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Thread: Returning to a Division Centric Army

  1. #41
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Not only that, but the proliferation of communications works against the development of anything remotely resembling cat-like reflexes in most military organizations. It seems that without the proper application of a ball-gag, senior leaders (no matter how far removed from the action) simply cannot resist the urge to "help." Stripping out a division command and replacing it with a corps isn't going to change that a jot.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  2. #42
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Not only that, but the proliferation of communications works against the development of anything remotely resembling cat-like reflexes in most military organizations. It seems that without the proper application of a ball-gag, senior leaders (no matter how far removed from the action) simply cannot resist the urge to "help." Stripping out a division command and replacing it with a corps isn't going to change that a jot.
    Tru dat...it just gives the senior officer at corps more freedom to intervene directly.....

  3. #43
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    Default Having finally schlepped through my files...

    .....(note to self: put them in some kind of order you dote!) here are some interesting takes on the place of the division and the divisional HQ:

    OPTIMIZING THE UNIT OF ACTION BASED MECHANIZED INFANTRY DIVISION FOR HIGH INTENSITY CONFLICT

    The U.S. Army Heavy Division: An Appropriate Platform for Force Projection Operations?

    The Brigade based Division: Saddling the Right Horse

    ...and the monograph that really got me thinking about the role of the divisional HQ...
    Does the U.S. Army Need Divisions?

  4. #44
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SJPONeill View Post
    So that study finds that, instead of the span of 5-7 commonly held to be manageable, actual practice is much less than that i.e. 1.7? Might that be commanders focusing on their main effort operation and leaving supporting operations to their staff to manage? Does he distinguish in the study between the span of a commander i.e. the individual, and the span of command i.e. a command headquarters and staff? Please don't misread the question as critical of the statement - I think it's a fascinating insight and am just seeking clarification for myself.
    I should be careful here. One of the key assessments that Storr makes is that combat is not fractal. Brigades are not big companies and corps are not big brigades - commanders at each level have different things that they must take into consideration during the fight. A Division Commander doesn't care about the range of a GPMG, but to a platoon commander, it's one of his primary concerns. Dead ground is everything to a company but irrelevant to a Brigade.

    With this principle in mind, I must make it clear that Storr only argued about the Division. The Brigade and the Corps will have different factors and thus different requirements. I made my guess of "smaller" based on some fundamental aspects of Div command which I extrapolated to the Bde and Corps level.

    The figure of 1.7 is from a Dupuy study. Also citied is an unpublished DERA study which, in looking at Division activity in WWII, showed that at no time were all nine battalions of the measured division employed at the same time. Of the 81 days the measured divisions spent in combat, 43 featured only 3 battalions employed. Thus half the time divisions employed only 1/3 of their strength to defeat the enemy. Looking further at this data, divisions only employed a majority of their forces 1/3 of the time. Additional data from Suez and the Gulf further support this view. Fuchs mentioned reserves and rear duties - do these duties routinely use up over half a division's strength, especially when it is committed to frontline activity? These studies seem - at least to me - to give some concrete evidence of what the span of command actually is.

    The so what - if 6-10 maneuver companies (and 2-4 battalions and 1-2 brigades) are all that a division commander can realistically employ at once, than the division should be designed around sustaining 6-10 maneuver companies in combat while, at the same time, making the organization as nimble and agile in combat. 6-10 maneuver companies do not likely require an additional 14-17 companies in reserve.

    What does this mean for the Brigade and the Corps? I dunno - but the methods behind identifying the above structure (span of command, movement times, relation of space and time, etc, etc) can probably give us a good idea.

  5. #45
    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Infanteer, I’ll tread carefully because I may be reading you completely wrong. Like my fellow Kiwi, I’m really just trying to get my head around this.

    What does “practical span of command” actually mean? Is that the max a commander should/can be dealing with or the average he happens to deal with based on subunits in contact? If the latter is the case I should think it is perhaps a meaningless statistic.

    In post 30 you say:

    … the practical span of command for commanders is actually quite low - 1.7 subordinates committed on average to combat. This suggests that, historically, Division commanders have put forth at most 8 companies during a majority of their actions. Employment in DS and OIF seems to validate this observation.
    Does ‘committed to combat’ suggest that the remaining units are held in reserve to the point that they are shelved till required, or just that they are not in contact?

    Based on a ‘typical?’ WWII triangular infantry division, 1.7 Brigadiers may suggest about half the division. 1.7 CO’s may suggest half of those brigades. 1.7 OC’s may suggest half of those battalions. By this reasoning your estimate of 8 companies would be about right.

    But this seems a bit simplistic. Firstly, 9 companies in contact could be one from each battalion, in which case the division commander has all his brigades and battalions in contact. (this is working up from your number 8 instead of down from 1.7)
    Also, even if the commander holds subunits in reserve and has only one in contact most of the time that contact is made, that does not mean that he is not pulling the strings on the other units. He may be manoeuvring them and/or leapfrogging units in contact or moving one through the other etc.

    This may be in line with what Fuchs said in post 35:

    The emphasis was on "committed" in regard to "8 companies". Storr links it also to organization and appears to dismiss whatever the other units are doing (reserve, security..) as uninteresting.
    From your previous post:

    The figure of 1.7 is from a Dupuy study. Also citied is an unpublished DERA study which, in looking at Division activity in WWII, showed that at no time were all nine battalions of the measured division employed at the same time.
    OK, that would counter my earlier mentioned alternative. I have not read the studies.

    Looking further at this data, divisions only employed a majority of their forces 1/3 of the time.
    Are these not the times that matter?

    The so what - if 6-10 maneuver companies (and 2-4 battalions and 1-2 brigades) are all that a division commander can realistically employ at once, than the division should be designed around sustaining 6-10 maneuver companies in combat while, at the same time, making the organization as nimble and agile in combat. 6-10 maneuver companies do not likely require an additional 14-17 companies in reserve.
    Is one third all a division can employ, or the most that a division commander likes to employ at any one time for the purpose of holding a reserve? So a question here could be: is ‘one up’ at division level realistic/sensible or just not required? Is ‘one up’ at division level really one up in the same sense that it is within companies and battalions? This in terms of the size of brigades and the relative distances involved.

    So iff (wink to Tukhachevskii) 6 – 10 companies are realistically the most a division can employ at once, then should the division be reduced in size or (to support I think Ken and Fuchs) should the division be cut out of the hierarchy. If you cut down the 14 -17 companies in reserve to only a few, then what’s left is perhaps a descent size brigade.

    I can think of a few extreme cases where divisions were fully employed (not including the desert). UK First Airborne in Arnhem. US 101st in Bastogne (I think).

    I confuse me, I’ll stop here.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

  6. #46
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    I'm not sure that this cncept of looking at the % of a formation in combat at any one time is not a bit of a red herring...a large proportion of the force will (should) be committed to reserves at each level - I think 1/9 at each level from distant memory e.g. a section/squad at company level, a platoon at bn level, a coy at Bde level etc - that's a lot of troops when you roll them all up but I don't think it's correct to say that they are necessarily 'out of combat/contact' and thus not necessarily out of the span of comamnd equation.

    I'd argue that the NZ Div on Crete and at Minqar Qaim was pretty heavily committed, as was pretty much every airborne div immediately following a combat drop in WW2...

  7. #47
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    There's usually no reserve up to company level in many armies; instead, the combat troops are meant to be capable of counter-attacks without a dedicated reserve. That's more responsive.

    A battalion reserve is often not much more than a platoon, if there's any at all (a Verfügungsplatoon - a platoon directly under command of the Bn Cmdr - is an enticing idea from the Cold War; it could serve as recce Plt, as couriers, as HQ guard, as traffic organizers, as CO escort and as Bn reserve).


    The share of reserves grows on formation levels, unless these formations are overstretched (on the other hand some experts think that reserves are even more important the more you're overstretched).

  8. #48
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Kiwigrunt, I'm no fan of Storr's considerations about how few companies of a force are typically involved in combat at once. He exaggerates the point. That's especially ironic as he focuses much on the human side of war in that book.

    Let's say a division has never more than ten companies at once in combat. Could it b replaced by a 10 company brigade? No!
    There would be no rotation, the companies would quickly be exhausted if not depleted.
    There would be no reserve, and thus no good tactics.
    There would be no security elements, and thus great opportunities for OPFOR.
    Perfect anticipation would be required to have these ten companies at the points of action.
    OPFOR could deploy in a way which would require more than ten companies to counter.


    It's one of the weaker parts of his book. My reasoning in favour of brigades rests on completely different foundations.

  9. #49
    Council Member TAH's Avatar
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    Default Division versus Brigade Centric

    I would contend that we never stopped being division centric.

    We still retain Division HQs. We still deploy Division HQs for C2.

    What changed was how divisions are structured/organized.

    We went from "Type" divisions (Light, Armored/Heavy, Airborne, Air Assault etc) to Modular.

    So what's different? The Division "Base", the types of units organic to the division not including its maneuver battalions.

    These were: ADA Bn, MI Bn, Signal Bn, Engineer Bn(s), Cavalry Sqdrn, number and types of tube/rocket Artillery Bns and their controling HQs (DIVARTY), the number and type of CSS/Support Bns and their controling HQs (DISCOM), number and type of aviation Bns and their controling HQs (Division AVN Bde) as well as MP and NBC/Chemical Companies.

    In many ways, the modular BCT are acknowledgement of how we task organized maneuver brigades for operations with supporting artillery, engineers and CSS units.

    The issue to be solved/re-solved is how do modular divisions operate. Who plans fires for the modular division? A section on the division staff or folks over in a assigned/attached Fires Bde? Same question/issue for division level Aviation operations.

    If we follow existing CSS doctrine, Sustainment Bdes are NOT just replacements for DISCOM/COSCOMs. They are supposed to be assigned/attached to a theater-level Sustainment HQs (A TSC or ESC) and provide "area support" to all units within their designated AOR. Currently none of the deployed division HQs/CDRs are allowing that to happen. They have TACON (a command versus support relationship) of their supporting Sustainment Bde.

    No adequate replacement has been found/resourced for the Division Cavalry Sqdrn. For lots of reason, its NOT a Battlefield Surveillance Bde (BFSB).

    We have also not solved the issue of, I need more X but not a whole modular Bde of X, where to I go to get it?

  10. #50
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Divisions exist to justify a

    two star + 2 one star spaces plus the Staffs. In peacetime -- and the US Army has been at peace since 1945 -- flags and spaces mean more than capability and competence.That's why when we ostensibly went 'modular' we deliberately did not restructure the EAD echelons to cope with that 'modularity.'

    The Div Cdrs insist on TACON of CSS elms in their AO because they want control of all forces in an AO if they're going to be held responsible for that AO. That is simply perfectly logical self protection in an Army that, at this time, hates decentralized execution and where few trust people they do not know -- a factor stems partly from mediocre training and partly from institutional bias....

    Span of control depends little on the technology or communications ability available; those factors are a crutch to allow marginally competent commands / commanders to function with an enhanced degree of success. The tech stuff can be a force multiplier but there are absolutely no guarantees that it will be.

    The effective span of control really rests on state of training or experience at all levels AND ability plus willingness of the Commander(s) to delegate and trust their subordinates. Really good units / people can do a span of 9 or 10, really poor units / people have trouble with 2. An average of 3 to 5, mission dependent, is a rule of thumb, -- and thus a design parameter -- and little more. It very much depends on people and that level of training or experience...

    If you recruit, train, promote and retain your entire force for great competence you can design small elements with a large (~10) span of control. If you do the same things to achieve mass and thus aim for acceptable competence, you can got to a span of ~5. If you're in need of greater mass, you'll have to accept less competence and may be constrained to a span of two or three.

    Since people change with time and the Peter Principle exists, there is little chance of ensuring an acceptable design size of the span for other than a year or two at a time. Any attempt to design for specific people and mission s will probably have to change when the parameters change; thus the need for a simple, generic organizational template / TOE that allows then current Commanders to tailor their forces for specific missions with little effort. If that is done reasonably well, then the span of control issue sorts itself out with no problems and you may well have a Bn commanding a 300 plus man Co Team; seven independent Platoon Task Forces and have two Co Cdrs assigned to CP guard along with their Hq elms.

  11. #51
    Council Member TAH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    two star + 2 one star spaces plus the Staffs. In peacetime -- and the US Army has been at peace since 1945 -- flags and spaces mean more than capability and competence.That's why when we ostensibly went 'modular' we deliberately did not restructure the EAD echelons to cope with that 'modularity.'

    The Div Cdrs insist on TACON of CSS elms in their AO because they want control of all forces in an AO if they're going to be held responsible for that AO. That is simply perfectly logical self protection in an Army that, at this time, hates decentralized execution and where few trust people they do not know -- a factor stems partly from mediocre training and partly from institutional bias....

    Since people change with time and the Peter Principle exists, \
    1. But we did restructure EAD, no more COSCOMs, no more CSGs/ASGs, no more ACRs, no more Corps Artillery/FA HQs or Corps Eng Bde or dedicated, organized Corps anything.

    2. Agree with your comments regarding controlling everything in your sandbox. Thought/think the Area Support part of CSS doctrine is flawed from the start.

    3. Amazing how many times in the past few years I have mentioned the "Peter Principle" and had to explain it in detail. The Army is THE case study of it.

    4. Read somwhere that two of the characteristics of organizations that easily and readily accept and introduce bold change are small and young. The US Army is neither small (500K+AC, 1M+ total) nor young (200+years)

    TAH

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    Default Just for my own edification...

    ...what's the "Peter Principle" that both TAH and KW are refering to?

  13. #53
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    ...what's the "Peter Principle" that both TAH and KW are refering to?
    promote people one grade above their level of competence

  14. #54
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    ...what's the "Peter Principle" that both TAH and KW are refering to?
    The Peter Principle is the principle that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence".
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle


    It's one of the important rules of thumb about how people and organizations function. Others are Pareto Principle, a principle about bureaucracies (maximize until there's no further justification for growth) etc.

  15. #55
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We did but we didn't...

    Quote Originally Posted by TAH View Post
    1. But we did restructure EAD, no more COSCOMs, no more CSGs/ASGs, no more ACRs, no more Corps Artillery/FA HQs or Corps Eng Bde or dedicated, organized Corps anything.
    Yep, did that -- but 'forgot' to remove the Div to force those organizations you cite to operate on an area basis and to do so without interfacing with a Div, thus forcing the structure to work a bit harder. Was that omission just an oversight? I suspect not...

    The US Army is masterful at complying with the wishes of Congress -- without at all actually complying. Then some wonder why many subordinate Cdrs do only what they want to do.
    2. Agree with your comments regarding controlling everything in your sandbox. Thought/think the Area Support part of CSS doctrine is flawed from the start.
    It was / is flawed based on what is; not sure it's all that bad based on what should be.

    Given the risk averse culture of today, the Div Cdr has little choice; I also suspect many CS/CSS Cdrs don't mind all that much -- that way they blame screwups on the Div; many people like a little cover, many also like to be told what to do and how to do it (it's easier that way) -- they have no place in a decent Army but they exist everywhere...
    3...The Army is THE case study of it...
    Yup, I'm a living example...
    4. Read somwhere that two of the characteristics of organizations that easily and readily accept and introduce bold change are small and young. The US Army is neither small (500K+AC, 1M+ total) nor young (200+years)
    However, the Army could easily develop small and young Corps, Bdes, what have you and support forces for 1.5 year activate and trainup; 1.5 year deployment cycle (2x6mo deployments / mission asgmts) and a year of stand down, schools prior to the next activation, etc. That could be done relatively easily within the Cbt Arms Regimental System and need not necessarily be done for a lot of CSS elements. Of course, that would require trusting Commanders and not micro managing. It would also mean the massive HRC infrastructure would probably be unnecessary. Those two things may be beyond us.

    However, there are other ways to skin that. Lots of ways to foster innovation and imaginative operating techniques. Unfortunately, they would require admitting that what we've been doing since 1917 with little change was and is probably wrong...

  16. #56
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
    Infanteer, I’ll tread carefully because I may be reading you completely wrong. Like my fellow Kiwi, I’m really just trying to get my head around this.
    Quote Originally Posted by SJPONeill View Post
    I'm not sure that this cncept of looking at the % of a formation in combat at any one time is not a bit of a red herring...
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Kiwigrunt, I'm no fan of Storr's considerations about how few companies of a force are typically involved in combat at once. He exaggerates the point.
    I put forward the argument to address the discussion on Span of Control(Command) that arose with Fuch's proposal of the "Division-less" Force. Storr speaks to reserves and their importance while pointing out that formation reserves can get inefficent due to span of command issues. He also points to a natural adjustment to this in WWII with US and German Divisions moving to smaller formations based on more potent Brigading in the form of "Kampfgruppes" or "Combat Commands". In a sense, a more effective division focuses on looking down and improving the Brigade (if that makes sense).

    He has given his take on the span of command as a human issue based off of data he presents. Other takes on the span of command(control) are presented and many seem to be based on that common "military wisdom" that puts forward an idea as fact with no objective data or information to back it up. I will give Storr's argument that smaller formations are more flexible, efficient and effective (he looks at the Div level; Corps and Bde may have different considerations and thus different factors) credit for at least trying to draw validity from the historical record.

    Before we get too far in the weeds and I end up taking Storr's argument as my own, I'll say this. We all have ideas of the perfect fighting force. Whether it be by some radical change which is too extensive to discuss here or through better training and delegation, I think it is safe to say that the "perfect" concept is just that, a concept. When making decisions, I'd ere to the side of the 80% solution based off data from our imperfect past as opposed to the current theory of the day.
    Last edited by Infanteer; 10-07-2010 at 01:33 AM.

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    Default What about the corps?

    The debate so far has been about eliminating the division and having seperate brigades work directly for the corps commander. Some are for it and some think it will cause span of control problems. No one has mentioned the possibility of flattening the structure by keeping the division but eliminating the corps.

    Better idea, worse idea, or just the same span of control problems at a different level?

    It doesn't seem to me like a regional commander could handle any more divisions without a three star HQ in between than a corps commander could handle brigades without a two star HQ in between.....but I don't know.

    As Kiwigrunt said, "I confuse me, I'll stop here."
    Last edited by Rifleman; 10-10-2010 at 11:55 PM.
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  18. #58
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The corps is the largest army structure that's affordable for most European countries unless the horizon darkens. It's going to stay in one form or another.

    This means that with all those compatibility efforts at NATO level it would make little sense to delete U.S. corps because this would mean one unnecessary level of command in multinational campaigning.

    We might experience in our lifetime that corps HQ morph into theatre HQs, though.

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    Default Exactly...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    The debate so far has been about eliminating the division and having seperate brigades work directly for the corps commander. Some are for it and some think it will cause span of control problems. No one has mentioned the possibility of flattening the structure by keeping the division but eliminating the corps.

    Better idea, worse idea, or just the same span of control problems at a different level?

    It doesn't seem to me like a regional commander could handle any more divisions without a three star HQ in between than a corps commander could handle brigades without a two star HQ in between.....but I don't know.

    As Kiwigrunt said, "I confuse me, I'll stop here."
    ..what I was thinking. Wasn't the enitre evoluton of the divisional HQ (as apposed to manouvre formation0 because CORPs began to become unweldy after that dminiutive Corsican wih the perpetual chp-on-the-shoulder invented them? Corps staffs couldn't hndle the number o formatin being assigned so div HQ were formed as intermediary lnks in the command and control chain. Or I am wrong? t just sees we're going backwards only to relearn the same lesson.

    @TAH I think you're right, US dctrine nevr envsaged disolvng the Div level HQ just tas organsied permamnently to BDE groups.

    (this keyboard is 8888ed! Srry if nne of the above makes sense...of curse it migt not mak any snse anyway)

  20. #60
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The old limit for practical corps size was 25,000 to 30,000 and was defined by march duration and pass time. Think of men marching in column. Width is 5 men on one road, average spacing is 1.5m. Total column length for 30,000 men:
    6000 * 1,5m = 9 km. Pass time at 4 km/h: 2.25 hours.

    Now keep in mind all those frictions and it becomes visible why larger formations were unwieldy.

    Another reason for corps size limitation was overview over a battlefield (few km width can be controlled by a single commander with telescope, flag signals and courier horsemen).

    None of this is relevant today.


    (Btw, a pre-radio army or corps commander had much more direct subordinates than three!).

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