Is Army “Modularization” Collapsing in the Army?

On Sept. 29, 2005, the Straus Military Reform Project summarized and made available to journalists and others studies on the Army's “modularization” plan. Advertised as an expansion of combat forces, the Army’s plan was found to actually shrink combat units, according to the highly respected Institute for Defense Analyses. The Army achieved this antithesis of reform by expanding the number of brigades in its force structure, while decreasing the number of “maneuver” (combat) battalions in most brigades from three to two. Thus, an 11 percent expansion from 66 to 77 brigades in the active and reserve components would result in a 20 percent reduction from 201 to 161 in maneuver battalions, according to the IDA study.

In a tacit admission that this plan is a bad idea, the Army has been typically employing brigades in Iraq with three “task organized” combat battalions, not two. Moreover, it is notable that when the Army’s apologists for this “reform” attempt to counter the criticism of shrinking combat forces, they resort to counting half-sized, under equipped reconnaissance units as full blooded combat battalions. As is the case with most defense issues, there are pros and cons and caveats to both sides of the argument on this issue. These are brilliantly laid out by journalist Elaine Grossman in a March 6 “Special Report” from Inside the Pentagon. The article, “Critique of Army Redesign Proves Highly Contentious Inside Service,” is available by clicking here. As the article notes, the Pentagon still refuses to release the controversial IDA studies.