concerned about the current operations tempo and how that reduction would affect the force, and that those troops are still needed.

The secretary of defense, he said "understood" that, and is allowing the Army to keep those 22,000 until March 2012 – with the drawdown in Iraq then making it possible for the Army to take the reduction "in stride."

In January, the secretary of defense also directed a reduction in permanent end strength of 27,000. That drawdown would be "conditions based," McHugh told legislators.

The 27,000-soldier reduction is aimed at the 2014-2015 time frame, with the potential drawdown in Afghanistan. But ultimately, he said, a final decision would depend on input from the president, NATO allies, and recommendations from Gen. David Petraeus, commander, International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"(If) conditions on the ground allow that to continue, we feel very comfortable that the 27,000 is a very achievable target," McHugh said.

He also said the Army is working on how to shape the force with the drawdown and how to "ramp down" the numbers of soldiers without "placing soldiers at greater risk."

Army acquisition

With the 2004 cancellation of the Comanche program, the 2008 cancellation of the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, and the 2009 cancellation of the Army’s "Future Combat Systems," known as FCS, program in recent memory, senators concerned about tightening the budget asked Army leaders how they would ensure future Army programs could remain on target and on budget.

McHugh discussed a recent study on Army acquisition he said was "long overdue" and which yielded 76 recommendations on acquisition, "some of which were revelatory."

"I think the Number 1 thing was our inclination in the past to not control requirements," McHugh said. "We’ve seen that in a number of programs, and FCS, I think is the poster child for it as is the presidential helicopter, where requirements keep getting built on and built on."

Continued additions of requirements in such programs means it takes longer for the program to come to fruition, the secretary said, and makes its costs spiral out of control.

"So we’ve tried to do a better job in stating the requirements, keeping them less reliant on immature or less reliable technologies," he said.

He cited the Army’s ground combat vehicle program as an example of how the Army has applied what it has learned. The program’s initial request for proposal to industry included 990 "tier-one" requirements. Later, the Army rescinded that Request for Proposal and replaced it with another – one that reduced tier-one requirements by 75 percent.

"A tough decision, but one that at the end of the day I think that was very soundly supported by the industry and will serve not just the Army but the taxpayers more fairly as well," he said.

McHugh said the Army is now implementing all but 13 of the 76 recommendations from the report and is taking a closer look at those 13 recommendations. (ANS)