Toward A Smaller, Smarter Army

A short history of US military spending:

Gordon Lubold looks at the consequences of downsizing:

The Army has long been criticized for being too big and lumbering – qualities that perhaps suited it all right for the conventional land wars of the past decade. Calls for a lighter, nimbler one haven’t made huge impacts yet on the institution. But aside from the conventional threats in the Asia Pacific like China, most people argue that in this budgetary environment, there are few reasons to have a large, sitting Army that topped about 570,000 just a few years ago. And an Army sized at 420,000 soldiers is not exactly skeletal. In fact, it’s roughly the size of the pre-war Army in 2000. And cutting it back isn’t anything like the hundreds of thousands of forces cut in the early 1990s.

A smaller force may have an impact on one of the Army’s cherished new concepts:

regionalized brigades. The idea is to give soldiers assigned to a brigade basic language and cultural skills for a certain region. Although the brigades are not assigned to a specific part of the world, they are theoretically “on the step” to deploy there — most typically in smaller, platoon- and company-sized units — for training and advising or potentially more “kinetic” missions. It’s an ambitious approach and one not without its critics. But for example, the Army has begun using the Army’s 2-1 brigade combat team as one of the first ones trained and ready to deploy to Africa. “I think what we want to make sure is that they’re much more culturally attuned to the area they’re going to,” an Army official working on the initiative, told Foreign Policy’s Situation Report last year. “I think that is an important part, and it’s certainly something that 12 years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has highlighted to us, that you’ve got to understand the culture within which you operate. If you don’t, it does come with potentially cataclysmic problems.”