Monday, December 12, 2016

Lawmakers seek Army analysis of potential BCT replacement

Army officials may be required to analyze a potential replacement of the service's brigade combat team fighting formation, according to the defense authorization conference report for fiscal year 2017.
In the report, lawmakers seek information on the potential for restructuring the Army with Reconnaissance Strike Groups, an organizational construct that would replace BCTs with groups of 5,500 to 6,000 soldiers commanded by a brigadier general. Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel who developed the construct and is an executive vice president of a strategic consulting group, describe the RSG in a presentation to the Senate Armed Services Committee as a "self-contained organization for combat; organized around [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance], strike, maneuver and sustainment."
The Senate-passed authorization bill included a provision requiring the defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to oversee the modeling of "an alternative Army design and operational concept" and produce a report that assesses the value of having a pilot program for the effort. The provision would also require officials to establish an office to test, evaluate, and develop and validate the "RSG's joint warfighting concept, required platforms and structure." The House bill lacks such a provision.
According to the joint explanatory statement accompanying the bill, the House receded with an amendment that requires "the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff of the Army, in consultation with the Commanding General, U.S. European Command, to each conduct a separate analysis of RSG organizational design and operational concepts" and provide a report to the Senate committee and the House committee. The amendment also requires "a Federally Funded Research and Development Center or 501(c)(3) to review and evaluate the reports." The document also notes that the RSG was previously outlined in the 2016 National Commission on the Future of the Army report.
According to Macgregor's memorandum to the Senate committee, the RSG is "designed to punch above its weight, mobilizing fighting power disproportionate to its size," "unlike brigade combat teams." Macgregor's statement to the NCFA states that the RSG consists of four maneuver battalions, one strike battalion, one ISR battalion and one sustainment battalion. Under a brigadier general, the RSG's "[command and control] structure consolidates more combat power under fewer headquarters allowing it to respond directly to a joint task force," according to Macgregor's statement. A colonel would serve as chief of staff in the formation, with lieutenant colonels holding primary staff positions.
The organizational construct also differs from the BCT in regard to its weapons systems. The RSG uses a common chassis vehicle, which would help the Army drive down costs and cut down on delivery times while also improving performance, Macgregor notes in the NCFA statement. The Puma infantry fighting vehicle, a six-passenger German vehicle lauded by the Congressional Budget Office in an April 2013 report as superior to both the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Ground Combat Vehicle in terms of capability, serves as the common chassis in the RSG. Macgregor describes the Puma as the "world's best infantry fighting vehicle."
"The Puma's 1100 horsepower engine, high power to weight ratio, modular armor plus superior suspension performance allows the mounting of larger weapon systems creating multiweapon variants on a single Puma chassis. This represents a capability that cannot be achieved with other existing platforms," Macgregor told the NCFA.
In his memorandum to the Senate panel, Macgregor highlights the importance of using the RSGs in the Army's current situation. Pointing out that the service has reduced its numbers, Macgregor describes the RSG as "a critical first step in the process of extracting more ready, deployable combat power from existing numbers of soldiers in the U.S. Army."
To test the capabilities of the RSG, Macgregor used the StrongPoint Combat Power Builder and Combat calculator, a simulation method, to assess its effectiveness against Russian forces and included the results in a presentation to the Senate committee. Labeling the results as "dramatic" in the presentation slides, Macgregor found that 23,000 Russian soldiers in independent brigades were defeated by two RSGs with 11,000 to 12,000 soldiers, whereas 28,500 U.S. soldiers structured into BCTs were defeated by the same adversary. 
-- Connie Lee

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