For the past several years the U.S. Army has been restructuring its maneuver forces and command-and-control headquarters to be more responsive to the full spectrum of operations confronting the U.S. military. That spectrum ranges from peacekeeping and nation building – e.g., in the Balkans and the Sinai – to counterinsurgency operations (such as those being carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq) to responding to natural disasters such as Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. The restructuring process of the U.S. Army’s tactical units (e.g., maneuver units) particularly affects the First and Fifth U.S. Armies, both of which have been restructured to meet the 21st-century needs of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Army. Heretofore, First Army’s missions included the training of Reserve Component (RC) units for either war or peacetime assignments. From its headquarters in Fort Gillem, Ga., the First U.S. Army’s operational boundary had been the states east of the Mississippi River. The U.S. Fifth Army, headquartered in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was assigned similar missions in states west of the Mississippi. In a landmark move, the roles of the two organizations were officially changed on 16 January 2006. The First Army will now have training, validation, and mobilization responsibility for all RC forces, including those in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It also will support the RC modularity and the Army’s “Force Generation” process, also known as ARFORGEN. The ARFORGEN goal is to provide a smaller, more self-sufficient, readily deployable force that not only can be easily combined with other Army and Joint forces capable of full-spectrum operations, but also provide greater predictability for Army units. New Home-Front Responsibilities This modular restructuring process fundamentally changes the U.S. Army’s conventional maneuver force from one based on infantry or armored divisions of the WWII and Cold War eras to one reminiscent of the smaller regimental combat team and separate infantry brigade concepts – of the 1950s and 1980s, respectively – with organic support units. The principal command-and-control relationships of the organizations will not change, though. First Army will continue to report directly to the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) headquartered in Ft. McPherson, Ga. As part of the ARFORGEN process, FORSCOM has directed First Army to serve as a multi-component headquarters with RC training and readiness oversight responsibilities. Because it now sprawls over a much larger geographic area, First Army will have two subordinate division headquarters – one in the western United States and one in the east – to provide command and control of the support brigades responsible for training the Army’s reserve forces. Conversely, the Fifth Army (now also known as ARNORTH) has been assigned as the Army Service Component Command of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). In that role, ARNORTH supports NORTHCOM in that command’s increasingly important homeland-defense and DSCA (Defense Support of Civil Authorities) missions. Closer Ties With FEMA Regions Fifth Army/ARNORTH, which has been directed to be fully operational by October 2006, is currently focused on such high-priority issues as the acquisition of personnel, equipment, funding, and other resources. Using the lessons learned from dealing with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, staffing models are being developed to establish manning documents, training plans, and equipment requirements to ensure that the organization is properly prepared from the outset to execute its primary DSCA and homeland-defense missions. Fifth Army/ARNORTH will maintain two task-force operational headquarters to ensure proper oversight. In addition, as part of its new mission set, it also has established liaison positions – defense coordinating officers – in each of the 10 FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regions. The liaison officers will be responsible for the coordination of state and federal requests to NORTHCOM for military support. In another of its new mission requirements, Fifth Army/ARNORTH also will be responsible for the training, certification, and oversight of the National Guard’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs). Under the WMD-CST concept, which was developed and implemented in the mid to late 1990s, the National Guard created and trained a number of 22-man teams that were specifically designed to assist the nation’s first-responder communities in the aftermath of a national incident or event involving WMDs. The first 10 WMD-CST units were based in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. There are now 34 certified WMD-CSTs, with 21 more teams being fielded. These units are federally resourced, trained, and exercised. Under the oversight of Fifth Army the teams will be expected to be ready to deploy rapidly – usually within 4-8 hours – to: (a) help local incident commanders determine the nature and extent of an attack or incident; (b) provide expert technical advice on WMD response operations; and (c) support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets. Fifth Army, as the Army Component Command for NORTHCOM, will now be much more involved in providing support to civil authorities. Under the new organization, the defense coordinating officers and their staffs will be co-located within the 10 FEMA regions. ARNORTH will train the units under it to work with FEMA and other government agencies to lessen the loss of life, and reduce property damage, in future times of disaster. The restructuring and reorganization is expected both to improve prior planning and preparation and to ensure a more efficient, expeditious, and effective response when DOD support to civil authorities is required.
Brent C. Bankus retired as a promotable Lieutenant Colonel from the Army National Guard Active Guard Reserve Program with over 25 years service. His military career, beginning in 1979 as an Armor/Cavalry officer encompassed command and staff positions in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. He has served in assignments within the United States and Germany as well as missions to Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Sinai, Eritrea, Guam and Hawaii. He has a BS from Bloomsburg University, PA, an MS in Information Management from Strayer University, VA and an MS in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Command and General Staff Colleges and the U.S. Army War College. He is a consultant with Resource Consultants, Inc.