It’s no secret the Army has been preparing to downsize.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 stated the Army needed to shed 80,000 soldiers by 2017, but last week was the first time the public got a glimpse of what these cuts will look like once implementation begins.
Fort Hood announced Tuesday the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, along with other unannounced units, will inactivate as part of the cut to reduce the Army’s active-duty troop strength from 570,000 to 490,000 — a 14 percent reduction.
Despite the brigade having about 3,700 soldiers, the net loss of positions to Fort Hood will only be 2,900, said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, senior post commander and 1st Cavalry Division commander. Many positions will be reinvested into the division’s other three brigade combat teams.
The Army previously announced the inactivation of two Europe-based brigades, and on Tuesday, it added 10 stateside brigades to the list of cuts over the next four years.
The plan downsizes the number of troops and moves away from the 45-brigade modular force required to fight two wars simultaneously to create 33 reorganized brigade combat teams similar to those of the past. Army officials are expected to announce at a later date another brigade to be cut, dropping the final total to 32.
The Army’s decision to cut specific brigades involved “extensive BCT analysis that included over 6,500 hours of simulated combat in 34 separate scenarios and extensive interviews with our commanders,” said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno during a Tuesday news conference at the Pentagon. “We also conducted a programmatic environmental analysis that looked at both the environmental and socio-economic impacts. Additionally, we conducted listening sessions at 30 installations with soldiers, families, local leaders and the business community to better understand the impacts of all potential decisions.”
“We fared OK,” said retired Col. Bill Parry, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes Fort Hood and the military industry to Central Texas. He said he has been telling community leaders to feel good about Fort Hood’s smaller-than-average cuts.
By the set deadline of 2017, Fort Hood will lose 7 percent of its troop strength, which is below the Army’s average of 14 percent, Parry said.
Fort Knox, Ky., took the largest hit. The Army announced it will inactivate its only brigade combat team, cutting 43 percent of the installation’s soldier population.
“Fort Hood will continue to contribute to the Army,” Ierardi said.
‘More versatile’ brigades
The 1st Cavalry Division’s reorganized brigades will grow from about 3,700 assigned positions to about 4,500.
“The Army will reinvest significant portions of inactivated units to achieve the reorganization of our brigade combat teams, which will make them more versatile, agile and capable by adding a third maneuver battalion and by adding engineers and artillery capacity,” Ierardi said.
By 2017, Fort Hood will have four brigade combat teams — 1st Cavalry’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment — the highest of any Army installation.
“Based on extensive analysis, the lessons of 12 years of war and the need to increase the Army’s operational capability and flexibility, the Army is reorganizing our brigade combat teams to reduce the number of headquarters while sustaining as much combat capability as possible,” Odierno said. “In other words, we are increasing our tooth-to-tail ratio.”
The 4th “Long Knife” Brigade was activated at Fort Bliss in 2005 as part of the increase to more smaller, modular brigade combat teams. Since then, it deployed three times to Iraq, and is in the process of returning from a nine-month rotation in Afghanistan.
Ierardi said there is no set timeline for the Long Knife Brigade’s inactivation, but he expects it to come within a year.
As that happens, the division’s remaining three brigades will likely see some big changes to meet the Army’s reorganizational goals, Parry said. Of the 3,700 soldiers assigned to Long Knife, about 3,100 will be absorbed by the division.
Right now, each brigade in the division has six subordinate units — two maneuver battalions, a reconnaissance squadron, a field artillery battalion, a special troops battalion and a sustainment battalion.
The two maneuver battalions of 4th Brigade will each move into the other brigades, and the reconnaissance squadron will be reworked into a maneuver unit and added on to the final brigade, Parry said. It’s unclear which battalion will move into which brigade at this time, he said.
The artillery unit will be divided among the three remaining brigades. The final two support and special troops battalions will be split as needed to accommodate the larger brigades.
Parry also expects each remaining brigade to gain an engineer battalion, leaving the end total count of subordinate units per brigade at eight.
The only elements that will ultimately disappear will be the brigade’s headquarters company and the headquarters of the battalions that are divided up, he said.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell said the remaining brigades will become more capable.
“We are getting rid of a lot of the headquarters, the (colonel-level) headquarters,” he said.
At Fort Hood, the number of colonel-level commands will remain the same. On Wednesday, the 11th Signal Brigade uncased its colors on Sadowski Field, leveling out the future number of brigade headquarters on post.
Campbell said some soldiers will need to move as part of the changes. But for the most part, moves will be from one unit on an installation to another.
“A majority of that will stay on that post,” Campbell said. “But we will have to add some, (in) some places. Some will have to move.”
As of June 5, 3,215 of Fort Hood’s assigned 42,500 soldiers and airmen were deployed, according to information from Fort Hood. Anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 Fort Hood troops were deployed in the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. “There’s always been a rotation of forces out of Fort Hood,” Ierardi said.
While Parry sees the loss of 2,900 Fort Hood soldiers as manageable, the potential impact of sequestration causes him concern. Sequestration will take $50 billion from the Defense Department every year, and $17 billion of that comes from the Army, he said. With Congress blocking a round of base closures, that means continually shrinking funds to operate the same number of facilities.
With personnel protected from sequestration, Parry said, “the Army is going to have to find alternatives to offset those cuts.