Military Review March-April 1998

Building the 21st-Century Heavy Division

By General William W. Hartzog, US Army, and Lieutenant Colonel James G. Diehl, US Army

Even the most casual student of military affairs has noticed that the US Army is in the process of changing to meet a new set of challenges. The Cold War's end, the international community's reordering, a "bow wave" of information-age technologies and military downsizing have provided the opportunity to relook the division as an organizational structure. We have recognized the need to move the Army from a threat-based force to a capabilities-based force able to dominate across the spectrum of conflict - either independently or as part of a corps - and seamlessly within a joint or combined environment. As in the past, the goal is a trained and ready force able to serve anywhere when called upon and prepared to fight and win the nation's wars.

This article introduces the Army XXI Division to leaders across the government, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the private sector. It represents the hard work of many dedicated professionals over the past five years and is an important and defining product of how our Army will organize and fight as we face 21st-century challenges. This is more than a new division design, because the process is every bit as important as the product. As depicted in Figure 1, spiral development and the Force XXI process have enabled us to determine and apply equipment needs, training requirements and leader development criteria, balancing them against the need to reduce force structure while enhancing capabilities.

This represents a new, holistic way of doing business. We will continue on this course as we move closer to the Army After Next (AAN). We will harness the mental agility brought on by the transition to Army XXI and merge it with the physical agility we hope to gain through revolutionary developments as we move to the AAN. One might ask, "Why change at all?" The world has changed, and America's role in it has changed as well. The Army has been in a period of transition since 1989. The Soviet Union's decline as a superpower rival, combined with reductions across the military services and a ground swell of technologies unleashed by the information age have resulted in the Army's restructuring. We are moving from a Cold War, threat-based Army of Excellence (AOE) to a capabilities-based force able to dominate throughout the spectrum of conflict and stability and support operations.

The digitized Army XXI Division is the backbone of the Army's capabilities-based force. The next version of US Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, will codify these capabilities and serve as a guidepost for executing digitized full-dimensional operations by Army XXI units. The superior mental agility of Army XXI forces, enhanced by revolutionary developments leading to superior physical agility, will lead us to full spectrum dominance in the AAN.

The Division's Evolution

In the lexicon of modern military doctrine, the division is the base organization for the conduct of sustained, independent land combat operations. Military history has seen an evolution of military formations capable of conducting such operations for more than 2,000 years.

Probably the first real division-like organization on the battlefield was the Roman legion - a 6,000-man organization of combined arms, articulated cohorts and centuries capable of independent operations. Through history, military formations have combined arms, reorganized headquarters, revolutionized tactics and fielded units to operate independently and with others in varied terrain against numerous enemies. Armies, corps, divisions and regiments have served nations as their independent operators on all kinds of battlefields.

For most of US military history, the Army's core organization was the regiment - several battalions of the same type, occasionally reinforced with other arms, and tasked to perform missions on the American frontier across the spectrum of conflict. The United States adopted the modern division with the passage of the National Defense Act of June 1916. Within two months of America's entrance into World War I, the First Expeditionary Division was en route to France. It was organized on a square structure with two infantry brigades, each having two regiments. Each infantry regiment was composed of three battalions. The division strength was 28,000 - giving it considerable striking and staying power. After the Great War's end, the War Department retained the square division but reduced its strength to 22,000.

The technological advances of the 1930s made the Army reexamine its division structure. In 1940 it adopted the triangular division. About 15,000 strong, it had three infantry regiments with three rifle battalions each and no brigade headquarters. Assorted combat support and logistics were organic to it, as well as customary attachments of specialized support for particular missions. Since then, the US division has undergone other changes - from the triangular division to the pentomic division of 1957 to 1962, to the Reorganization Army division (ROAD) of 1964 to 1984, and the AOE still fielded today.

The pentomic division was modeled after tactics and organizations thought to be required for atomic war. Success would depend on high mobility, rapid communications and devastating combat power rather than massed troops. Each infantry and airmobile division had five self-sustaining battle groups (larger than a battalion but smaller than a regiment) that could be employed individually or in combination. In time, the Army perceived that the pentomic division, while lithe and mobile, lacked depth. Other designs were tested in early 1962. These evolved into the ROAD divisions, of which five were eventually organized, each consisting of 15,000 men including infantry, armored, airborne, mechanized and airmobile forces.

The technical and cultural upheavals of the mid-1970s made the Army relook the ROAD structure. After considerable study, the AOE was designed and fielded between 1984 and 1986. This design's major pieces had been part of the divisional relook that spawned DIVISION 86. These studies conceived of a heavier division of about 20,000 troops. They also conceived a light infantry division - which would turn out to be the AOE's centerpiece - a three-brigade organization with nine infantry battalions and an end strength of about 10,800. This light division was designed specifically to respond to contingency missions where early response was considered critical. It is the AOE that is being reexamined today - for the same reasons that earlier divisions have been restructured - to better accomplish the mission, take advantage of technology and to satisfy national military strategy.

Army XXI Division Development

Over the past five years, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command held seminars, conducted "rock drills" and, most recently, ran a series of advanced warfighting experiments aimed at restructuring tomorrow's Army. In March and November 1997, the Army conducted a brigade-size experiment and then a division-size computer exercise to test the doctrine, training, leader development, organizations, materiel and soldier systems that we had been revising and refining.

To date, the Force XXI process has been a concentrated effort to continually analyze and adjust the force with an eye to the Army's imperatives. Any changes in force mix or technology were analyzed to determine doctrinal and training impact to ensure total force development and horizontal integration. Because the process has been all-encompassing, the goal is to determine and apply equipment needs, training requirements and leader development criteria and then balance them against the need to reduce force structure while enhancing capabilities. This is our approach to ensure a combat-ready force, trained with an appropriate warfighting doctrine and led by principled leaders properly disciplined in risk taking and decision making.

Operational Concepts

The Force XXI process defined - within the parameters of METT-T - what we wanted this new division to be capable of doing in the next century.

Mission: Conducts distributed operations using maneuver and firepower, facilitated by information dominance, to destroy enemy forces and to seize and retain ground. The division conducts full-range stability and support operations in joint and multinational environments.

Enemy: Defeats defending enemy force of equivalent size; defends against three enemy divisions.

Terrain: Encompasses an area of operation of 24,000 square kilometers (km) (120 km frontage x 200 km depth), including open or close (urban) terrain.

Troops: Fights as part of a corps or joint task force, tailored and augmented as required to perform Level II/III rear operations, act as a joint force land component or Army forces command and conducts support and stability operations.

Time Available: Plans from 24 to 72 hours ahead; self-sustaining for up to 30 hours.

From our design guidance, we developed principles to further refine our efforts. We emphasized the joint nature of future combat. We wanted deployable and modular units to help us ensure that our Army remains strategically relevant and an essential member of the DOD team. Though we are focused on conflict's high end, we are well aware that stability and support operations currently occupy much of our mission focus.

During 1995 and 1996, we brought serving division and corps commanders together to analyze 11 separate division designs. Through these "rock drills," they were able to reduce potential designs to seven. These seven were later reduced to four, based on affordability. The four remaining designs were then modeled and fought in simulation in three scenarios: Southwest Asia, Northeast Asia and Europe. The "winner" in this process was the modernized heavy division, which evolved into the Interim Division Design (IDD). The Army then embarked on a series of advanced warfighting experiments (AWEs), culminating with the Task Force (TF) AWE held in March 1997 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, and the Division AWE (DAWE) in November 1997 at Fort Hood, Texas. Following the TF AWE, we considered three IDD variations: the Conservative Heavy Division (CHD), the Strike Division and the "Brigadist" Division. The CHD was selected based on lethality and affordability, having been thoroughly analyzed during the November DAWE. Based on final analytical data, we created the Army XXI Division.

Throughout this process, we remained focused on the Army imperatives: doctrine, training, leader development, organizations (force mix), materiel (modern equipment) and soldiers (quality people).

The Army XXI Division will be focused on massing effects against the enemy, enabled by information technology and distributed logistics. Information operations facilitate precision maneuver and engagement and allow the division to conduct distributed, non-contiguous operations, vice today's deep/close/rear framework. Centralized logistics and service support, enabled by velocity management and total asset visibility, improve the division's sustainability and effectiveness while lowering its "footprint." Additionally, it is modular and can be tailored or augmented as required.

As depicted in Figure 2, the new Army XXI heavy division is unique for its smaller size (about 15,000 troops), its smaller and more compact combat elements (45 combat platforms in maneuver battalions) and its reliance on digital technology and computers. Army XXI Division's ability to share information horizontally and vertically across the battlefield makes it capable of sustaining a rapid tempo of planning, preparing and executing operations, as well as sustaining and recovering from operations. Its modular organization contributes to its versatility for specific missions, allowing greater Active and Reserve Component (RC) integration. Agile, lethal and survivable, Army XXI Division has "mental agility."

Battle command. This division's revolutionary capabilities are manifested in its command and control (C2) systems. A relative common picture (RCP) of the battlefield will be shared across the division, answering three very important questions: Where am I? Where are my buddies? Where is the enemy? The RCP provides the division an unprecedented ability to fight when and where it needs to, mass the effects of its fires rather than the forces themselves, protect itself and sustain itself efficiently. Technology and digitization bring mental agility to the fore.

Information technology has had an extraordinary impact on the military decision-making process as well. A common battlefield appreciation, the enemy and friendly situations, is allowing commanders to rapidly assess, decide, disseminate and execute plans. In addition, the same capabilities allow the plans to be rapidly and, if necessary, radically modified on short notice should the situation change rapidly. As a result, our C2 nodes are changing and becoming more flexible and functional.

The net effect of this information explosion is a "generation gap." While senior leaders are moving slowly on the technology path, our young soldiers, noncommissioned and commissioned officers are roaring along the information superhighway. The accuracy of information available - as represented by icons on a computer screen - is trusted by our younger soldiers who grew up with such tools, while the analog generation is slow to act at times. Where senior leaders seek to confirm before acting, the younger generation has already acted.

Intelligence. The intelligence and reconnaissance units within the division are the cavalry squadron, military intelligence (MI) battalion and brigade reconnaissance troop. The cavalry squadron will field a combined ground and air reconnaissance capability built around M1A2 tanks, the Future Scout Combat System (FSCS) and the RAH-64 Comanche helicopter. Brigades will also have ground reconnaissance capability in a troop of FSCS. The MI battalion will employ tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the Outrider, ground radars and links to higher echelon intelligence gatherers such as Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems, joint UAVs such as Predator, and ground-based common sensors.

Maneuver. Army XXI Division maneuver elements are more deployable and take advantage of enhanced capabilities. We capped the size of the ground maneuver battalions at 45 systems, eliminating a company in the process. Our tests have shown that the enhanced capabilities of the new systems coming on line - the M2A3 ODS Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and M1A2 SEP Abrams Main Battle Tank - coupled with our improved situational awareness, make the smaller maneuver battalion more effective than unimproved versions. In the mechanized infantry battalions, we increased the number of infantrymen each platoon fields by opting for a three 9-man squad dismounted organization in the platoon over the previous two 9-man squads and a 5-man machinegun team.

The division aviation assets include an Apache Longbow attack helicopter battalion and a Black Hawk helicopter lift battalion. Two of the three companies in the lift battalion will be from the RC - an unprecedented integration of the Reserves into an active division.

Fire support. The Division Artillery brings a new generation of cannon artillery - the Crusader - on line as well as the Multiple Launch Rocket System general support rocket artillery. The new division redesign does not include forward observers below company level, so we must fully incorporate the improved fire integration support team vehicle and upgraded combat observation lasing team.

Mobility, countermobility and survivability. We have redesigned the engineer structure in the division to make an engineer battalion organic to each maneuver brigade. The engineer planning and coordination effort will reside in the division's engineer planning cell. The key enablers in the redesign of the engineer battalions are the Grizzly and the Wolverine. These systems' enhanced situational awareness will allow us to take efficiencies in reductions to mine-clearing line charges and assault/obstacle platoons. However, the division's organic chemical capabilities are limited to detection. Decontamination and smoke generation have been passed back to corps.

Air defense. The air defense battalion will receive the new Linebackers - Bradleys with Stinger pods in lieu of TOW launchers - and will lose its MANPAD platoons. The new Sentinel platoon low-level air defense radar system will add a considerable amount of automated C2 to the integrated air defense system across the division area.

Logistics. The ability to share an accurate friendly forces status view from the division's front to rear area has driven an entirely new logistics concept. The Army XXI Division will be able to centralize numerous logistic nodes at the Division Support Command. Completely transparent equipment status with digitized communications will enable logistics to be focused and efficiently distributed "just in time" rather than stockpiled "just in case." As a result, maneuver unit logistic elements need not be organic, but can be direct support to infantry, tank and engineer commanders. Forward support battalions will field multifunctional forward support companies that provide all types of organizational and direct support to maneuver battalions.

The Army is rapidly moving from a supply-based to a distribution-based system that demands "anticipatory logistics." We must deploy and throughput materiel faster. Stocks will not exist where they used to, so we must know what we have and be able to distribute it quickly. Systems such as the Combat Service Support Communications System (CSSCS), Global Combat Service Support-Army (GCSS-A), Future Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and Movement Tracking System (MTS) will facilitate anticipatory logistics and velocity management. The commander must anticipate logistics requirements sooner, have pipeline visibility, mass or maximize limited logistics resources and react faster than ever before.

The 21st-Century Army

This article defines the first step of the future force mix and how the Army will organize into five major groups:

The 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) is the first Contingency Heavy Force Army XXI Division. The RC will be integrated across the future force mix wherever possible. Strike Forces represent 5,000- to 8,000-soldier elements possessing the mental agility we see today and the physical agility we will realize through revolutionary developments in our weapon systems and equipment in the AAN.

From this process's outset, we have focused on meeting the guidance. These points have served to keep us oriented on our objective of a capabilities-based force and, more important, one tied to our joint partners' capabilities. While we have designed a new heavy division for Army XXI, we have not lost sight of our light forces. Rather, we are inserting both the knowledge and technology we have harvested into the light forces today. It is important to note that we are oriented on the high-threat environment, ensuring that we are ready when called upon to fight and win our nation's wars. This guidance has remained constant throughout the creation of the Army XXI Division.

The division is the smallest Army unit that includes elements of all branches and is capable of sustained, independent combat operations. It can be much more or much less than that. To those who remember as far back as World War II, their division represents the defining moment in their lives. Less than five years ago, conversations held among senior Army leaders after the Gulf War revealed a deep identification with and passion for the division. The division has come to be the unit that soldiers identify with - their largest cohesive allegiance - an embodiment of the Army family.

I am sure that the division is here to stay. The sustained support and conduct of independent combat operations across the spectrum and within a combined and joint environment will remain the heavy division's raison d'etre. Although smaller formations may, at some time or for a short time, operate independently, the division is likely to remain the dominant force exercising command, control, direction and sustainment of military operations in any theater into the next century.

However, it is important to remember that this latest division is not the final answer for the 21st-century Army. Technological breakthroughs in propulsion, lightweight armor, power supplies, information distribution and other disciplines await enabling hardware that can be incorporated into the force. The mid-21st century battlefield will be vastly different as well. The processes that have driven us to the Army XXI Division will continue to drive a developmental process that will link Army XXI with its AAN divisions. MR

General William W. Hartzog is commander, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Fort Monroe, Virginia. He received a B.A. from the Citadel and an M.A. from Appalachian State University. He is a graduate of the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the US Army War College. He has served in a variety of command and staff positions in the Continental United States (CONUS), Vietnam, Panama and South America, including deputy commander in chief and chief of staff, US Atlantic Command, Norfolk, Virginia; commander, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Riley, Kansas; commander, US Army South, Fort Clayton, Panama; operations officer, US Southern Command, Quarry Heights, Panama; commander, 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) (Separate), and assistant commandant, US Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia.

Lieutenant Colonel James G. Diehl is special assistant to the TRADOC commander. He received a B.S. from the US Military Academy. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College and received an M.M.A.S. from the School of Advanced Military Studies. He is also a graduate of the Army War College Fellowship Program, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He has served in a variety of CONUS command and staff positions, including commander, 1st Battalion, 33d Armor, 2d Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington; staff officer, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon, Washington DC; G3 plans officer, 24th Infantry Division (Mech) and S3 operations officer, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor, Fort Stewart, Georgia.