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Research Questions

  1. Would the Army be able to expand its active component in a relatively short time so that it could supply deployable troops at a level equal to those supplied to meet the demands of the recent large, protracted contingency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq?
  2. Can the Total Army force be sustained and the active component expanded while maintaining current high standards for recruits?
  3. What kinds of policy levers might be available to enable such a regeneration of the active component?

The 2014 Army Posture Statement considered two future Army end strengths: one that includes an active component (AC) of 450,000, as part of a Total Army of 980,000 (980K), and one that includes an AC of 420,000, as part of a Total Army of 920,000 (920K). These force sizes call into question the Army's ability to "regenerate" itself to higher strength levels in a timely way should the nation require it to do so. This analysis modeled the Army's ability to increase its AC end strength over a five-year period — starting from a Total Army of 980K and starting from a Total Army of 920K — so that the Army could provide the number of deployable troops available at the end of the last conflict in 2010 (what we term a "550K" AC). The analysis indicated that the policies the Army and the Department of Defense currently have at their disposal are likely adequate to expand the force to provide the capacity associated with a 550K AC, starting with either the 980K or 920K Total Army. The analyses did not uncover any constraints that would make such regeneration infeasible but did suggest a number of risks, particularly when expanding from a Total Army of 920K. Potentially the most critical risk revolves around the fact that the Army as a whole will still need to meet operational demands even as the AC is expanding. Thus, the Army would have to draw on its reserve components (RC) to an unprecedented extent to sustain high levels of operational commitment until it accomplishes regeneration.

Key Findings

Current Policy Levers Will Probably Suffice to Enable Regeneration

  • Relatively quick regeneration of the active component would carry a number of risks, particularly when expanding from a Total Army of 920,000.
  • Potentially the most critical risk revolves around the fact that while the Regular Army is expanding, the Army as a whole will still need to meet operational demands.

External Conditions Can Substantially Affect the Difficulty of Recruiting

  • A good civilian labor market is generally bad for Army recruiting, and vice versa.
  • Public support for the conflict is also likely to affect the difficulty of recruiting.

Regeneration Would Stress the RC, Especially When Starting from 920,000

  • All regeneration scenarios we considered would require the RC to rotate above a 1:3 mobilization-to-dwell ratio for a number of years.

Recommendations

  • Develop and resource specific capabilities to enable regeneration of the active component.
  • Assess alternative ways to posture the Army for regeneration of the active component.
  • Prepare the RC for rapid and high-frequency deployment while the Army is focused on quickly expanding the active component.
  • Maintain certain critical skills that have a long lead time for training to reduce the stress placed on the Army during regeneration of the active component.
  • Maintain Army capacity for contingency contracting, as the need to contract out support and sustainment capacity may well increase as Army operating forces decrease.
  • Develop contingency plans that, for example, include greater mobilization of the RC if active component regeneration falters.
  • A decision to regenerate should be made as early as possible during a conflict so that policy levers can be put in place quickly. A decision to go to war should be a decision to expand the Army's active component.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Staff G3/5/7, U.S. Army, and was conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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