Does the Army Need a Full-Spectrum Force or Specialized Units? Background and Issues for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
This report is intended to provide information that might be of interest to Congress on the current
debate surrounding the creation of special U.S. Army units and organizations, which some believe
are needed to address current and future security requirements. While the Army has recently
changed from a division-based force to a brigade-centric force, it has resisted the creation of
special units to deal with counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advisory operations. In
contrast, there have been a number of proposals to create new units and organizations better
suited to address the challenges of these mission areas. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s
recent challenge to the Army to organize and prepare for asymmetric warfare and advising and
training foreign armies could renew and elevate this debate.
The Army began reorganizing to a brigade-based, full-spectrum force in 2003 primarily to
provide a larger pool of deployable units. Based on lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq,
the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Army have initiated significant changes in doctrine,
education, and training, focusing on counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advising
foreign militaries. The Army has also begun the conversion from what it describes as “Cold War
force structure” into a number of other types of units that have been considered high-demand,
low-density units that the Army believes will be required in the future. There have also been a
number of proposals to create specialized units to meet the operational challenges of
counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advisory operations, but the Army insists that its
current force structure is adequate to meet these challenges, and that the dynamic and
unpredictable nature of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan precludes the effective use of these
There are potential issues for congressional consideration. For example, should the Army’s
missions be prioritized to reflect current and possible future security environments instead of
holding the Army equally responsible for all of its full-spectrum missions? Another potential
issue is the Army’s emphasis on new doctrine, education, and training. It can be argued that
changes to Army force structure have not matched the significant changes in doctrine, education,
and training. There might also be concern that the Army has not conducted a sufficient analysis of
the proposals for specialized units and has chosen to continue to rely on full-spectrum units
without subjecting this decision to sufficient analytic rigor. Questions also might arise as to
whether too much is being asked of soldiers and Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) in terms of being
able to perform the myriad challenging missions that they are being assigned, particularly given
the loss of non-commissioned officers and junior officers. The need for specialized Army units
might also be a topic of the congressionally mandated Roles and Missions Review slated to occur
sometime in 2008. This report may not be updated.
Backgr ound ............................................................................................................................... 1
A Full-Spectrum, Expeditionary, and Rotational Army......................................................1
Planned Future Organization..............................................................................................2
Full-Spectrum Force Performance in Iraq and Afghanistan...............................................2
Doctrinal, Education, and Training Changes Resulting from Iraq and Afghanistan...........4
DOD and Stability Operations............................................................................................4
Education and Training Changes........................................................................................5
Force Structure Changes.....................................................................................................7
A Call to Restructure the Army?.........................................................................................9
Proposals for Specialized Units...............................................................................................10
Existing Specialized Counterinsurgency Units.................................................................10
Stabilization and Reconstruction Divisions......................................................................12
Multi-functional Stabilization Task Forces.......................................................................13
Arguments Against Establishing Specialized Stabilization Units.....................................13
Training and Advisory Units...................................................................................................14
A Proposal for a Permanent Army Advisory Corps..........................................................14
Arguments Against a Permanent Advisory Corps.............................................................14
The Army’s Proposal to Improve Training Security Forces..............................................15
Why Full-Spectrum Units Are the Answer: The Army’s Position..........................................15
Potential Issues for Congress..................................................................................................16
Should the Army’s Missions Be Prioritized?....................................................................16
Are Modified Doctrine, Education, and Training Sufficient Substitutes for
Have These Proposals for Specialized Units Been Given Due Consideration by
Are We Asking Too Much of Soldiers and Brigade Combat Teams?...............................17
Are Specialized Units a Potential Topic for the Review of Roles and Missions?.............17
Table 1. Planned Unit Conversions, FY2003-FY2012....................................................................7
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................18
The United States Army—consisting of Active, National Guard, and Reserve units—is required to
[b]e able to conduct joint, multinational operations anywhere across the spectrum of
operations. This spectrum ranges from the low end—emphasizing stability and civil support 1
operations—to the high end—emphasizing major combat operations.
To accomplish this mission, the Army has chosen to man, equip, and train each of its combat and
support units to be “full-spectrum-capable,” able to function in all operational scenarios described
in the previous passage. While the Army considers its units “full spectrum capable,” Army units
are optimized for traditional ground campaigns against the ground forces of other nations.
Army leadership desires a full-spectrum, expeditionary (globally deployable) Army2 and has
focused current and future resources toward achieving this vision. Impacting on this vision is the
reality that the all-volunteer Army has also become a rotational force that can not be deployed
indefinitely for the duration of a an extended conflict—as was the case in the Second World
War—without the fear that the force would “break” because soldiers might opt to leave the Army
in significant numbers due to excessive combat tours. This factor plays a significant role in
organizing, manning, training, and equipping the Army. The general rule of thumb for the
rotational Army is that for every one unit deployed, two other similar units are required (one unit
preparing to “relieve” the deployed unit and another unit that has just returned from a deployment
and undergoing a recovery process so that it can redeploy in the future).
In 2003, the Army—in what it described as the “most significant Army restructuring in the past
force, primarily to increase the force pool of combat units available for deployment to Iraq and
Afghanistan. The Army’s current stated goal is to create 76 active and reserve brigade combat
teams (BCTs)—48 active and 28 Army National Guard—and approximately 225 active and 4
reserve support brigades.
As of September 30, 2007, the Army had converted 35 active component brigades to the BCT 5
construct, with an additional three brigades undergoing conversion. The Army contends that the
new BCT configuration will be “more flexible to deal with irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive
2007 Army Posture Statement, February 14, 2007, p. 10.
3 According to Department of the Army Pamphlet 10-1, “Organization of the United States Army,” dated June 14,
1994, a division consists of approximately 10,000 to 18,000 soldiers and a brigade consists of approximately 3,000 to
4 2007 Army Posture Statement, February 14, 2007, p. A-1.
5 Ibid., p. 3.
challenges as well as traditional warfare.”6 In 2007, the Army National Guard undertook the
conversion of 9 more brigades into the BCT configuration out of a total of 28 to be converted. In
addition, the Army had converted a variety of support units across all components into 58 Multi-
Functional Support Brigades and created 96 Functional Support Brigades in the active and 7
reserve components by the end of FY2007. All of these BCTs and support brigades are full-
spectrum units that were not designed to fill specialized roles in counterinsurgency, stabilization,
or training and advisory operations.
The Army plans to continue its brigade-centric conversion of active and reserve components,
hoping to complete the conversion of the force by FY2012. The only major future organizational 8
change envisioned is the fielding of Future Combat System (FCS)—equipped BCTs, currently
scheduled to begin in FY2014. Under current plans, the Army intends to field its first of 15 fully 9
equipped FCS BCTs in FY2014, completing the fielding of all 15 brigades by FY2030. These 15
FCS BCTs will not be in addition to the 76 BCTs currently planned for, but will instead be
created from 15 existing Heavy (M1 Abrams tank/M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle) BCTs.
FCS-equipped BCTs are also being touted by the Army as full-spectrum forces, but some suggest
that FCS BCTs may not be appropriate forces for use in counterinsurgency and stabilization
operations, particularly if they are conducted in predominately restrictive terrain and urban 10
There is general agreement amongst a number of military analysts that the full-spectrum U.S.
Army’s initial success in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Iraqi Army during a three-
week campaign demonstrated that the Army is “good at destroying targets and bad at rebuilding 11
states.” In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban regime was toppled primarily by the efforts of 12
U.S. Special Operations Forces coordinating U.S. airpower and indigenous Afghan opposition
forces against the Taliban. In contrast to Afghanistan, U.S. Army and Marine conventional ground
forces were able to defeat Iraq’s conventional forces in about three weeks, which some have
Fiscal Year 2008 Army Budget: An Analysis, The Institute of Land Warfare, The Association of the United States
Army, September 2007, p. 55.
7 Ibid. By definition, Multi-Functional Support Brigades perform operational roles including combat aviation, combat
support (maneuver enhancement), sustainment, fires, and battlefield surveillance, whereas Functional Support Brigades
perform broad support roles on a theater-wide basis, including air defense, engineer, explosive ordnance disposal,
military police, signal, and others.
8 For additional information on FCS, see CRS Report RL32888, The Army’s Future Combat System (FCS):
Background and Issues for Congress, by Andrew Feickert.
9 2007 Army Modernization Plan, March 2007, pp. 8-10.
10 Peter A. Wilson, John Gordon IV, and David E. Johnson, “An Alternative Future Force: Building a Better Army,”
Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Winter 2003-2004, pp. 28-30.
11 Greg Gardner, “Brains, Not Bullets,” The Economist, October 25, 2007.
12 For additional information, see CRS Report RS21048, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and
Issues for Congress, by Andrew Feickert.
attributed to the combination of overwhelming U.S. military technology, airpower, and the 13
“ineptitude” of the Iraqi Army.
Army leadership and some military analysts viewed the low-casualty, rapid defeats of the regimes 14
in Afghanistan and Iraq as validation of the Army’s Rapid Decisive Operations (RDO) concept, 15
but the Army’s performance during the Stability Operations Phase (commonly referred to as
Phase IV) was considered inadequate by some. However, the Army’s difficulties in Phase IV
should not be solely attributed to its focus on full-spectrum organization and doctrine. One
military expert suggests that
“Stabilization” or “Phase IV” operations are far more challenging than defeating
conventional military forces. They can best be conducted if the U.S. is prepared for
immediate action after the defeat of conventional enemy forces. Both in Afghanistan and
Iraq, the U.S. wasted critical days, weeks, and months in engaging in a security effort before
opposition movements could regroup or re-engage. It left a power vacuum, then exploited
one, and it was not prepared for nation building or the escalation of resistance once the 16
enemy was “defeated.”
The failure to properly plan, resource, and execute “Phase IV” operations has been cited as a 17
significant contributing factor in the emergence of insurgencies, particularly in the case of Iraq.
The Army’s performance in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations has varied widely
between units, with some suggesting that the Army as an institution needed to relearn 18
counterinsurgency warfare—an assertion that directly challenges the Army’s contention that it is
a “full spectrum”-capable force.
Dr. Stephen Biddle, Study Director, et al., “Iraq and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense
Policy,” U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, August 18, 2003.
14 The Army describes Rapid Decisive Operations as operations conducted using effects-based operations (information
operations, precision engagements, and rapid and dominate maneuver by ground forces) that permit the United States to
use minimal forces necessary to quickly and decisively defeat an adversary.
15 Stability Operations are described in Field Manual (FM) 3-07, “Stability Operations and Support Operations,”
February 2003, as the application of military power to influence the political and civil environment, to facilitate
diplomacy, and to interrupt specified illegal activities. Its purpose is to deter or thwart aggression; reassure allies,
friendly governments, and agencies; encourage a weak or faltering government; stabilize a restless area; maintain or
restore order; and enforce agreements and policies. During hostilities, stability helps keep armed conflict from
spreading and assists and encourages committed partners. Stability also enables forces to secure support in unstable
areas and to prevent civil populations from interfering in ongoing military operations. Similarly, stability missions may
require offensive and defensive actions to destroy rogue forces bent on defeating stability attempts.
16 Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, “The Post Conflict Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan,” May 19, 2004, p. iii.
17 FM 3-24, “Counterinsurgency Operations,” December 2006, defines an “Insurgency” as an organized movement
aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflic, an organized and
protracted political-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government,
occupying power, or other political authority while increasing insurgent control. FM 3-24 defines “Counterinsurgency”
as military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat an
18 Robert M. Tomes, “Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare,” Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Spring
2004, pp. 16-28.
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Services, taking into account “lessons learned” in
Iraq and Afghanistan, have initiated a multitude of doctrinal, educational, and training changes,
primarily focused on improving counterinsurgency and stabilization capabilities. This section
summarizes some of the more significant changes.
In what some view as a response to DOD’s demonstrated Phase IV inadequacies and the resultant
lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, DOD issued a directive titled “Military Support for 19
Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations” on November 28, 2005.
This directive, applicable to all DOD components, establishes the following policy:
Stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be
prepared to conduct or support. They shall be given priority comparable to combat
operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all DOD activities including
doctrine, organizations, training, education, exercises, material, leadership, personnel, 20
facilities, and planning.
The significance of this directive is that stability and associated operations are now to be treated
as equal to combat operations—a major cultural shift for the U.S. military that has traditionally
been manned, equipped, and trained to fight conventional conflicts against other nations. Some
note that historically the Army has avoided stability operations, arguing that stability operations 21
degrade unit combat readiness.
The Army has developed and published (in conjunction with DOD and the other Services)
doctrine for stability and support operations and counterinsurgency operations. This doctrine
plays a central role in how the Army organizes, equips, and trains its forces. Two years prior to
DOD Directive 3000.5, the Army published Field Manual (FM) 3-07, “Stability Operations and
Support Operations” in February 2003 to provide the doctrinal foundations necessary to 22
accomplish a wide range of stability and support operations. FM 3-07 does not recommend the
formation of specialized, dedicated stability or support units and instead relies on commanders
organizing existing units to meet individual mission needs.
Information in this section, unless otherwise noted, is from Department of Defense Directive Number 3000.5,
“Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations,” November 28, 2005.
20 Ibid., p. 2.
21 Linda Robinson, “When the Fighting Ends,” U.S. News and World Report, May 22, 2005.
22 According to FM 3-07, stability operations include peace operations, foreign internal defense, security assistance,
humanitarian and civic assistance, support to insurgencies, support to counter-drug operations, combating terrorism,
noncombatant evacuation operations, arms control, and show of force operations. Support operations include domestic
support operations and foreign humanitarian assistance.
In December 2006, the Army and Marine Corps released their highly-publicized Army and
Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24, Marine Corps Warfighting Publication
3-33.5). Prior to FM 3-24, the last doctrinal publication on counterinsurgency was written in the
1980s to support the United States’ involvement in El Salvador’s “successful 12 year
counterinsurgency campaign against a well-organized Soviet-backed Marxist guerilla 23
movement.” FM 3-24 is described as downplaying the military’s role in a successful
counterinsurgency campaign, stressing instead the need for non-military U.S. agency
involvement, a less kinetic and lighter military approach, and the need to constantly learn and 24
adapt. FM 3-24 also does not advocate the creation of specialized counterinsurgency units and
continues to rely on full-spectrum-capable units to successfully prosecute the counterinsurgency
In response to renewed emphasis on stabilization and counterinsurgency operations, the Army has
made significant changes in how soldiers and officers are educated and how units are trained.
This section summarizes the educational and training changes instituted by the Army.
Military education focuses on training leaders, both non-commissioned (NCOs) and
commissioned officers, throughout their careers. In general terms, the Army has decreased the
emphasis placed on teaching conventional force-on-force combat operations and increased
emphasis on stabilization and counterinsurgency operations, as well as regional cultural
awareness and language skills. For example, the Army’s Command and General Staff College
(CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, used to include only about 30 hours of counterinsurgency
course work for the majors attending the year-long course but now includes 200-plus hours of 25
counterinsurgency core courses and another 40-plus hours of counterinsurgency electives. The
Army is revising the Officer and NCO Education System to include stability operations and is 26
integrating cultural awareness and language proficiency training into educational courses. While
the Army has changed and added to course curriculum to reflect current operational needs, the
Army has also significantly shortened the duration of a number of officer and NCO “bedrock”
courses to meet the needs of commanders for officers and NCOs to serve in Iraq and 27
Afghanistan. The Army’s overall intent is to build its leaders into “pentathletes”—leaders who
are equally adept at fighting wars, skilled in governance, statecraft, and diplomacy, as well as 28
being culturally aware. While the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and future military
Linda Robinson, “The Book on Bad Apples: A New Army Manual Shows the Smart Way to Beat Insurgents,” U.S.
News and World Report, July 24, 2006.
24 Linda Robinson, “The Book on Bad Apples: A New Army Manual Shows the Smart Way to Beat Insurgents,” U.S.
News and World Report, July 24, 2006, and Jim Garamone, “Army, Marines Release New Counterinsurgency
Manual,” American Forces Information Services, December 18, 2006.
25 Briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS from the Army G-3/5/7 Stability and Irregular Warfare Operations
Division on November 7, 2007.
27 Bryan Bender, “Army Cuts Time Spent on Training,” Boston Globe, August 19, 2007.
28 2007 Army Modernization Plan, March 2007, p. 39.
operations may indeed require that Army leaders be “pentathletes,” it may prove to be an
unrealistic expectation that the majority of Army NCOs and officers will attain this extremely
high standard of performance.
Army training occurs at the individual soldier level and the unit level. Soldier training starts with
basic entry level training (commonly referred to as “Basic Training”) followed by specialized
occupational training (Military Occupational Specialty training) before soldiers join their units.
The Army has revised its individual soldier training, but the focus is on combat-related and
survival skills needed for Iraq and Afghanistan (such as advanced-weapons marksmanship, first
aid, and how to react to convoy ambushes).
Unit training has been significantly modified to reflect both lessons learned in combat and the
need to address counterinsurgency and stabilization missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of
the most significant changes have occurred at the Army’s Combat Training Centers (CTC)—the
National Training Center (NTC) at Ft. Irwin, California; the Joint Readiness Training Center
(JRTC) at Ft. Polk, Louisiana; and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at
Hohenfels, Germany—referred to as “graduate level” training for brigade-sized and smaller 29
units. Prior to Iraq and Afghanistan, these centers were used to train units for force-on-force fire
and maneuver combat operations against Warsaw-type Pact mechanized and armor forces, as well
as light infantry and irregular forces. These centers now feature such innovations as villages and
urban centers replicating those found in Iraq and Afghanistan, indigenous foreign-speaking role 30
players, car bombs, and improvised explosive devices. The CTCs now stress “continuous,
complex counterinsurgency and civil affairs operations” and working with Interagency, Non-31
Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and civilian organizations. The Army’s policy in the past
was to rotate BCTs and associated units through one of these centers for a comprehensive and
challenging month-long exercise prior to deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, but the rapid
turnaround of units for combat deployments has meant that some units have not had time for a
CTC exercise. Some units are arriving at CTCs at a reduced readiness status, and the focus has
shifted in those cases from “graduate level” counterinsurgency and stability training to only 32
mission-essential tasks. For units that have not had time for a CTC rotation, training teams from
a CTC are sent to the unit’s home station for abbreviated pre-deployment training. While the
abbreviated home-station pre-deployment training is likely beneficial to units, some in Congress
James Kitfield, “ For the Army: Code Yellow,” National Journal, March 7, 2007, p. 28.
30 Briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS for the Army G-3/5/7 Stability and Irregular Warfare Operations
Division on November 7, 2007, and Gordon Lubold, “How US Army Trains for a Different Kind of War,” The
Christian Science Monitor, June 20, 2007.
31 Briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS for the Army G-3/5/7 Stability Operations and Irregular Warfare
Division on November 7, 2007.
32 James Kitfield, p. 28.
and others outside the Army reportedly have expressed concern that the Army is “cutting corners” 33
in its training of units by not sending them to CTCs.
In addition to its conversion to BCTs—which was largely an initiative to create a greater pool of
deployable units—the Army has instituted a number of what can be described as force structure
changes. This section summarizes some of the Army’s force structure changes.
In FY2003, the Army began a conversion of what it termed its “Cold War Structure” to “better 34
fight the War on Terrorism.” Although this conversion is advertised as addressing
counterinsurgency and stability force requirements, it is primarily intended to relieve stress on
high-demand, low-density (few in number) units and to improve the readiness and deployability
of other higher-echelon units. By FY2012, the Army plans to achieve the following conversions,
totaling just over 100,000 soldiers:
Table 1. Planned Unit Conversions, FY2003-FY2012
Decrease Number of Units Increase Number of Units
Field Artillery BN 20 Military Intelligence BN 15
Air Defense BN 18 Military Police CO 58
Signal BN 28 Engineer CO 252
Armor BN 10 Infantry BN 18
Engineer Brigade HQs 25 Medical CO 7
Logistics HQs 12 Quartermaster CO 17
Quartermaster CO 74 Ordnance CO 14
Source: Information in this table is taken from Briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS for the Army
G-3/5/7 Stability Operations Division on November 7, 2007.
Notes: A company (CO) consists of between 60 to 200 soldiers and a battalion (BN) between 400 and 1,000
soldiers. Headquarters (HQs) units typical number 200 or fewer soldiers.
The Army will use these new units in a variety of roles, but these “new” units are not specifically
designed for counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training and advisory missions, but are instead
Robert Burn, “Lawmakers Question Cutting Desert Training,” Associated Press, February 27, 2007.
34 Information in this section is taken from Briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS for the Army G-3/5/7
Stability Operations and Irregular Warfare Division on November 7, 2007.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has reportedly stated that
“the United States’ exit from Iraq and Afghanistan depends on stepping up U.S. advising of those 35
nations’ security forces.” The United States and other coalition nations in Iraq and Afghanistan
have been involved to varying degrees over the past few years in the training and advising of
Afghan and Iraqi military and police units from the individual (basic training) through unit level.
The intent in both cases is to build military capacity so that security responsibilities can be
transferred to Iraqi and Afghan forces, permitting the United States to permanently reduce its
troop presence in these countries.
Over the past year, about 4,800 members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force have been trained
under a 72-day training program at Ft. Riley, Kansas (the Marines trains its teams at the 29 Palms 36
Training Facility in California) to serve as members of the 11-man training teams. These ad hoc
teams—about 135 teams in Iraq and 55 in Afghanistan—deploy for about a year and consist of
mid-grade officers and NCOs who are also in demand to fill vacancies in U.S. units. These teams
live and work alongside Iraqi and Afghan military and police units, where they are teaching them
basic tactics and planning and providing them with intelligence, air power, and other support, as 37
well as monitoring their operations for signs of sectarian activity and other abuses. While it is
not known how much longer U.S. forces will be training Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and police,
U.S. Army leaders are planning on at least another 15 years of what they describe as “persistent 38
conflict” not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but throughout the world.
Concerns About the Current Approach.39 There are concerns about the temporary, ad-hoc nature
of these advisory and training teams. One concern is that the current approach is not the most
efficient and cost-effective approach to a potentially long-term mission to train and advise Iraqi
and Afghan—and perhaps other nations’—security forces. These teams are brought together to
train for 10 weeks then sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for a year-long tour. There is evidence
suggesting that it takes these teams four to six months before they become effective. Finally, after
completion of their year-long tour, the teams—who have gained invaluable training, advisory, and
cultural experience—are then disbanded and are sent on to other Army assignments.
Another concern is that many soldiers—officers, in particular—assigned to these teams consider
these assignments detrimental to their careers because it takes them off their career paths for
promotion. By being out of their career paths for over a year, officers selected to serve on these
teams could fall behind their peers (officers are promoted in peer “year groups”) because they
Ann Scott Tyson, “Military Training Teams Seen as Career Detours,” Washington Post, October 25, 2007.
36 Information in this section, unless otherwise noted, is taken from Ann Scott Tyson, “Military Training Teams Seen
as Career Detours,” Washington Post, October 25, 2007, and from LTC John A. Nagl, U.S. Army, author of Learning
to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, University of Chicago Press, 2005.
37 Ann Scott Tyson.
38 Kris Osborn, “U.S. Army Sees 15 More Years of War,” Defense News, October 1, 2007.
39 Information in this section, unless otherwise noted, is taken from Ann Scott Tyson, “Military Training Teams Seen
as Career Detours,” Washington Post, October 25, 2007; from LTC John A. Nagl, U.S. Army, author of Learning to
Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, University of Chicago Press, 2005; and
from Lolita Baldor, “Army Boosting Efforts to Lure Trainers for Iraqi Forces,” New London Day, October 28, 2007.
were not available to serve as a commander or in a branch-qualifying40 staff position, which is a
necessary qualification for promotion to the next grade. Falling behind one’s peers might also
affect an officer’s decision to remain in the Army if the officer feels less competitive than his
peers who commanded a unit or served in a key staff position instead of serving on a training and
On October 10, 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaking to the Association of the 41
United States Army (AUSA), issued what some suggest was “a declaration of bureaucratic war”
and “a call to rethink the Army” by challenging the Army’s current training, organizational, 4243
personnel, and strategic policies. In his speech, Secretary Gates made the following points:
• “The U.S. Army today is ... an organization largely organized, trained, and
equipped in a different era for a different kind of conflict.”
• “One of the principal challenges that the Army faces is to regain its traditional
edge at fighting conventional wars while retaining what it has learned—and
relearned—about unconventional wars—the ones most likely to be fought in the
• “The standing up and mentoring of indigenous forces—once the province of
Special Forces—is now a key mission for the military as a whole. How the Army
should be organized and prepared for this advisory role remains an open
question, and will require innovative and forward thinking.”
• “Until our government decides to plus up our civilian agencies like the Agency
for International Development, Army soldiers can expect to be tasked with
reviving public services, rebuilding infrastructure, and promoting good
governance. All these so-called “nontraditional capabilities” have moved into the
mainstream of military thinking, planning, and strategy—where they must stay.”
These remarks are said to have renewed “an intense debate over proposals for a sweeping
reorganization of the Army to address shortcomings that have plagued the force in Iraq and to 44
abandon some warfighting principles that have prevailed since the Cold War.” This debate has
A branch-qualifying position in the Army is a specific staff or command position within an officer’s branch
(Infantry, Artillery, Signal Corps, etc.) that an officer must successfully serve in to be considered qualified for
promotion to the next higher rank.
41 The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) is a private, non-profit organization that acts as an advocacy group for
the United States Army. It sees its role as acting as the voice for all components of the Army, fostering public support
of the Army’s role in national security, and providing professional education and information programs to both the
military and the public. http:www.ausa.org
42 Fred Kaplan, “Secretary Gates Declares War on the Army Brass,” Slate Magazine, October 12, 2007, and Peter
Spiegel and Julian Barnes, “Rethinking the U.S. Army,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2007.
43 Information in this section is taken from a Department of Defense (DOD) Transcript: Association of the United
States Army, Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington DC, Wednesday, October
44 Peter Spiegel and Julian Barnes, “Rethinking the U.S. Army,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2007.
supposedly divided Army leaders into two groups: one that wants the Army to develop
specialized units to conduct counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advisory missions, and
another group that believes that the Army must remain generalists, that is, one of full-spectrum 45
units, all capable of conducting a wide range of missions.
There are a variety of proposals for the creation of specialized units to address the needs of
counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training and advisory missions. This section summarizes and
examines some of these proposals.
Historically, Army Special Forces (also referred to as “Green Berets”) have been the only Army
units specifically organized, trained, and equipped to conduct counterinsurgency and training and
advisory missions. Army Special Forces continue to conduct these missions, but because of their
limited size and the demand for “direct action” missions to kill or capture high-value targets and
key insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Special Forces are conducting increasingly fewer
counterinsurgency and training/advisory missions.
There are likely a variety of proposals for the creation of specialized counterinsurgency units, but
there has not been a widespread public discussion of possible options. The following three
proposals can be considered representative of the range of options concerning counterinsurgency
Three Distinct Forces.46 This proposal would redesign the majority of ground forces into units
specializing in one of three disciplines: conventional warfighting, counterinsurgency and
stabilization operations, and homeland defense. The warfighting component would consist of
traditional mechanized and armored units and conventional support units (artillery, attack
helicopters, etc.) needed for combat operations against conventional forces. The second
component would combine Army special forces with additional support units that have been
trained specifically for counterinsurgency and stabilization operations. Units in this second
component would have language and cultural training and would be able to conduct law
enforcement, governance, and infrastructure repair operations when U.S. civilian capacity is
absent or available only on a limited scale. The third and final component would consist primarily
of Reserve units and would be organized, trained, and equipped for homeland security missions.
46 Information in this section is from Dr. Steven Metz and Frank Hoffman, “Restructuring America’s Ground Forces:
Better, Not Bigger,” The Stanley Foundation, Muscatine, IA, September 2007.
A perceived benefit to this proposal is the Army would be able to optimize its forces for any
specific task as opposed to the current full-spectrum approach, where it can be argued that the
Army is no longer optimized for any task, given the recent heavy emphasis on counterinsurgency,
stabilization, and training missions. This specialization could result in greater expertise in all
three areas, which could mean, particularly in terms of counterinsurgency, that future operations
could be conducted more efficiently in terms of time, cost, and casualties. The major drawbacks
to this course of action would be expense, both having to maintain three separate forces, and
overcoming cultural biases within the Army that could arise when soldiers are grouped in three
different specialities with significantly different responsibilities.
Prioritizing Missions.47 This option would depart from the current full-spectrum focus and
instead prioritize missions—much as in the case of the Cold War where conventional warfighting
was the preeminent mission for U.S. ground forces. Taking this approach, the United States could
relegate conventional warfighting to a second-tier priority and elevate counterinsurgency and
stabilization to the forefront. Besides providing mission focus for U.S. forces, this approach could
have the benefit of prioritizing what some believe will become increasingly scarce funds for
defense procurement. Advocates for high-cost major weapons systems could oppose this course
of action, as counterinsurgency and stabilization operations tend to be less dependent on large,
high-tech weapons systems. An inherent risk in this approach is assuming that decision makers
will be able to accurately anticipate the security threats that the United States will face in coming
Augmenting Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs).48 Another proposed solution to address
counterinsurgency organizational needs is to create a special staff section for each of the Army’s
proposed 76 BCTs specifically designed to deal with counterinsurgency and other unconventional
operations. This staff section would be responsible for formulating counterinsurgency plans,
policies, and doctrine for the BCT. In addition, the section would have funds available to
underwrite counterinsurgency and stabilization tasks such as logistics, intelligence, and
interpreter support and to provide compensation for local security forces, if required. Officers
assigned to this staff section would require specialized counterinsurgency training and experience
over and above that of the typical officer.
A potential benefit from adopting this course of action would be that it could be done at a
relatively low cost and without the potential strategic risk associated with large-scale
organizational and cultural changes. While this staff section could enhance the BCT’s ability to
conduct counterinsurgency operations, it might not have a direct impact on how individual
soldiers and smaller units perform counterinsurgency functions, with some noting that
counterinsurgencies can be lost or won at the soldier and squad level.
48 Information in this section is from James D. Campbell, “Making Riflemen from Mud: Restoring the Army’s Culture
of Irregular Warfare,” Carlisle Papers in Security Strategy, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College,
Carlisle, PA, October 2007, pp. 21-22.
Just as there are proposals for creating specialized counterinsurgency units, there are arguments
against. One representative argument maintains that
... the Army should not develop specialized units to “fight” counterinsurgency. As U.S.
doctrine [FM 3-24] and strategy indicate, the primary role of the United States in
counterinsurgency is strengthening and supporting partners. U.S. involvement in
counterinsurgency combat should always be seen as an emergency expedient, undertaken
only when absolutely necessary for the shortest period of time possible. Given this, it would
not be an effective use of resources to create specialized units for counterinsurgency combat.
If direct combat is needed for some finite period of time, the tactical activities would be close
enough to those already resident in the force that the training of existing units can be 49
modified to make them effective.
While this argument is rooted in current U.S. military doctrine, it might also be argued that it is
unrealistic to believe that the U.S. military will routinely have partners that are “equal to the task”
and that the U.S. military might find itself in prolonged counterinsurgency combat—as in the case
in Iraq and Afghanistan—where current combat operations can hardly be classified as an
“emergency expedient” of short duration.
There have also been proposals to create specialized units to deal exclusively with stabilization,
security, and reconstruction operations, as well as peace keeping operations. The following two
proposals cover a range of possibilities for the creation of specialized stabilization units.
In May 2005, at the request of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO) published a study that proposed eight options for restructuring the Army
that would increase the Army’s ability to conduct different missions and to decrease the reliance
on the reserve component. One of these options would be the establishment of Stability and
Reconstruction (S&R) Divisions.
CBO’s option would eliminate one heavy division (about three heavy BCTs and supporting units)
and one light infantry division (about three infantry BCTs and supporting units) and use the
personnel and equipment resources to activate five S&R divisions—four in the active component
and one in the reserves. Each S&R division would include military police, engineer, medical,
civil affairs, and psychological operations units and a single Stryker BCT.
Steven Metz and Raymond Millen, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the 21 Century: Reconceptualizing
Threat and Response,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, November 2004, p. 32.
50 Information in this section is taken from “Options for Restructuring the Army,” Congressional Budget Office, May
In addition to the benefits of having a specially designed, equipped, and trained force for S&R
type of operations, CBO estimated that this option would save the Army almost $14 billion from
2006 to 2022 because of the smaller number of combat units that the Army would need to
modernize and because of the reduced emphasis on high technology weapons (such as the FCS)
intended for conventional combat operations. In addition, CBO projected an additional cost
savings of $18 billion in operations and support costs through 2022, and $1 billion annually
CBO maintains that the major drawback to this option is that it would reduce the Army’s ability
to fight wars, as it would have six fewer BCTs available. If the five Stryker BCTs in CBO’s
proposed S&R Divisions are dedicated exclusively to the S&R Divisions, then the Army would
have 11 fewer BCTs available for major combat operations.
Another proposal maintains that the key to success is to integrate stabilization force packages into
BCTs to begin stabilization and reconstruction operations as soon as combat operations end. This
proposal calls for the establishment of multi-functional stabilization battalion task forces that can
be “inserted” into BCTs or larger multi-functional stabilization brigade task forces that can
operate over a larger geographical area. These stabilization task forces would consist of a mix of
forces including combat and support forces, but a key focus for these task forces would be to
maintain internal security and conduct law enforcement operations at the local level. The task
forces would also focus on infrastructure repair if the local security situation permits. Besides
providing specialized forces and focused efforts for stabilization and reconstruction operations,
this proposal would free BCTs of the responsibility of conducting these operations, permitting
them to focus on combat operations instead.
While acknowledging the appeal of establishing specialized stabilization units, some maintain
that there are “significant downsides to this idea.” In certain instances, for example, it is
necessary to deter renewed conflict to win a counterinsurgency, and combat units are considered
the best choice as they “are trained to win battles and they inspire respect and fear from those 53
who would challenge them.” Furthermore, in large operations, “the missions are too large in 54
scale for a small number of specialized units to handle on their own.” If specialized stabilization
units were developed, it is likely that “they would require considerable help from general-purpose 55
formations, either all the time or at least at some point in the multi-year efforts.” Instead, it is
suggested that the Army needs to increase the numbers of rapidly deployable military police,
Information in this section is taken from Colonel Bryan G. Watson, “Reshaping the Expeditionary Army to Win
Decisively: The Case for Stabilization,” U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project, March 18, 2005.
52 Information in this section is from Michael O’Hanlon, “The Need to Increase the Size of the Deployable Army,”
Parameters, U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Autumn 2004.
53 Ibid., p. 6.
judges, criminal law experts, and other experts in civil society who are needed for stabilization
operations but whom are generally unavailable.
At present, the Army continues to create and train its training and advisory teams on an ad hoc
basis. The Marines, however, have recently established a Marine Corps Training and Advisory 56
Group (MCTAG) at Ft. Story, Virginia. The purpose of the MCTAG is to “coordinate, form,
train, and equip Marine Corps advisor and training teams for current and projected operations.” It
is not known if this will form the basis of a specialized Marine Corps training and advisory unit,
but it is likely that Marines will be assigned training and advisory duties on a temporary basis,
much as is the current case with the Army.
Noting that “well after the vast majority of conventional U.S. BCTs have gone home, the
predominant American commitment to these wars [Iraq and Afghanistan] will likely be embedded 58
advisory teams,” Former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) John A. Nagl advocates the
establishment of a permanent 20,000 member Advisory Corps. As envisioned, this corps would
oversee the training and deployment of some 750 25-soldier advisory teams. These 750 teams
would be organized into three 250-team divisions each commanded by a major general. These
teams, some commanded by generals but most commanded by lieutenant colonels and majors,
would advise and train host nation military forces starting from the ministry of defense level
down to battalion level. Proposed tours of duty in the Advisory Corps would be for three years,
and soldiers could then return to conventional units or stay for additional tours with the Advisory
Corps, if desired.
The Army has not been supportive of LTC Nagl’s proposal to establish a permanent advisory
corps. Brigadier General (BG) Anthony Cucolo, the Chief of Army Public Affairs, reportedly
rejected the notion of a permanent advisory corps noting that the capabilities that would be 59
provided by an advisory corps are already being provided by Special Forces. In addition, Army
enhancements to its full-spectrum BCTs were cited as being sufficient to handle the training and
Information in this section is from Cpl. Margaret Hughes, Marine Corps Forces Command, Marine Corps News,
November 14, 2007.
57 Information in this section is taken from LTC John A. Nagl, “Institutionalizing Adaptation: It’s Time for a
Permanent Army Advisory Corps,” Center for a New American Security, June 2007.
58 LTC John A. Nagl is a soon to be retired active duty Army Officer who previously served in Iraq, was a co-author of
the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24, Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-
33.5), and the author of Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam,
considered by some as one of the leading contemporary works on counterinsurgency.
59 Fawzia Sheik, “Army Opposes Permanent Adviser Corps to Train Foreign Forces,” Inside the Pentagon, September
advisory missions. Others in the Army also reject the notion of a permanent advisory corps.
Lieutenant General (LTG) Peter Chiarelli, who commanded a division in Baghdad, stated,
I don’t believe that it is in the military’s best interest to establish a permanent “Training
Corps” in the conventional military to develop other countries’ indigenous security forces
(ISF). The Special Forces do this mission well on the scale that is normally required for
theater security cooperation and other routine foreign internal defense missions. Rather, we
should ensure our conventional forces have the inherent flexibility to transition to ISF
support when the mission becomes too large for the Special Forces. If the requirements
exceed Special Forces capabilities, then training and transition teams should be internally 60
resourced from conventional U.S. or coalition units.
Citing an internal review on how the Army is training and advising Iraqi security forces, the
Army is currently reviewing a proposal that would “equip BCTs with the requisite knowledge and
equipment to train foreign security ... in contrast to the current Army practice of preparing an 62
external cadre of trainers at Ft. Riley, KS.” The Army’s review notes that current training teams
[c]urrently being severely hampered by the quality and diversity of individuals assigned [to
serve on these teams], the inadequacy of the curriculum, the lack of experience of the 63
instructors, and the overall lack of external support.
If Army leadership accepts the BCT proposal, the training and advisory mission would be
elevated to a core mission—just as DOD Directive 3000.5 elevated the stability mission to a core
mission—and BCT manning, equipping, and training would be modified to accommodate this
new priority mission. If Army leadership approves this plan prior to March 2008, one Army
source suggested that the first such enhanced BCT could be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan by
the fall of 2008.
The Army’s insistence that specialized units are not needed and that full-spectrum units can meet
the operational challenges of counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advising appears to be
“more of the same” or “the path of least resistance” to some, but the Army cites its experiences in
Iraq as validation of its position. The Army maintains that its BCTs, particularly in Iraq, have
LTG Peter W. Chiarelli, “Learning From Our Modern Wars: The Imperatives of Preparing for a Dangerous Future,”
Military Review, September-October 2007.
61 Information in this section is taken from a briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS from the Army G-3/5/7
Stability Operations and Irregular Warfare Division on November 7, 2007, and from Sebastian Sprenger, “Army Eyes
Changes to Iraqi Training Mission After Review Finds Flaws,” Inside the Army, December 17, 2007.
64 Information in this section is taken from a briefing, “Stability Operations,” provided to CRS from the Army G-3/5/7
Stability Operations and Irregular Warfare Division on November 7, 2007.
been required to rapidly transition between counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advisory
missions on a frequent and unpredictable basis. Because there is not a predictable linear
progression from one type of an operation to another, it would become both difficult and risky to
replace a BCT with a specialized stabilization unit, particularly when the tactical situation could
rapidly and unexpectedly deteriorate into open conflict. The Army also suggests that relationships
with both the indigenous population and security forces are a crucial factor in any sort of
operation and that it might be more effective to leave a BCT in place over a period of time to
conduct all missions as opposed to transitioning to specialized units and advisory teams which
would require re-establishing these crucial relationships with indigenous personnel.
If DOD and the Army decide to elevate the training and advisory mission to a “core mission,”
Army units would then be equally responsible for conventional combat, counterinsurgency,
stabilization and reconstruction, and training/advisory missions—the full spectrum of military
operations. In theory, the Army would be required to maintain a high-level proficiency for four
distinctly different and, some might argue, mutually exclusive missions. This being the case,
some might argue that the Army runs the risk of becoming a “jack of all trades, master of none”
Given these circumstances, it can be argued that prioritizing the Army’s missions, as was done
during the Cold War, might be a more viable solution. If Secretary of Gates truly believes that
unconventional wars are “the ones most likely to be fought in the years ahead,” then perhaps
unconventional wars should become the Army’s priority. The lack of a peer or near-peer potential
ground force adversary—like the Warsaw Pact—could present a low-risk opportunity to designate
“unconventional wars” as the Army’s priority mission, and perhaps revise Army force structure to
more effectively function in an unconventional role.
When examining the changes instituted by the Army in response to the challenges of
counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training/advising in doctrine, education, and training, it
appears that they far exceed innovative changes in Army force structure. While few would argue
that doctrine, education, and training reforms are unimportant, some might consider it reasonable
to expect that there would be a commensurate degree of change in Army force structure. While
the Army has embarked on its “divestiture of Cold War force structure” as previously described, it
can be argued that these changes are long overdue and more rooted in the Army’s 1990s
experiences in the Balkans and Rwanda than in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because the Army has
opted to continue with full-spectrum units while radically redesigning military doctrine,
education, and training, some might question why the Army has not taken that final step and
custom designed special units to deal with counterinsurgency, stabilization, and training and
Discussions with Army officials and reports in the press suggest that the Army is well aware of
some of the proposals for the creation of specialized units. What is less well-known, however, is
whether the Army has subjected any or all of these proposals to any form of critical analytic
review. Without a formal analytic review, the Army could be accused of being dismissive and
“choosing the easier path” of continuing to rely on full-spectrum forces. A comprehensive
analytic comparison by the Army, as well as independent organizations, of all options—including
the current full-spectrum approach—could highlight the advantages, disadvantages, and resource
requirements of the various proposals and, if the results favor a full-spectrum approach, add
further weight to the Army’s current position on the need for specialized units.
On one level, in order for a brigade combat team (BCT) and its soldiers to conduct the current
and potential panoply of full-spectrum missions, additional training, education, and equipment are
the key. On another level, soldiers are the key. The Army’s need for “pentathletes”—particularly
among its officer and non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps—may prove to be an unobtainable 65
goal. Reports suggest that the Army is losing “our combat experienced mid-career NCOs and 66
Captains at an excessive rate.” Of even greater concern perhaps is a reported internal Army
warning in 2005 that there was a “disproportionate loss of high-potential, high-performance 67
junior leaders,” precisely the types the Army envisions as its “pentathletes.” The loss of these
junior officers has other implications as well. One is that there is less competition for promotion, 68
meaning that less capable officers could be promoted to more senior ranks. Another is that to fill
these depleted officer ranks, the Army is sending more NCOs and junior soldiers with NCO
potential to Officer Candidate School, thereby depriving the NCO corps—already several 69
thousand NCOs short—of much needed high-potential, high-performance NCOs. These
circumstances may preclude the Army from achieving and maintaining a full-spectrum capability
and further stress soldiers and BCTs by requiring them to perform at a level currently beyond
Section 941 of the Conference Report for H.R. 1585, the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense
Authorization Act, establishes a requirement for DOD to conduct a quadrennial review of its roles
Information in this section is taken from Andrew Tilghman, “The Army’s Other Crisis: Why the Best and Brightest
Young Officers are Leaving,” Washington Monthly, December 7, 2007, and an After Action Report by General Barry
R. McCaffrey (USA retired) to Colonel Michael Meese, Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences,
United States Military Academy, Subject: Visit to Iraq and Kuwait, 5-11, December 2007, December 18, 2007.
and missions beginning in 2008.70 While this review is foremost a means to identify core mission
areas and service capabilities, it may also examine how counterinsurgency, stabilization, and
training and advisory missions are being addressed by the Services. The review might also
recommend joint or service-specific actions to better address these potential core mission areas—
to include the formation of units specifically designed to address these mission areas.
Specialist in Military Ground Forces
Information in this section is taken from a House Armed Services Committee Press Release, “Agreement Reached on
H.R. 1585, The Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Conference Report,” December 6, 2007.