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October 4, 2018

With More Divisions, the Army Can Win

This is an armed service that has been asked to do a lot, yet this service is often stretched thin.

We’ve been looking recently at the plans to expand the Air Force by 74 squadrons, and the Navy’s effort to ramp up to 355 ships. What about the Army? This is an armed service that has been asked to do a lot, yet this service is often stretched thin.

This may sound absurd on its face. After all, at present, the Army has 476,00 active-duty personnel, according to, with another 343,000 in the National Guard, and 199,000 in the Army Reserve. But those numbers don’t quite tell the whole story. What we need to do is look at the units.

In 1991, the United States Army had 18 active divisions. The National Guard back then had another 10 divisions. Today, those numbers are 11 and eight, respectively. This is a sharp decline of over a third of the active divisions, and 20% of the National Guard units. That decline is magnified when one considers the loss of various independent brigades.

Now, what does it matter these days? Well, keep this in mind. With Russia reawakening as a threat, the United States Army has only the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Europe. The former is a light unit, while the latter used various Stryker vehicles. They would be facing hordes of Russian tanks. Three decades ago, the United States had all or part of six divisions forward-deployed to NATO — and those divisions had tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

We managed to denude Europe of the very types of forces we would need to deter Russian aggression — or to send the Ruskies packing if they did decide to start something. Worse, other NATO countries haven’t lived up to their commitments regarding readiness. The sad fact of the matter is that it is much easier to lose a capable force structure than it is to build one up, and the United States and NATO foolishly let their defenses degrade to this point.

Poland, for instance, has been offering to build a permanent base for American troops. This is an offer that we should take up — Poland is a good place to put a heavy division or two. Yet that’s also not enough. The United States needs to place brigades in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. True, these brigades may be vulnerable if Russia attacks, but a Russian attack on American troops would mean a major war.

In conjunction with a larger Air Force that deploys additional squadrons to Europe, Russia could be deterred. But Russia is not the only reason to expand the force. The War on Terror requires that the Army become larger as well.

The 10-division force has been stretched so thin that the National Guard has to do regular deployments as well, and as such was misused, just as the Air National Guard has been. The National Guard is meant to be a backup — intended to help hold the line in a major war while the United States mobilizes.

It should be noted that the 19 active and National Guard divisions in service today are roughly the equivalent to the 1989 active-duty Army’s 18 divisions — and the active duty Army of 1989 had separate brigades to even things out. Perhaps it’s time to bring back more divisions to help ease the burden. Adding more National Guard forces should help.

For those who think it might be difficult, keep in mind, the United States fielded a total of 28 Army and National Guard divisions with a much smaller population than we have today. This force will cost money, but it’s better to spend money than to have to fight a major war — which costs not only money, but the lives of America’s finest. We need to look for the real bargain.

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