Russian Brigades Brace For The Chinese Threat

October 24, 2013: Russia recently announced that it would accelerate its plan to create 40 more combat brigades by the end of the decade. This conversion was first announced in 2009, and since then 70 brigades have been created. Not all are fully manned or equipped. Only 35 are maneuver (tank or infantry) brigades and only about half of them are at full strength. The other 35 brigades are artillery, engineer, and the like. Converting the force from one based on divisions to one based on brigades was an admission that this two decade old Western practice was the correct solution to the many changes in military equipment during the last few decades. It is uncertain if the army would be able to scrounge up the needed manpower for another 40 brigades but, for the moment, that’s the plan. The basic element of brigade-centric organization is to distribute many of the division and higher level support functions (supply, maintenance, artillery, engineer, communications) to the regiments (which are now brigades) and make the larger units more capable of operating independently and not simply as a subdivision of a division. The brigades are larger in terms of personnel and equipment than the older regiments. New training is required as well.

The brigade decision also included the elimination of many other Soviet era practices. For example, nearly all brigades will be at full strength in peacetime, eliminating the need to wait for reservists to arrive to fill out the unit before it can move out. Another change is moving weapons and ammunition to the brigade’s base, instead of distant locations (a measure partly to prevent mutinous troops from arming themselves). The reforms make it possible for a brigade to be available for combat, or movement to a combat area, within a few hours, not a day or more. Improved training, better leaders, and new equipment are being used to bring Russian peacetime forces up to the same quality level of those in the West, particularly the United States or Britain. The Russians were impressed with the performance of these Western brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan and want to emulate it.

Changes like this are also driven by the fact that the Russian armed forces lost 80 percent of its strength in the 1990s, and for equipment many troops are still getting by with barely operational Cold War leftovers. The shock of this has caused a lot of indecision in the Russian military leadership and the internal debates over what to do. For example, a change in leadership in the military and Defense Ministry in late 2013 brought forth proposals for returning to the use of divisions rather than brigades and rebuilding a large reserve force that Russia had favored for over a century. The reason for this was the possibility of a large war in the east. The only major foe out there is China but China was not mentioned. Nevertheless, China is the major potential threat to Russia. The Chinese Army is three times larger and has 15 tank and mechanized infantry divisions it could place on the Russian border. China is also reorganizing its ground forces into one based on brigades rather than divisions. Still, China has 3 times as many brigades right now. Officially, Russia has ceased to consider Chinese ground forces a threat, as Russian nuclear weapons are supposed to be what would stop a Chinese ground assault. Traditionalists in the Defense Ministry are pointing out that nuclear war would destroy both nations and that the current situation allows China to quickly grab the Russian Far East (which China has long claimed) and then call for a peace conference. This is the sort of tactic China has used in the past and the Chinese are big fans of their imperial past. The pro-brigade leaders won this debate and it is apparently agreed that a brigade-centric army would be more successful in fighting the Chinese threat.


U.S. Army says only two brigades fully trained due to budget cuts ( That is only 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers )

Source: Reuters – Mon, 21 Oct 2013 10:44 PM

Author: Reuters

* Spending reductions this year fell heavily on training dollars

* Top Army leaders appeal for greater budget certainty

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Two years of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have forced the U.S. Army to greatly curtail spending on training, leaving it with only two combat brigades fully prepared to go to war, the Army’s top officer said on Monday.

“Right now, we have in the Army two brigades that are trained. That’s it. Two,” General Ray Odierno told a news conference at the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Odierno’s comments came as he and Army Secretary John McHugh discussed the impact of the recent U.S. government shutdown as well as across-the-board budget cuts that forced the military to slash spending in March, nearly halfway through its fiscal year.

McHugh and Odierno both appealed to Congress to find a way to give the military more financial predictability so it can plan effectively. McHugh said that with the way the military is currently funded, budgets that are approved today are based on planning that occurred three years earlier.

“You can’t run the most important military on the face of the Earth locked into three-year-old budgets,” McHugh said.

The Army was hit particularly hard by the cuts in March, known as sequestration, because of higher-than-projected Afghanistan war costs and the need to make up those funds from its operations accounts, which include money for training.

“We had to stop training, basically, in the last six months of the year,” Odierno said.

The ongoing uncertainty with the defense budget could make the situation worse in the fiscal year that began in October. The U.S. government began the year with a shutdown that lasted nearly three weeks and put many federal workers on unpaid leave.

The government resumed operations last week under a deal to fund operations at last year’s spending levels and priorities.

The Army chief said he hoped to be able to devote enough money to training this fiscal year to ensure that seven combat brigades are fully ready by June to respond to a conflict. He said the current lack of training was his biggest concern.

A combat brigade team has about 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers.

“The worst-case scenario is you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere and we have not properly trained them to go because we simply don’t have the dollars and money because of the way sequestration is laid out,” Odierno said.

Odierno said that while troops going to Afghanistan had been trained, they were “trained now to do training and advising only. They’re not trained to do combat operations … because that’s not their mission in Afghanistan any more.”

The Army grew to about 570,000 uniformed personnel over the past decade. But with the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, officials plan to reduce the size of the force to 490,000. The number of brigade combat teams is due to fall from a total of 45 currently down to 33.

With the Pentagon increasingly likely to face cuts of nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, the Army could be forced to cut further. A management review this summer conducted by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated the Army might have to shrink by up to 70,000 more soldiers, to 420,000.

McHugh said that if the across-the-board cuts continue in force, essentially all of the Army’s programs will be affected.

Odierno also said the Army needs a replacement for its armored fighting vehicles, its workhorse Humvee vehicles and its helicopters. “The bottom line is we can’t afford all of that. And so we’re going to have make some tough decisions,” he said.   (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Army Learns Hard Lessons in N. Korea-like War Game

Mar. 26, 2013 – 12:44PM   |

WASHINGTON — It took 56 days for the U.S. to flow two divisions’ worth of soldiers into the failed nuclear-armed state of “North Brownland” and as many as 90,000 troops to deal with the country’s nuclear stockpiles, a major U.S. Army war game concluded this winter.

The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.

While American forces who staged in a neighboring friendly country to the south eventually made it over the border into North Brownland, they encountered several problems for which they struggled to find solutions. One of the first was that a large number of nuclear sites were in populated areas, so they had to try to perform humanitarian assistance operations while conducting combined arms maneuver and operations.

One way of doing this was to “use humanitarian assistance as a form of maneuver,” Maj. Gen. Bill Hix, director of the Army’s Concept Development and Learning Directorate, told reporters. The Army dropped humanitarian supplies a short distance from populated areas, drawing the population away from the objective sites, he explained.

Many of the problems encountered were hashed out with Army leaders at a Senior Leader Seminar on March 19 at Fort McNair in Washington. The event—which included the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, and the vice chief, Gen. John Campbell, along with a collection of three- and four-star generals — was off the record, but under terms of the agreement that allowed a handful of reporters to cover the event, unattributed quotes can be reported.

One of the major complications was that “technical ISR was not capable of closing the gap” caused by not having human intelligence assets in the country for years before the fight, one participant said. Also, “our ability to get north was hindered by our operational inflexibility,” particularly when it comes to dropping troops into austere, contested areas.

To move soldiers quickly, Marine Corps V-22 Ospreys quickly inserted Army units deep behind enemy lines, but leaders found that inserting troops far in front of the main force so quickly often caused them to be surrounded, after which they had to be withdrawn.

Overall, the friendly force ultimately “failed to achieve the operational agility” it needed to succeed, another participant complained, “largely due to the rigidity” of current deployment models. What’s more, the joint force was “able to get the force there quickly, but it was the technical force” that proved more difficult to deploy.

Another participant agreed, adding “the key challenge was timely access to joint enablers” such as ISR and counter-weapons of mass destruction units, which were desperately needed by the general-purpose ground units.

While not all lessons learned from the exercise were fully hashed out in this unclassified setting, some officers involved expressed their views of how the past decade of war has influenced how the Army prepares to fight.

“We’ve had the luxury in the last several wars of a place called Kuwait” from which to launch troops and stage equipment, one officer said. “I think our skills have atrophied in the call you get in the middle of the night,” and in forcible-entry operations from the air and sea. Skills haven’t been kept fresh in doing things such as loading trains full of equipment, and in setting up new command posts, he said.

Another leader agreed. “We have been spoiled by a command-and-control network that has been established for a decade” in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, adding that the Army has to get back to training to operate in an austere environment.

One lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, reinforced by the Unified Quest game, was that “we’re not going to fight a pure military war again,” one four-star general opined. Instead, being successful in conflict will require a variety of solutions requiring cultural knowledge, political acumen and other intelligence activities. The problem is, according to another officer, that the service needs to better understand the cultures in which it will fight, since “we tend to focus on the clash, when we need to focus on the will” of the local population.

Gen. Robert Cone, director of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said the difficulties the Army faces in moving troops and materiel around the battlefield again reinforced that “we have significant inter-service dependencies on our ability to move” and that any future fight will be a joint fight.

When asked about the potential for conflict in North Korea specifically, Cone said that while he thinks the forces the U.S. has today in South Korea “are adequate … the question is what forces are adequate for the problem of loose nukes?”|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

The Army’s obesity problem: By the numbers

*Repost at request
In 2007, 116 troops were dismissed for being out of shape. In the first 10 months of this year, that figure was a rather massive 1,625
By Samantha Rollins | December 11, 2012
Members of the U.S. Army at a food court: While these soldiers look rather fit, some of their colleagues are struggling to stay in shape.
Members of the U.S. Army at a food court: While these soldiers look rather fit, some of their colleagues are struggling to stay in shape.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When an entire nation has an obesity problem, it should be no surprise that its army will have one as well. These days, being “too fat to fight” is an increasingly common concern in the U.S. military. According to The Washington Post, obesity is now the leading cause of ineligibility among potential Army volunteers and current military personnel. Indeed, as pressure mounts for the Army to cut its budget, it has begun to dismiss troops who need to cut a few pounds. Here, a look at the Army’s weight problem, by the numbers:

Maximum weight, in pounds, for female enlistees

Maximum weight, in pounds, for male enlistees

Troops dismissed from the Army in 2007 for being out of shape

Troops dismissed from the Army in the first 10 months of 2012 for being out of shape

Percent of U.S. troops classified as overweight or obese in 2010

Percent of U.S. adults who are obese

Percent of civilians hoping to volunteer for the Army in 2009 who were physically ineligible to join, with obesity being the leading cause

Revolutionary life saving Palantir software denied to the 3rd Infantry Division because of Red tape. Even though the company offered its technology on a cost-free basis

Army Investigating 3rd Infantry Division’s Acquisition of Controversial Intel Software

Sep. 20, 2012 – 06:16AM   | By PAUL MCLEARY

An Aug. 16 email from the Army’s acting assistant secretary for acquisition, Heidi Shyu, demanded “immediate corrective action” after she discovered that the 3rd Infantry Division had attempted to obtain controversial intelligence software for stateside training prior to its deployment to Afghanistan.

Shyu’s email, obtained by Defense News, comes after her staff discovered two memos written by the 3rd ID in May calling for the delivery of the Palantir intelligence software while admitting that the unit didn’t have the money to pay for it. The revolutionary software is designed to coordinate vast amounts of information stored in various government databases to help deployed units track and pinpoint insurgent leaders, IED strikes, and IED-planting networks.

The issue that alarmed Shyu was that the unit said it couldn’t pay for the system, and the company offered its technology on a cost-free basis, as opposed to normal contracting methods. Shyu wrote that “these circumstances warrant immediate corrective action by the Army to ensure that we comply with fundamental rules relating to how the government obtains goods and services from industry.”

The memos, addressed to the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office and the Technical Support Working Group; and to intelligence contractor Praescient Analytics and Palantir, asked for a “temporary training/reach-back server” from Palantir before the 3rd ID’s deployment to Afghanistan to assume command of Regional Command-South. The unit deployed in August.

The 3rd ID’s memo said that the unit’s budget “will not support the purchase of Palantir. Operational Needs Statement (ONS) was considered, but standard length of timeline for ONS cannot be tolerated. This requirement needs to be filled immediately.” The memos obtained by Defense News show that the 3rd ID considered the 82nd Airborne’s use of Palantir in Afghanistan in 2012 critical in helping to fill “major capability gaps” in the division’s existing intelligence software, and that Palantir is “the only platform capable of filling their advanced analytic requirements.” Because the unit planned on using the software on its upcoming deployment, the memo states that “3rd ID needs a rapid fielding of this system to quickly fill critical capability/training gap prior to our pending deployment.”

Asked about the issue, an Army spokesman emailed that the 3rd ID “is working to execute proper contracts for these goods and services as required by law; Army Commands have been advised of the need to reinforce training of personnel regarding the acceptance of goods and services without a contract; and greater acquisition oversight has been implemented to ensure that requests for similar capabilities follow required procedures.”

Congressman Duncan Hunter, who has been out in front on the issue of getting combat units the Palantir software, said in an emailed statement that the 3rd ID “opened back channels to acquire Palantir and they got it in preparation for their Afghanistan deployment. Emails show Army officials learning of their acquisition for the first time on August 16 and now the Army is directing its attention to 3rd ID, rather than focusing on the real problem. It seems they are just stalling. What the Army needs to start worrying about are the urgent requests from ground combat units for alternate counter IED technology.”

This is the latest salvo in an ongoing controversy over the Palantir software that erupted in July, when Hunter’s office went public with its discovery that a highly positive April 2012 study of the Palantir software by the Army Operational Test Command was redacted on the orders of Col. Joseph Martin, the command’s director. The report said that while the Army-preferred intelligence system, the Distributed Common Ground System, “is overcomplicated,” the Army should “install more Palantir servers in Afghanistan.” Martin ordered all of the copies of the report destroyed, replaced with a new report that excluded the positive comments about Palantir.

In an Aug. 23 letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, Hunter claimed that “there have been deliberate efforts on the part of mid-level bureaucrats to deny units this resource despite repeated urgent requests from commanders.” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has already launched an investigation into why requests for the Palantir software were either denied or ignored. His investigation is supposed to conclude some time this month.

Secretary McHugh has also pledged to investigate. In a Sept. 17 letter to Hunter, he wrote that he has directed his staff to conduct a review of “unit requests for the capabilities provided by Palantir” and to examine “the process by which such requests are addressed, as well as the manner in which capabilities are acquired and fielded.” The letter was written a month after McHugh had been made aware of 3rd ID’s actions but before those actions had been made public