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Drop 2 MCOs Already: Army CoS

It’s high time the Pentagon drop the two major conventional theater war force sizing and shaping construct, according to Army Chief Gen. George Casey. The outdated organizing principle is of little use as a planning tool for generating forces for future conflict and a consensus is building among the service chiefs that DoD should jettison the two war construct in the Quadrennial Defense Review.

“The reality of it is, with the amount of forces we already have deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of those MCOs [Major Combat Operations] is already off the table.” The Army has already moved away from the two MCO organizing idea as it builds and equips its future force, Casey said, speaking at CSIS in Washington on Thursday.

“We must shift our focus away from organizations that are primarily designed to win conventional war, because that’s not what we’re going to be doing for the rest of the century,” Casey said. Instead of big conventional wars, future wars will most likely be "hybrid wars," featuring a blend of guerrilla fighters and high-tech weaponry.

Problem is, the Pentagon’s long entrenched two war construct, also known as the “2 MCO” plan, keeps pulling the Army back towards major conventional war as the central organizing principle. Readiness reports for Army units, demanded by Pentagon planners, are based on how prepared those units are to fight a major conventional war, even though those units are being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan organized, trained and equipped to wage a counterinsurgency campaign, he said.

Cold War force generators planned to fight a multi-theater war against the Soviet Union. The Clinton Administration’s 1992 Bottom Up Review codified a new planning requirement that the military be able to fight and win two nearly simultaneous regional wars, one in the Persian Gulf the other on the Korean peninsula (those interested in the various post Cold War planning constructs should read Krepinevich and Work’s excellent report: A New US Global Defense Posture for the Second Transoceanic Era).

The Army is shifting from a garrison force, the way it’s been organized for the past 60 years, and instead is adopting a rotational cycle, much like the Navy and Marine Corps, Casey said. The active force would be broken down into four force “bins,” with one part of the force out and three back. Each bin, or force pool, would hold one operational headquarters, four tactical headquarters, 14 or 15 Brigade Combat Teams, and about 75,000 enablers, including artillery, engineers, civil affairs and psyops units.

The new rotational cycle would always have one of those bins available for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. A second bin would contain the “operational reserve,” units in a ready phase able to quickly work up and deploy if an emergency arose somewhere around the world, on the Korean peninsula for example. The two remaining force bins would be the “strategic reserve,” Casey said, containing a mix of active and reserve units. Each of the bins would contain a mix of heavy units, Stryker equipped brigades and light infantry units using Humvees and MRAPs.

In the first force pool, some of the brigades not committed to other missions, would have a "regional affilation," so each regional combatant commander would have a brigade to call on to work in conjunction with special forces to train and advise foreign militaries, Casey said. The soldiers in that brigade, drawn from both active and reserve, would undergo regional specific language and cultural training.

The units in each of the bins would have varying degrees of manning and equipping. The “available bin” would be fully manned, trained and equipped, Casey said. The second bin would be manned and equipped at a “C-1 level,” about 90 percent or better. The next “training” bin, would be manned and equipped at about 80 percent, able to do work ups. The last “reset” bin would not be ready at all, those would be units just returned from combat deployment, they would break up temporarily, with soldiers going off to schools or other training, and then come back together after about six months. Casey said he hopes to convince OSD to sign off on the new Army plan in the QDR.

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