United States Army

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Contents

Constitutional Role

The U.S. Army is authorized in the Constitution.

Section 8. (1) The Congress shall have Power To...

(12) To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two years;

(13) To provide and maintain a Navy;

(14) To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and Naval Forces;

(15) To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection, and repel Invasions;

(16) To provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of trainiing the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Structure of the Army

The structure of the U.S. Army is composed of Branches of Service and Chains of Command. Branches of service are divided into Combat Arms and Supporting Arms. Supporting Arms are further divided into Combat Support and Combat Service Support.

Army Ranks

The ranks of the Army, with an approximate notification of commensurate duties:

  • Ranks O-7 to O-10 are called "general officers".
  • Ranks O-4 to O-6 are "field grade officers".
  • Ranks O-1 to O-3 are "junior officers".
  • Ranks W-1 to W-4 are "warrant officers".
  • Ranks E-5 to E-9 are "non-commissioned officers".
  • Ranks E-1 to E-4 are sometimes called "grunts".

The drop off in number of personnel from each rank to the next higher rank is usually relatively modest, but there is a steep drop off from Colonel to General. The number of people with rank O-6 (Colonel) outnumber those with rank O-7 (Brigadier General) by more than 25-1. Many career military officers make it to Colonel rank, but the vast majority of career military officers never become Generals.

Officer Corps:

General of the Army--Five stars in a pentagon pattern. No officer has been awarded this rank since World War II, and the last one to hold it was General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, who died in 1981.

O-10 General, (GEN) four stars--Commanders of joint and specified commands the the Chairman, JCS and Army Chief of Staff are four-star generals.

O-9 Lieutenant General, (LTG) three stars--Deputy CSA, various staff and directorate positions in the pentagon, deputy commanders of joint and unified commands, and commanders of field armies and corps.

O-8 Major General, (MG) two stars--Commanders of divisions, Deputy commanders of corps and field armies, various staff and directorate positions in the pentagon. Adjutants General of the State National Guard forces.

O-7 Brigadier General, (BG) one star--deputy commanders of divisions, chiefs of staff for joint and unified commands. Brigade commanders in the National Guard.

O-6 Colonel, (COL) eagle clutching arrows--chiefs of staff for divisions, brigade commanders, senior staff officers at the pentagon and joint and unified commands.

O-5 Lieutenant Colonel, (LTC) silver oakleaf--senior staff officers for divisions, brigade executive officers in the National Guard), battalion commanders.

O-4 Major, (MAJ) gold oakleaf, staff officers for divisions, brigade executive officers in the regular army, staff officers at battalion and above.

O-3 Captain, (CPT) two vertical silver bars, battalion staff officers, company commanders.

O-2 First Lieutenant, (1LT) one vertical silver bar, battalion staff officers, company executive officers, platoon leaders.

O-1 Second Lieutenant, (2LT) one vertical gold bar, platoon leaders, rarely other positions.

Warrant Officer Corps:

Ranks W-1 Warrant Officer and W-2 to W-4 Chief Warrant Officer, are reserved for individuals with specialized, non-professional skills (as opposed to management roles filled by ordinary officers), who would otherwise be enlisted personnel.

Enlisted Ranks:

E-9 Sergeant Major of the Army, (SMA) three chevrons, three rockers, Army crest in the center. The Sergeant Major of the Army serves as the Army Chief of Staff's personal adviser on all enlisted-related matters, particularly in areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life. The SMA devotes the majority of his time to traveling throughout the Army observing training, and talking to Soldiers and their families. The SMA sits on a wide variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted Soldiers and their families and is routinely invited to testify before Congress. The current SMA is Sergeant Major Kenneth Preston, the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army.

E-9 Command Sergeant Major, (CSM) three chevrons, three rockers, one star with wreath in the center. Functioning without supervision, a CSM’s counsel is expected to be calm, settled and accurate—with unflagging enthusiasm. Supplies recommendations to the commander and staff, and carries out policies and standards on the performance, training, appearance and conduct of enlisted personnel. Assists Officers at the brigade level (3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers).

E-9 Sergeant Major, (SGM), three chevrons, three rockers, one star in the center. SGMs experience and abilities are equal to that of the CSM, but the sphere of influence regarding leadership is generally limited to those directly under his charge. Assists Officers at the battalion level (300 to 1,000 Soldiers). Sergeants Major generally serve as senior staff NCOs on battalion and brigade staffs.

All three of the preceeding ranks are addressed as "Sergeant Major," as in "yes, Sergeant Major," "no, Sergeant Major," and "no excuse, Sergeant Major."

E-8, First Sergeant, (1SG) three chevrons, three rockers, with a diamond in the middle, First Sergeants are the senior NCOs and enlisted advisors to commanders at the company level. They are properly addressed as "First Sergeant," as in the preceeding example, but informally they may be called "Top," from 'Top Sergeant' as in "what's the training plan for today, Top?"

E-8, Master Sergeant, (MSG) three chevrons, three rockers. Principle staff NCOs at battalion level and higher. Addressed as "Sergeant," but sometimes informally as "Top," particularly if one has served as a First Sergeant in the past.

E-7, Sergeant First Class, (SFC) three chevrons and two rockers, key assistant and advisor to the platoon leader, with the title of platoon sergeant. Generally has 15 to 18 years of Army experience and puts it to use by making quick, accurate decisions in the best interests of the soldiers and the country. Addressed as "Sergeant."

E-6, Staff Sergeant, (SSG) three chevrons and one rocker, typically commands a squad (9 to 10 Soldiers) but sometimes found as platoon sergeants. Often has one or more SGTs under their leadership. Responsible for developing, maintaining and utilizing the full range of his Soldiers' potential. Addressed as "Sergeant."

E-5, Sergeant, (SGT) three chevrons. Typically commands a team (3 to 5 soldiers) and occasionally a squad (9 to 10 Soldiers). Considered to have the greatest impact on Soldiers because SGTs oversee them in their daily tasks. In short, SGTs set an example and the standard for Privates to look up to, and live up to. Addressed as "Sergeant."

E-4, Corporal, (CPL) two chevrons. The base of the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) ranks, CPLs serve as team leader of the smallest Army units. Like SGTs, they are responsible for individual training, personal appearance and cleanliness of Soldiers. Addressed as "Corporal."

E-4, Specialist, (SPC), inverted chevron and rocker, solid black, with Army crest in middle. Can manage other enlisted Soldiers of lower rank. Has served a minimum of two years and attended a specific training class to earn this promotion. People enlisting with a four year college degree can enter BCT as a Specialist. Addressed as "Specialist."

E-3, Private First Class, (PFC) one chevron and one rocker, PV2s are promoted to this level after one year—or earlier by request of supervisor. Individual can begin BCT at this level with experience or prior military training. Carries out orders issued to them to the best of his/her ability. Addressed as "Private."

E-1, Private, (PVT) no rank insignia, E-2 Private, (PV2) one chevron. Lowest rank: a trainee who’s starting Basic Combat Training (BCT). Primary role is to carry out orders issued to them to the best of his/her ability. Addressed as "Private."

This source (August 1, 2005 entry) notes that the Army rank system is increasingly impeding military performance, in part because its up and out system wastes valuable talent (military personnel who don't advance in rank to leadership posts are expected to leave the military), and it part because it fails to acknowledge the blurring lines between NCOs, Warrant Officers and Officers.

Combat and Supporting Arms

About 15% of Army soldiers are trained primarily for front line combat. The other 85% receive combat training but have other specialties. Ironically, the Iraq War has done far more to damp recruitment in the non-front line combat positions than it has for front line combat posts. Apparently, many people entered the these less combat oriented posts primarily intent on learning skills and discipline and perhaps being able to afford a higher education afterwards, while many people in the more direct combat arms have been attracted to the Army because of the danger involved.

The Combat Arms are:

Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry, Armor, Air Defense Artillery, and more recently Special Operations. Some Air Defense Artillery positions are open to women.

Current policy is to reduce the number of forces involved in Artillery, Armor and Air Defense Artillery based on current military needs, so that those forces can be available for other purposes.

The stereotypical infrantyman operates a rifle and is transported on foot, or in a truck or Humvee.

The two stereotypical artillery weapons are the howitzer (a large cannon tube, typically self-propelled that shoots up into the air and than has a round that drops down on distant targets) and the multiple rocket launcher (typically mounted on the chassis of a M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle).

The definition of "Cavalry" has grown a bit muddy with time. Obviously, it no longer includes horses. Typically, cavalry units have a mix of attack helicopters (the AH-64 Apache is the predominant type) and armored vehicles.

Armor means primarily forces armed with M1 Abrams main battle tanks, and M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (a heavily armored vehicle that carries a squad of infantry, has a cannon firing grenade sized rounds, and has anti-tank rockets).

Air Defense Artillery have weapons designed to shoot down planes, helicopters and ballistic missiles.

Special Operations forces train to deploy in small units, frequently ten to a few hundred soldiers at a time, for a variety of missions from rescueing people from combat zones, to directing artillery and aircraft fire, to blowing up installations behind enemy lines, to training foreign military forces.

Supporting Arms include: Combat Support: Combat Engineers, Military Police, Combat Support Hospitals, Transportation Companies, Military Intelligence, and various other logistical and supply-type units that operate on or near the forward edge of the battle area.

Combat Service Support: Engineers (CBT Heavy), Military Police, Quartermaster and Support battalions, and various other units that the army needs to move the bullets, guns, boots, butter, and soldiers from place to place and keep track of it all. Additionally, various administrative functions are carried out by the Inspectors General, Adjutants General, Judge Advocates General, etc.

The Army Chain of Command

The top of the Army's chain of command:

The President, Secretary of Defense, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint and Specified Commands, and then down to the lower levels. The Secretary of the Army, and the Army Chief of Staff are not actually in the direct line of command. They serve as advisors to the SECDEF and POTUS.

Below the Joint Staff the order of organisation is:

Joint and Specified Commands, Armies, Corps, Divisions, Brigades and Regiments, Battalions (cavalry squadrons), Companies (cavalry troops, artillery batteries), Platoons, Squads, teams. Typically, a unit of the army is organized with two or three subordinate level units and some type of command and control element.

At the lowest levels of organization, a squad is typically nine or ten soldiers under a sergent, and a team is typically half of a squad. A platoon typically consists of three to four squads of two teams each, with a lieutenant and a senior sergeant in charge (for up to about 40 soldiers), but this can vary depending on type and organization of the platoon.

A platoon is typically the smallest unit commanded by an officer, and is a level of organization ripe for conflicts between senior enlisted people in the unit who typically have more military experience, and an inexperienced officer who outranks them. A company typically consists of three or four platoons and a small headquarters (with up to 200 or so soldiers) and is typically commanded by a captain.

While it isn't obvious from the number of units in the direct chain of command, a typical Army division has about 45,000-50,000 soldiers, in part because of the large number of support and headquarters units attached to a division.

Corps and Armies have become moribund in the current organizational table of organization. While they exist, there are five Armies (the First, Third, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth) and four corps (the I, III, IV and the XVIII Airborne) and they have headquarters, they have been overshadowed by Department of Defense level "commands". The "commands" in the United States Military are:

For instance, a trooper in Iraq 2 months ago might be serving in, say: 1st squad, 1st platoon, A company, 1st battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps, 3rd Army, Central Command. (They have since come home) The bumper of his vehicle would read "A/1/504 82d adn" He would say "A company, first of the 504".

The Regular Divisions currently serving in the Army:

  • 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized)"Big Red One"
  • 2d Infantry Division (Composite)"Warriors"
  • 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized)"Marne"
  • 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized)"Ivy"
  • 10th Mountain Division (Light) "Climb to Glory"
  • 25th Infantry Division (Light) "Tropic Lightning"
  • 82d Airborne Division "All Americans"
  • 101st Airborne Division, (Air Assault) "Screaming Eagles"
  • 1st Armored Division "Spearhead"
  • 1st Cavalry Division "First Team"

Separate Brigades and Regiments in the Regular Army:

  • 2nd Cavalry Regiment "Dragoons"
  • 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment "Brave Rifles"
  • 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment "Blackhorse"
  • 172nd Infantry Brigade "Snow Hawks"
  • 173d Airborne Brigade "Sky Soldiers"
  • 3rd United States Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard" (Ceremonial Unit)

A note about brigades and regiments. Both terms describe units below division level and above battalion level. The difference is that brigades are flexible in their organization, often containing units of different types and arms, while a regiment is organized along classic lines used by the army prior to the 1950s, and having only one type of subordinate unit. Regiments also have all of their units having the same regimental affiliation, whereas brigades (usually) do not.

Army National Guard

The Army National Guard is a part-time military force in peacetime. The normal peacetime pattern is for national guard soldiers, once they have received basic training and training in their occupational specialty, to train one weekend a month and two weeks a year. They are then available to serve when needed either in their home state at the command of the Governor, or in time of war, with the regular Army. The Army National Guard is distinct from the Army Reserves, a separate organization of part-time soldiers with similar training requirements in peacetime who are not under the command of state governors and are more closely integrated with the regular active duty Army.

The Army National Guard consists of eight mechanized Infantry divisions, one armored division, two separate armored brigades, one separate armored cavalry brigade, one armored cavalry regiment, five separate Infantry brigades, and two AC/RC divisions, with Active Duty Headquarters elements and three National Guard combat brigades. The AC/RC divisions are the ARNG strategic readiness forces, at a higher state of readiness than the rest of the ARNG, and with larger budgets, and priority on new equipment allocation. They are thus referred to as "enhanced" units. The AC/RC divisions are:

  • 7th Infantry Division (Light) "Bayonet"
   *39th Inf Bde (eL), "Courage" Arkansas
   *41st Inf Bde (eL), "Jungleers" Oregon
   *45th Inf Bde (eL), "Thunderbirds" Oklahoma
  • 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) "Victory"
   *30th Heavy Bde (eH) "Old Hickory" North Carolina
   *48th Inf Bde (eM) "Old Grey Bonnet" Georgia
   *218th Heavy Bde (eH) --no nickname for some reason-- South Carolina

Army National Guard units are subject to command by the Governor of their state in peacetime (typically to respond to natural disasters and riots), and can be called into national service in times of war. In the Vietnam War, members of the Army National Guard generally remained in the United States even as conscripts were drafted to serve in Vietnam.

Military policy was changed after that conflict. A decision was made to use national guard troops before draftees, and a decision was made to deploy national guard units in connection with and in support of specified active duty Army units, rather than autonomously. As a result, during the Iraq War almost every national guard unit has been activated to serve in the conflict, while there has been no draft.

Army Reorganization

The Army is currently undergoing a major reorganization. This reorganization involves a change in both the mix of forces in the Army, and in a shift from a division oriented structure to a brigade oriented structure.

The Army will go from having ten divisions of 45,000-50,000 soldiers each (further divided into 33 combat brigades), with substantial resources concentrated in a divisional headquarters, to 43 brigades with about 10,000 soldiers each which will inherit most of the military resources (including substantial support resources) now located at the divisional level. The major equipment in an existing division is set forth here. For example, helicopters have been primarily under the command of a division commander, and will now be under the command of a brigade commander. The new brigades will be similar in size to the size of a Marine division during World War II. This represents an effort to increase flexibility, make it possible to deploy more quickly, and to decentralize power on the battlefield. Currently, there has been a problem when one brigade has been deployed, along with most of the division's headquarters assets, leaving the remaining brigades in the unit crippled and incapable of being deployed. The change also reflects a judgment that future wars will involve smaller conflicts that may not call for an entire division to deploy at once.

This will be accompanied by a major change in Army personnel policy. Currently, Army personnel are constantly being shifted from unit to unit and base to base. Under the new policy, Army units will stay in tact and be based at the same base, for six to seven years at a stretch (the current norm is less than three years).

The force structure change involves a major reduction in certain types of forces, such as artillery, air defense and armor units, in order to shift resources to forces which are in higher demand like military police and infantry. A part of this force structure change has been the creation of a new type of unit, based around the Stryker armored personnel carrier, on an interim basis to try out new concepts before the Army gets what it really wants. These units are supposed to be rapidly airliftable (which existing armored units are not), but heavier than existing light infantry units.

See generally GAO Study on Army Transformation.

A big picture view of military transformation is found here.

Procurement and Long Term Planning

Major Existing Systems

The U.S. Army has a number of major weapons systems that are the backbone of the existing force. Most debates over procurement for the Army involve deciding how to modify this existing force.

One is the M1 Abrams main battle tank, which was introduced in 1980. It is an extremely heavy (70 tons) tank with a powerful, long range direct fire main gun that fires shells designed to destroy other tanks. It is the most heavily armored weapons system in the U.S. arsenal. Each one costs about $5 million. It has been used successfully in its intended anti-tank role in both the Gulf War and the Iraq War, although logistics issues have limited its use in other conflicts. Currently, the Army is focusing on finding uses for these vehicles in urban warfare environments. Current military plans call for reducing the number of Abrams tanks in the military.

A second one is the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, first introduced in 1983. This vehicle has a 25mm (grenade size round) cannon, anti-tank missiles, and space for a small squad of infantry soldiers. It is the second most heavily armored vehicle in the U.S. military and weights about 25 tons. Variants include a multiple rocket launcher model that carries twelve missiles intended for battlefield use, an air defense version, command and control versions, and a cavalry version, which carries fewer soldiers and more supplies and equipment. Each one costs about $2-3 million. This has been successfully used in a wide variety of missions. Early concerns about its weak armor protection have largely been put to rest.

A third one is the M109 self-propelled howitzer, the most recent version of which is called the Paladin. This looks like a tank with a very long main gun, which is designed to fire indirectly at long ranges. It weighs about 32 tons and is accompanied by a similar sized vehicle which reloads it after its 39 rounds of carried ammunition are exhausted. There have been only a few occassions that have called for this to be used in the kinds of conflicts the U.S. has been engaged in since it entered service. Current military plans call for reducing the number of self-propelled artillery vehicles in the Army.

All three of the systems above have tracks, which are slower in on road environments, but faster and more durable in off road environments.

A fourth is the Stryker armored vehicle. This is similar in concept to the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, with a heavy turrent mounted anti-infantry and light vehicle weapon and a capacity to carry about a squad of infantry, but is more lightly armored and has wheels, instead of tracks. In its stripped down version it weights about 19 tons and can be carried by a C-130 transport plane. This is one of the newest vehicles in military service, first seeing action in the Iraq War and several variants are planned eventually. A couple of other new vehicle types are discussed below under the heading of "interim vehicles".

The military has a variety of cargo trucks and the famous "humvee" utility vehicle as well.

The Army also uses primarily four kinds of military helicopters. The AH-64 Apache is intended for use against tanks and for close air support for infantry. The Kiowa OH-1 is a reconnaisance and light attack helicopter. The MH-60 Blackhawk is a transport helicopter designed to move about a squad of soldiers from place to place. The CH-47 Chinnook, is a heavy lift helicopter designed to carry a platoon of soliders.

Major Cancelled Programs

Two major Army procurement programs, both to a great extent Cold War relics, have been cancelled during the Bush Administration.

One was the Crusader, a next generation self-propelled howitzer that was more capable than the existing Paladin system it was to replace, but cost about ten times as much as a similarly capable multiple rocket launcher system ($24 million v. $2.4 million) and didn't fit current military needs which seem unlikely to require heavy use of howitzers. Current Army plans call for the first of the Future Combat System vehicles to fill the gap in the force structure created by this cancellation in the 2008-2011 time period. The replacement, however, would be much smaller than the Crusader or Paladin.

The other was the Comanche helicopter. Originally designed as a replacement for the aging Kiowa light reconnaisance helicopter, it experienced mission creep and grew expensive as a result. The new helicopter was stealthy and heavily armed for combat as well as reconnaisance, but carried a big price tag for each unit. Also, the new reconnaisance role it was meant to serve has increasingly been usurped by drone aircraft.

The M8 Burford, a light tank-like armored vehicle (armored gun system) intended for use by airborne troops which was C-130 transportable in its lighter versions was cancelled in 1996 by the Clinton Administration, after roughly a decade and a half of on and off development effort and the delivery of six prototypes. This is similar to the proposed Future Combat System direct fire vehicle.

Iraq War Related Developments

The Iraq War has changed spending priorities in the military. Faced with a conflict with no front lines, the military has found it necessary to invest in body armor for troops who wouldn't normally be considered front line troops, converted most of its Humvees to armored versions, purchased hundreds of new Armored Security Vehicles (moderately armored and armed vehicles for military police type patrols), speeded up its procurement of Stryker armored personnel carriers, increased its purchases of light reconnaissance UAVs (basically radio controlled model airplanes with videocameras), SUVs (for comparatively fuel efficient transportation while on military bases in Iraq) and improved weapons system like an anti-mortar round weapon converted from a Navy weapon called the Phalanx close in weapons system designed initially to protect ships from cruise missiles. The Army has also purchased a many "TUSK" (Tank Urban Survival Kit) systems to modify its existing tanks (with features like shields to protect gunners operating machine guns outside the tank, and a phone on the side of the tank for supporting infantry to communicate with tank crews) designed to face off Soviet tanks on European plains for use against guerilla forces in urban areas.

Getting these new systems to the front has continued to progress slowly, with soldiers deploying in the summer of 2005, more than two years after the Iraq War began, still being advised to purchase their own equipment in the civilian markets with their own money at costs approaching $600 a soldier. At first, many Humvees were being upgraded with "Hillbilly Armor" from scrap metal welded on in the field (which was not particularly effective) and a shortage of vehicles to escort convoys has resulted in the construction of improvised "gun trucks" (flat bed cargo trucks outfitted with a solid steel open topped box and mounted with machine guns) built in the field.

The Future Combat System

The Army's long term procurement plan is organized around what it calls its "Future Combat System", but an initial plan to unveil a comprehensive set of new technologies that would all work together in one fell sweep, has been replaced by a "spiral procurement plan" which basically means coming up with new weapons, vehicles and equipment on a piecemeal basis (with some sense of a place for each in a total plan in place) and making them available to troops when they are ready to use. The Army's goal is for most or all of the Future Combat Systems to be deployable via a C-130 transport aircraft. The central piece of this system would be a new low profile, modular armored vehicle which would be C-130 transportable and would serve as a light tank or artillery piece in various configurations. A critical appraisal of this program is found here.

An illustration of the 18 planned components (in addition to a "network" to integrate them) is found here.

Eight of the systems are variants on a common manned armored ground vehicle. These would include a mortar carrying version, a howitzer carrying version, a tank version, an infantry carrier version, a command and control version, an ambulance version, a reconnaisance version, and a "recovery and maintenace" vehicle. This category has been designed as the lowest priority within the Future Combat System, and the howitzer version (nominally to have a prototype in 2008 and to enter service ca. 2011) is the highest priority within the category, but has grown to heavy to be carried by C-130. A multiple rocket launcher version and several varieties of seperate resupply and drone control versions have been abandoned, as have mine laying and bridge building versions. The general problem with these vehicles has been the dilemna of how to fit sufficient armor protection and offensive capabilities into a 16 ton vehicle. By delaying this component of the FCS as much as possible, the Army has basically admitted that it "isn't ready for prime time" yet.

Four of the systems would be unmanned air vehicles, either helicopter or fixed wing, for use in theater level (high altitude, long endurance at 2200-4000 lbs), the "tactical" level (600-2500 lbs), the small unit level (150-300 lbs), and the soldier/platoon level (20-70 lbs). It is all very conceptual.

Three of the systems would be unmanned ground vehicles, one with two versions would be 6 ton armored unmanned ground vehicles (an attack and reconnaisance version), a one to two ton "MULE" to carry equipment around, and a "soldier UGV" at about 30 pounds to go places in an urban environment which are dangerous for soldiers.

Three of the systems would be "unattended munitions", basically a "smart landmine", a missiles in a box system, and a ground based sensor system.

The entire concept is highly conceptual and appears to be up for major reorganization and reconsideration.

Interim Projects

While the Army mulls its very conceptual and technologically challenging future combat system, it has been working on a number of "interim" concepts. These include the Stryker armored personnel carrier, a small multiple rocket launcher system based on a 5 ton truck which is C-130 transportable, "gun trucks" which are basically improvised armored trucks with a steel box mounted on them and mounted with heavy infantry weapons, an armored car called the ASV, and the armored Humvee.

Decreased Reliance on the Air Force and Navy

The Army has also shown increasing impatience with the support they are receiving from the Air Force and Navy. They have purchased their own unmanned aerial vehicles, rather than relying on the Air Force for support, are investigating purchasing their own sub-C-130 fixed wing transport aircraft, as the Air Force has refused to develop them, have campaigned for the A-10 and AC-130 close air support aircraft that the Air Force sought to remove from its force structure, have purchased their own fast sea lift ship, and have purchased their own river boats for operations in Iraq, a role served by Navy sailors like John Kerry in the Vietnam War.

Logistics

One of the major problems of the U.S. Army today it that it is very slow to arrive where it is needed around the world, and that it needs massive supply lines to keep it operating, almost immediately. Currently, the U.S. relies on two airborne divisions for rapid deployments, but while these divisions can deploy quickly, they typically are very lightly equipped making them vulnerable to the risk of becoming "speedbumps" in the face of a heavy opposing force. The 101st Airborne Division, for example, uses nothing heavier than a Humvee (albeit sometimes mounting very lethal armaments and accompanied by lots of helicopters) to conduct its operations. It has no armored personnel carriers, no infantry fighting vehicles and no tanks.

These delays have manifested themselves most recently in efforts of U.S. troops to deploy in the Gulf War, Kosovo and the Iraq War, all of which have been slower than the public expected. Fortunately, in each case, the situation was sufficiently controlled that little harm appears to have resulted from the delay. But, this may not always be the case in the future.

The Army's goal is to be able to deploy to anywhere in the world, a brigade within 96 hours, a division within 120 hours and five divisions within 30 days. This goal is far from being achieved. Neither 96 hours nor 120 hours are goals that can be accomplished with conventional sealift forces, and there are insufficient airlift and fast sealift forces in the military to move that many people and that much equipment that fast. Likewise, even with months of advance notice, the Army would have difficulty deploying five divisions anywhere. It has fewer divisions than that in Iraq now, and is straining simply to maintain that force. This task is particularly complicated by the fact that Army helicopters and Air Force C-130 aircraft are too small to carry the Army's tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and artillery pieces. Even the Air Force's heavier C-17, C-141 and C-5 aircraft typically carry just one tank per trip. In the United States, heavy military equipment is typically moved by rail, but in Europe and much of the rest of the world, rail bridges are not strong enough to support a train laden with heavy military equipment, and narrow roads and weak road bridges often make overland movement of heavy military equipment difficult.

Logistics are also a problem for the existing U.S. Army. An M1 main battle tank gets just 0.5 miles to the gallon. An M2 Bradley gets about 1.5 miles to the gallon. About half of the conveys to U.S. bases in Iraq are devoted to providing fuel and water.

The entire Future Combat System initiative, as well as the Interim vehicles it is purchasing now, is primarily an effort to allow the Army to get its equipment to the field more quickly by making its equipment transportable on a C-130, which the U.S. has far more of than larger C-5, C-17 and C-141 transport aircraft. If C-130s can be used, roughly three times as many transport planes can be made available for an airlift, although the total amount of stuff that can be airlifted is only roughly doubled. A plane moves quickly but can only carry about 100 tons for the largest planes. Also, C-5 and C-141 transport aircraft require a relatively decent destination airport which may be hard to locate in a foreign military theater, and which creates a small number of chokepoints at which sabatogue by opposing forces could greatly impact supply lines.

Transport ships, in contrast, can carry vast quantities of equipment, thousands or tens of thousands of tons, but all but a handful travel at about 20 knots or less, and often they can not take the most direct route since the have to follow sea lanes and go around large land masses. Once transport ships arrive, the equipment must be moved by road or rail to their destinations (assuming the the Marines have secured the port in advance), sometimes hundreds of miles, at speeds which, bound by the speed of the slowest members, is rarely above 45 miles per hour overland. And, before the transport ships can depart from U.S. ports, equipment must be moved by road, or more often by rail, for hundreds of miles with time consuming loading/unloading at each end of the trip, if the troops are based at inland bases.

Getting a substantial, well equipped Army force into a foreign military theater is a matter of many weeks and months. In a rapidly developing war or conflict that can be an eternity. Moreover, even once a unit's equipment and troops have arrived in the theater, there must be a constant flow of fuel, provisions, ammunition and replenishing parts and supplies to the theater. When tanks are burning through gasoline at 0.5 miles per gallon and often need spare parts, this is a daunting task, and interruptions in this flow can put large numbers of U.S. solidiers and their objective, whatever it is, in peril.

Several solutions have been proposed to this problem, in roughly reverse order of cost/technology feasibility (although they are not necessarily mutually exclusive).

  1. Use giant planes (such as one proposal of Boeing called the Pelican) which have reduced fuel consumption because they fly very close to the ground or sea surface and thus benefit from a "ground effect". Benefit: Very fast. Problems: High technological risk, very expensive and a shortage of destination airfields that can handle them. Each one could easily cost $300 million to more than $1 billion.
  2. Buy a vastly increased number of C-17 or larger transport planes. Benefits: No technological risk and very fast. Problem: Very expensive -- to buy another 300 of them would cost $48 billion and together they would carry about as much as one modest sized sealift ship each sortie.
  3. Use airships and blimps. Benefits: Allows staight line point to point trips with minimal airfield improvements at three times the speed of a boat, and somewhat faster than land or rail, with loads heavier than is possible by airlift, at a modest cost. Problem: Moderate technological risk and vulnerability to enemy attack.
  4. Downsize heavy weapons systems to fit on smaller transports such as a C-130. Benefits: Greatly increases the available transport capacity without any transport expenditures, and many low intensity conflicts don't require extremely heavy armor. Problem: Must balance high technological risk and decreased effectiveness of systems. The cost could be $150 billion or more.
  5. Greatly reduce the number of very heavy (40 tons+) systems in rapid deployment forces, such a M1 Abrams tanks, while retaining medium weight equipment that is not C-130 transportable, such as M2 Bradley derivatives. Benefit: No technological risk, doubles the numbered of armored vehicles that can be moved in a sortie, puts a medium weight force in the field, and greatly reduces demand for fuel and parts in the supply chain. Problem: Still reducese the combat effectiveness of troops that arrive and the amount of equipment that can be moved by airlift is still modest.
  6. Develop a "fast sealift" fleet. Benefits: Can carry very large loads of equipment perhaps two or three times as fast. Problems: Expensive compared to existing sealift (probably $200 million to $1,600 million each), and moderate technological risk. Still slower than any form of airlift, even a blimp.
  7. Preposition large amounts of heavy equipment in many "Lily Pad" bases, on prepositioned sea lift ships, or at floating sea bases around the world near possible conflict sites. Benefits: Little technological risk and greatly reduced transport distances. Problems: Requires numerous treaties with ambivalent foreign governments, requires expensive purchase of excess supplies and/or transport ships, and requires certain minimum base operating costs even with skeleton staffing.
  8. Relocate more forces to coastal bases to facilitate departures for sealift. Benefits: No technological risk and no need to negotiate with foreign powers and obvious and easy deployment time savings. Problems: Requires money be spent to relocate bases, forces closings of other bases with associated political risks, and requires base locations to be corrolated with likely conflict locations decades in advance.

Small Arms

A plan to field a new rifle and grenade launcher system that would be more functional and reliable than the existing M-4 carbine, M-16 rifle, and grenade launcher that it would replace, has stalled. Initial plans to combine a replacement rifle/carbine and grenade launcher in a single "objective individaul combat weapon" (the XM-29) were abandoned when the combined weapon grew too heavy for the average soldier to carry, after being developed from 1986 to 2002. The project was then split into two parts, the XM-8 rifle, which would replace the M-4 carbine and M-16 rifle as standard infantry arms and dispensed with the grenade launcher component, and the XM-25 grenade launcher (with a larger 25mm round as opposed to the originally planned 20mm round), a stand alone grenade launcher which would launch "smart grenades" that could, for example, explode a fraction of a second after penetrating a wall to impact those inside the room, instead of exploding on impact.

The XM-8 was on the verge of being deployed in 2004 when the program was withdrawn to open up the bidding to new contractors and more flexible specifications and to expand the program to include a squad level light machine gun variant (replacing the existing M249 squad automatic weapon). This appears to be related to dissatisfaction among rank and file soldiers with the fairly small caliber 5.56 mm (.22 caliber) ammunition proposed as the primary ammunition for the XM-8, although it may also simply be a matter of another contractor pushing hard to get an opportunity to sell its goods instead. Many pundits have recommended a more powerful round from 6mm to 6.8mm to 7.62mm (the round used in the Russian AK-47 rifle and the M-14 rifle favored by Special Forces snipers). Late in 2005 the XM-8 program was cancelled entirely.

Initial lessons learned reports from Iraq have shown widespread dissatisfaction with the standard issue handgun issued to troops, but there appears to be little effort underway to address this concern.

Analysis and Observations

Traditions

Officers wear insiginia on their dress uniforms and BDUs that indicate their branches. This is going away with the new ACU, but will be retained on the dress uniform. NCOs and enlisted personnel will continue to wear branch insignia on their dress uniforms, but do not wear branch insignia on their BDUs or ACUs.

Within the U.S. Army, units carry the colors (unit flags) of their history. When you see these flags there are ribbons attached to the standard. These are “battle streamers” commemorating the unit’s participation in historic battles. For most units, this history is not continuous. The 75th Ranger Regiment, for instance, can only trace its numbered lineage to the World War II Rangers in Italy and France but also carry a battle ribbon from Roger’s Rangers in the French and Indian war.

The oldest continuously serving unit in the Army is the 1st Cavalry Regiment (The Regiment of Dragoons). A Cavalry Regiment of the Virginia Militia, they were called by George Washington to join the Continental Army and were commanded by "Light Horse Harry" Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee.

Every outfit in the Army has, and is aware of, the history of its forebears. The US Army first formed permanent Divisions for World War I. The 1st, 2d, and 82d Infantry and the 1st Cavalry, were formed as the American Expeditiionary Force under General John "Black Jack" Pershing. The 2d Brigade, 2d Infantry was the Marine Brigade. The 2d was commanded by General John Lejeune. Sgt. Alvin York, of movie fame, was in the 82d. One Regiment of the 1st Cavalry were "Colored Troops" (the 9th Cav).

In order to fight World War II, General John Marshall, Chief of Staff for the Army, tried to raise, equip and train 120 divisions. The actual number achieved was 99. All of the divisions currently serving have World War II histories. Most served in the Korean War and Vietnam War.

One recent change in Army tradition which has caused considerable ire was a decision to have all Army soldiers wear berets, a distinctions traditionally reserved for elite Army units which has also been criticized for being "too French". The move was designed to develop an elite attitude among all soldiers.

Another major debate over traditional honors has arisen during the Iraq War over decorations for serving in combat. Certain awards are reserved for soldiers in infantry units, but, this has left a gap as the Army has looked for a way to recognize armor and artillery soldiers, for example, who are assigned to carry out what amount to infantry mission (e.g. dismounted tank drivers engaged in house to house raids).

Political Orientation of the Army's Leadership

Of all the services, the Army has most consistently upheld the ideal of "Citizen Soldiers" envisioned by the founders. From the Civil War to Vietnam, the Army has been manned, at least partially, by draftees.

The Officer Corps of the Army has traditionally been apolitical while serving, in deferrence to the fact that the military is subordinate to civilian political leaders in the American system of government. ( Eisenhower was approached by both Democrats and Republicans in 1950 because no one knew his politics (he later was elected President as a Republican). Many officers felt MacArthur dishonored himself by courting the conservative wing of the Republican party in his conflict with Harry Truman.)

Since the early days of the United States, the South has tended to favored heavy defense spending and the use of military force abroad, while the North has favored less defense spending and an isolationist foreign policy. Part of the rise of partisanship flows from the political shift of many white Southern Democrats to the Republican party, leaving the Democratic party generally favoring moderate defense spending and restained use of military force, while Republicans favored a massive Cold War military build up (and largely got it under President Ronald Reagan) and have generally been pro-war (with the notable exception of the Clinton led military actions in the Balkans). Conservatives, largely inaccurately, attribute the end of the Cold War largely to this military build up. Many soldiers also associate defeat in the Vietnam War with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson who was in office at the time the war ended, even though Republican President Richard Nixon was instrumental in many of the key decisions that led to failure in the Vietnam War.

President Bill Clinton presided over a major downsizing of the U.S. military creating a "peace dividend" that resulted from the end of the Cold War. This reduced the size of the U.S. military by about 25% from its Cold War peak. Clinton also launched the Stryker interim armored vehicle program now central to current operations in Iraq, while largely staying the course on major new weapons programs in each of the services.

Currently the officer corps is heavily Republican by a factor of about 9-1. Political affliations in the enlisted ranks are more evenly divided, but tend to be somewhat more conservative than a comparable group of civilian young adults. Soldiers vote in their "home towns" as identified by soldiers. Some identify the homes of their parents, resulting in a diffuse military vote, while others identify their political homes for voting purposes as the town where their military bases are located, resulting in military base dominanted towns typically having a conservative political character.

The recent, open politicization of the Officer Corps is an historical anomaly. In the opinion of many veterans, it has been brought about by the "all volunteer" force structure.


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