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Research Questions

  1. Does the Army have the right EOD force structure to support LSCO?
  2. Does the Army EOD force have sufficient numbers of personnel?
  3. How can the Army best govern the EOD force?

During the past 20 years, the Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) force has undergone significant changes. The force expanded in size and focused on improvised explosive device missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom but experienced force reductions after those conflicts concluded. As the focus of defense strategy moves away from counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East and back to strategic competition, the Army is examining what it will need to support large-scale combat operations (LSCO) in the future and is actively preparing for — and undergoing — that transition.

This report highlights the findings and recommendations from an effort to (1) examine the roles the Army EOD force can expect to face in LSCO as a key part of Army and Joint Force multi-domain operations in the fiscal year 2027–2032 time frame and (2) assess whether the planned future EOD force is able to meet these demands.

Key Findings

  • The planned EOD force structure is too small for EOD forces to execute their doctrine in LSCO. There will be more demands for EOD forces than they can meet under current doctrine.
  • Furthermore, these force structure shortfalls do not account for defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) missions, which include providing protection to the President of the United States and are considered homeland defense missions in wartime.
  • Should the planned EOD force structure be expanded to meet LSCO and DSCA demands, forecasts indicate that the inventory of EOD personnel in the Regular Army will suffice to fill the units that would execute these missions.
  • In contrast, the forecasted inventory of EOD personnel in the Army National Guard (ARNG) will not be sufficient to support the expanded force structure, with significant shortages across all grades, particularly in the senior ranks.
  • There is no compelling case for designating EOD personnel as special operations forces. Concerns about how EOD forces support special operations forces can be addressed in other ways.
  • There is an argument for making EOD a basic branch, although doing so would require additional resources.

Recommendations

  • The Army should address the disconnect between EOD doctrine and force structure by either providing more force structure so the doctrine can be executed in LSCO or revising the doctrine to permit more-flexible concepts of support.
  • The Total Army Analysis process should account for the DSCA mission set — missions that in wartime will be homeland defense and will impose significant demands on the EOD force.
  • Army leadership must address the personnel shortfalls in the ARNG EOD force, including the lack of senior EOD leaders to command the ARNG group and battalions.
  • The Army should consider options for making ARNG EOD personnel more readily available for DSCA missions to relieve stress on the Regular Army force and provide real-world missions to the ARNG force.
  • EOD should not be made a special operations activity. There is no compelling evidence to justify such a designation, and doing so would create dysfunction in EOD and U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Research conducted by

This research was by the Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, U.S. Army and conducted by the Forces and Logistics Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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