Force Structure

Army Is Integrating Active and Reserve Combat Forces, but Challenges Remain Gao ID: NSIAD-00-162 July 18, 2000

The majority of the U.S. Army's forces reside in the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. Until March 2000, when an Army National Guard combat division assumed headquarters responsibilities in Bosnia for the first time, most reserve forces deployed with active forces came from support, not combat, units. Integration affects the Army in a several of ways. It adds to the Army's total costs, due in part to increased personnel costs and increased transportation costs for integrated training. It also creates new force structure requirements, which could increase significantly as the integration effort creates more new units and increases the number of positions in existing units. In addition, integration generally increases the time that personnel must spend away from home, including time spent training. It could reduce the Army's risk in executing the national military strategy in the long term by increasing the training and readiness levels of all forces. Although the Army's piecemeal efforts are increasing the integration of active and reserve combat forces, the Army cannot precisely measure or fully evaluate the effects and effectiveness of those efforts because it has no clearly defined goal for fully integrating active and reserve forces, has no overall plan to guide its efforts, and has not collected data to measure or determine an acceptable cost of integration.

GAO noted that: (1) integration adds to the Army's total costs; (2) due to their part-time status, reserve forces are less costly to maintain than their active counterparts, but integration raises the Army's total personnel costs when reservists deploy to peacekeeping missions and are paid for more than 39 days of service; (3) integration also increases transportation costs, as active or reserve forces travel to participate in integrated training; (4) since the Army is implementing integration in a piecemeal fashion, it has not collected comprehensive figures to measure the cost of integration, has not established cost goals, and has not determined what cost increases would be acceptable to achieve a totally integrated force; (5) integration creates new force structure requirements, as new units are established and the numbers of positions within existing units increase; (6) these new requirements have been small, and the Army has reduced requirements in other areas to compensate for these new requirements; (7) however, as integration and the roles of the reserves increase, new requirements could grow significantly, and the Army would have to make major force structure adjustments to maintain its authorized force structure level; (8) none of the Army's integration plans discuss the current operational environment, in which the Army is short on the forces it needs to conduct two major theater wars, while its personnel level remains constant; (9) nor do these plans set forth evaluation strategies that would enable the Army to assess whether reserve forces are properly structured to carry out new roles; (10) integration generally increases the time personnel must spend away from home; (11) as deployment requirements shift, some active forces spend less time away from home, while reservists spend more time deployed away from home; (12) the Army has yet to assess fully the effects of integration on the time personnel spend away from home or on retention; (13) integration could reduce the Army's risk in executing the national military strategy in the long term by increasing the training and readiness levels of both active and reserve forces; (14) however, National Guard wartime support to active forces may not be as strong as expected; (15) without clearly established goals for its overall integration efforts, the Army will have difficulty measuring progress toward its objective of a fully integrated force; and (16) integration initiatives may even run counter to other major Army objectives such as ensuring that first-to-fight combat divisions are filled with qualified personnel (such as medics).


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