April 4, 2017
A recent report warns that the U.S. and its European allies must refocus attention on beefing up broad warfighting capabilities in response to unrest in Eastern Europe and the threat posed by Russian aggression.
For the U.S. Army, that means increasing forward presence and countering Russia’s investment in key capabilities that “allow it to conduct decisive operations in regional conflicts,” according to the report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit public policy research group specializing in national security issues.
The U.S. Army in Europe should focus on enhancing long-range rocket artillery, anti-armor munitions, heavy armor, tactical drones, electronic warfare systems and suppression of ground-based enemy air defense systems.
Force reductions in the European Theater have hit the Army hard with only two brigade-sized combat units remaining: a Stryker brigade combat team in Germany and an airborne infantry brigade combat team in Italy. Neither is equipped for a conventional battle against heavy forces, the report says.
“Although the United States military is still the best fighting force in the world, its presence in Europe has been greatly diminished since the Cold War, and it is now dangerously close to reaching—if not already beyond—the threshold of acceptable risk in the Baltics,” the report says.
By the end of September, the Army’s end strength will receive a boost of 28,000 soldiers above the original troop levels authorized for the current fiscal year.
The increase was authorized as part of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and leaders say it is expected to markedly improve readiness. Leaders were informed of the increase in December.
“The No. 1 problem we have right now is that formations are manned at 95 percent,” Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson, deputy chief of staff for operations, told the House Armed Services Committee. Compounding that problem, he explained, are other variables in soldiers’ availability such as those who are nondeployable, retired, on permanent change of station or attending school, which bring formation levels down as low as 78 percent.
Across the force, the Regular Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers to an end strength of 476,000; National Guard levels will jump by 8,000 to 343,000 soldiers; and the Army Reserve will end the fiscal year with 199,000 soldiers, a bump of 4,000 troops.
To achieve the higher end strength by Sept. 30, the Army will raise its accession mission to 68,500 and boost training resources. Enlisted retention is set to increase with incentives, and officer accessions and retention is expected to increase officer strength by 1,000.
Soldiers will go to undermanned tactical units and fill other gaps following recommendations of ongoing Army analysis.