WASHINGTON -- The commission tasked with examining the future force structure of the US Army is taking a close look at the possibility of incorporating multi-component aviation units made up of both full-time troops and reservists, according to commission member and former Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale.
Hale is the leader of the National Commission on the Future of the Army's Aaviation Ssubcommittee, charged with looking at one of the more controversial plans the service has for its future force structure. The Army has proposed taking all of its AH-64 Apache attack helicopters out of the Army National Guard and moving them into the active force. In exchange, the Guard would get UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopters, but not in a one-for-one deal.
The Guard, which has fought the plan, hashave proposed other ideas to restructure the Army' aviation assets that would allow the reserve component to keep some of its Apaches.
Hale said the subcommittee has considered several criteria in looking at possible options for the Army aviation branch's future structure, such as wartime capacity, and surge capabilities and as well as peacetime deployments.
"Right now, active Apache units deployed forward does not appear to meet the Army's goal of [boots on the ground] to dwell time of one to two," Hale noted Thursday at an open commission meeting, and added,"We are struggling… given the murkiness of the cost situation."
"BOG to dwell time" refers to the ratio of the amount of time a unit spends at home resetting and training to and the amount of time it spends deployed in a theater of operations.
The subcommittee has examined the Army's aviation-restructure initiative that proposes the shift of Apaches from the Guard to the active force, but it has also looked at a number of other counterproposals, including the National Guard's counter proposal and a number of others.
"We are looking not only at force structure options that affect the number of Apaches and where they are," Hale said, but "also organizational options."
With that, the subcommittee is considering whether the Army could make greater use of multi-component units.
"By multi-component I mean organizations that have one part of the regular Army and one from the reserve components," Hale explained.
In examining options within that construct, Hale said the subcommittee looked at a number of alternative approaches, such as the Air Force's reserve-associate concept that has reserve components and the regular Air Force sharing equipment.
"We have a limited ability to apply that in the Army because in the number of cases, the Army, all the pilots need their own helicopter," Hale revealed.
"But there may be other approaches that would work in terms of greater use of multi-component, forward-deployed units and I think they are worth looking at," he added, because the concept could bring the active and reserve component together in training, as well asand would enhance integration efforts into a "one Army concept," something the Army's new chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Milley is pushing. The "Total Army concept" envisions a service that seeks to close the gap between active and reserve capabilities, and it would more seamlessly integrate the Army's three components.
Hale said he wanted to "underscore" that the commission's subcommittee has not reached any final "public" decisions on either the force structure or the organizational issues, "but I think we are making good progress."
The commission was established by the in the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act because the Army and the National Guard reached an impasse over how many soldiers should serve in each component, as well as and what kinds of capabilities each should have.
The law requires the commission to assess the size of the active Army and the reserve forces. It and has given it until Feb. 1 to deliver a full report to Congress.
The commission's leader, retired Army Gen. Carter Ham, said Thursday that the commission is on track "perhaps just barely" to meet its reporting deadline, calling it an "aggressive timeline."
The vice chair of the commission, Thomas Lamont, told reporters after the meeting that the commission has to be able to submit a draft report for a security review "roughly right after the first of the year," which leaves little time when accounting for the holiday season.
Lamont also noted that the uncertainty of fiscal year 2017 Army funding "is causing us some pause." He added, "There is a shortfall as I understand in '17 of a considerable amount of money to DoD. . . . What that allocation will be, what the decrement to the Army will be, we are not sure, but we have to anticipate a relatively substantial decrement."
While the report will attempt to take into account the expected shortfalls, "I think we will raise some concerns about resourcing," Lamont said.
World events that weren't anticipated when the commission was formed also Something else that complicates the commission's work is world events that weren't anticipated when the commission was formed.
"That too gives us some pause in our recommendations, just looking at our security outlook," Lamont said.