'Base Force' Plan Keeps 12 Active-Duty Divisions

US ARMY'S FUTURE

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE United States Army's top general insists that even in today's new world the US needs to keep two full divisions of ground forces based in Europe.

Some members of Congress have been complaining that the proposed 1993 defense budget does not reflect the collapse of the Soviet Union, as it would keep some 150,000 US troops at European bases.

But Pentagon officials say a US force in Europe should be able to fight - and that a two-division corps is the smallest Army unit with all the equipment needed to sustain heavy combat.

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Army forces in Europe "must be credible, in our view, and capable," said Gen. Gordon Sullivan, Army chief of staff, in a meeting with Monitor editors.

NATO allies "know what a US corps is" and are used to working with that size of a force, said General Sullivan.

Overall, the Pentagon's "base force" plan now calls for the Army to be reduced to 12 active-duty divisions, six National Guard and reserve divisions, and two cadre divisions.

That represents a reduction from about 1.5 million total personnel at the end of the 1980s to just over a million by 1995.

Plans for this cut, and the corresponding Navy and Air Force reductions, were drawn up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but before the USSR dissolved into dust and leaders of the former republics began talking about becoming US allies instead of adversaries.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Colin Powell, and other top Pentagon officials say their new base force takes the end of the Soviet threat into account. This does not literally mean the Pentagon predicted the collapse of the USSR, said Sullivan.

But at the time military leaders were involved with planning for the massive Conventional Forces in Europe arms control treaty, and "we were aware we were involved with momentous change."

With the revolutions of Eastern Europe and the former USSR past, General Sullivan said he worries now about a third revolution and I don't know what that revolution is yet."

The Army is recasting its training and force structure to hedge against the possibility of regional threats, he said, instead of a global Soviet threat. Recently, the Army chief saw a wide-ranging exercise in which light Army troops trained with heavy ones, airborne units, Navy special forces teams, etc., "all of them working a particular scenario on an island state ... that is not related to the war we just won," said Sullivan.

It's certain that Army forces will be more involved with international organizations and peacekeeping operations in the future, he said. Besides the Army units still involved with Kurdish relief in northern Iraq, "I have three people in Cambodia now, and forces in Morocco," said Sullivan. Army parachute troops have recently been working with counterparts in Botswana. Polish officers are now attending classes at the Army War College in Pennsylvania.

As for the Gulf region, there are still six Army companies in Kuwait. Sullivan said he doesn't know when they might come home.

Plans to leave stocks of weaponry in Saudi Arabia fell through, but the Army now will leave more of its equipment pre-positioned around the world on ships for use in contingency operations.

On budget matters, Sullivan said he thinks the Comanche light helicopter will enter production later this decade. The Comanche was one of the new weapons whose production was postponed by the Pentagon this year pending completion and thorough testing of prototypes.

"I believe those prototypes will sell themselves," said Sullivan.

On the Army mix of active-duty and reserve forces, the Army chief said much had been learned from the experience of the Gulf war.

Support and logistics reserves troops were quickly called up, and served well, while several "round-out" reserve combat brigades were found unready for Gulf duty and instead underwent further training.

Sullivan said that the round-out troops, though never shipped to Saudi Arabia, where ready to go 90 days after call-up, as opposed to the two years of training needed for combat reserve troops in the 1940s.

But he said that a review of the situation showed that "we have to be very specific in our reserve requirements, down to tank-crew levels."

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