Army to add more infantry battalions in 2013

Army leaders don't expect budget cuts to affect plans to add a third maneuver battalion and engineer support to its BCTs.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Despite the threat of additional spending cuts, Army leaders are not backing away from a plan to add more firepower to its brigade combat teams.

Later this year, the Army intends to start adding a third maneuver battalion and engineer support to its BCTs under the plan to reorganize 32 active BCTs by 2017, said Gen. Robert Cone, the head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium held here.

These force-structure changes will occur as the Army reduces its active force from 570,000 to 490,000. The service may have to reduce the force by another 100,000 in that same time window if the defense spending cuts under sequestration occur March 1.

Under sequestration, the Pentagon would have to absorb $46 billion worth of cuts across all the services. As it stands now, the Army’s share of that would mean about $18 billion less in operations and maintenance funds throughout the year. The Army, like the rest of the services, is also operating under a continuing resolution which puts the defense budget at fiscal 2012 spending levels.

The bleak financial outlook may slow the BCT reorganization effort, but it won’t stop it, Army officials said since the service is reducing its number of active BCTs from 37 to 32.

“Basically we are proposing fewer, more capable BCTs for the future,” said Maj. Gen. Arthur Bartell, deputy director of the Army Capability Integration Center. “Two-maneuver-battalion BCTs worked in a [counter-insurgency] environment, but a three-maneuver-battalion design gives commanders more agility and more flexibility across the range of military operations.”

Leaders are also considering adding armored reconnaissance back into heavy BCTs (HBCTs) and trying to determine what type of reconnaissance and surveillance unit would be best suited for higher-level commands such as division and corps.

Army leaders are looking at realigning the service’s Battlefield Surveillance Brigades (BSB) to add the right mix of reconnaissance assets to commanders at the HBCT level as well as the division and corps level, Bartell said.

“We have had about 10 years of experience with the BSB and found that although it was effective in certain respects, commanders on the ground had to reorganize that capability to accomplish the missions they needed to accomplish,” Bartell said. “I wouldn’t call it armored [cavalry], but a lot of capabilities we had in armored cavalry regiments, we are looking at some of those capabilities to put them back into armored brigade combat teams.”