Soldiers participate in a clearance operation exercise in a mock town at the National Training Center, February 18, 2016

commentary

(The National Interest)

March 3, 2016

The Tension Between What the Army Is and What It Does

Soldiers participate in a clearance operation exercise in a mock town at the National Training Center, February 18, 2016

Photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne/U.S. Army

by Gian Gentile

What is the heart of the United States Army?

Is the U.S. Army's heart about cooperation and integration into one army made up of its three major component parts—the Regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve? Or is the heart of the Army fundamentally about fighting power and effectiveness?

The National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) recently released its much-anticipated report to the president and the Congress. The NCFA took a stand in answering this question by emphasizing the absolute importance of the Army's three components becoming one total force. Although the commission comes down on the side of one total force, it argues that doing so will enable the Army to be an effective fighting force as well.

The commission's report thus manifests a tension between what the Army is—the relationship between its three components—and what the Army does—provide effective forces to fight the nation's wars.

Cooperation and integration of the Army's three components is important, but what's most important is effectiveness in war—as demonstrated by the power to defeat America's enemies in sustained land combat—and the key to that is trained, properly organized and ready forces. If that means using a combination of the three components in one total army, then so be it....

The remainder of this commentary is available on nationalinterest.org.


Gian P. Gentile is a senior historian at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. He is currently working on a history of American military policy from the Constitution to the present.

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on March 3, 2016. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.