By Debbie Gregory.
The U.S. Army is already making plans to reduce their ranks from 540,000 soldiers down to 490,000 by the end of next year. It is believed that the Army could even shrink to 420,000 by 2019. With the war in Iraq over, and the war in Afghanistan drawing to close, post-war force reductions will affect all branches of the U.S. military.
At the Army Aviation Symposium, held January 15th in Arlington, VA, General Robert Cone revealed specifics about the Army’s downsizing. Gen. Cone is the commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. The four star general told those in attendance that he is weighing the costs and benefits of reducing the size of an Army brigade from 4,000 to 3,00 soldiers. He added that the loss of manpower might be compensated for with the use of various unmanned platforms, including ground vehicles, drones and robots.
The general explained that he has been ordered to consider the implications of robotically performing some of the tasks that are typically assigned to squads. Unmanned technologies require less armor and less protection. Gen. Cone admits that increasing the ratio of unmanned to manned platforms would increase the overall maneuverability and effectiveness of the Army.
Currently, the Army requires approximately two thirds of its force as personnel directly in harm’s way, face-to-face, with the enemy. And one third of the Army’s force is reserved to serve in support of the fighting components. With the implementation of unmanned platforms, perhaps the ratio of soldiers in harm’s way could be equal to or less than the number of support troops.
The general referred to the success that the Navy has had lowering the necessity for manpower, while increasing firepower on ships. Today’s Navy does not require squads of sailors manning each gun, but relies on high-tech weapon systems to detect, track and fire on enemy contacts. Many of the systems are manned by a single operator, or can even function automatically.
Gen. Cone said that his staff is assembling an advisory panel to look into all of these matters.