Opposed to modular brigades

This letter to the editor ran in the 15 Oct Defense News. I think it’s accessible to non-subscribers, so you can check out the whole thing if you want:

Divisions Better Than Brigades

…The new brigades are fixed in number of maneuver battalions (two for infantry and armor brigades, three for Stryker) which lacks the flexibility held in the divisional brigades to meet a dynamic battlefield. Mixing and matching brigades gives less flexibility than mixing and matching battalions, a simple matter of arithmetic. Battalions are smaller.

Worse than that the Modular brigade structure for infantry and armor brigades lacks the necessary flexibility to retain a reserve force within the brigade, and real soldiers know that committing the reserves at the right time and place is the commander’s best shot a winning a battle. In order to form a reserve or reaction force, current commanders in the field are task organizing the forces available to meet what needs to be done contrary to the intent of the Modular force. It neither works in practice or theory.

Gordon S. Fowkes
Lt. Col. (ret.), U.S. Army

I think this is the first criticism of the modular brigade concept I’ve heard since the plan was implemented. I think it’s been clear that a brigade-centric Army is more ready to fight the small wars and probably a little less ready to fight the big wars than a division-centric Army, but this is the first I’ve heard of or thought about a lack of a meaningful reserve force within the brigade.

What do some of you smart cookies think of this?

Photo Caption:

U.S. Army Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley, Kan., fire their weapons at a range on Camp Liberty, Iraq, Oct. 10, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharhonda R. McCoy)

From JCCC. Click for larger version.


  1. There is no requirement for the Bde to only have 3 Bns in the field. They still task organize and attach/detach Bns as needed. Most of the bdes in Baghdad are augmented. Also, the line battalion count per brigade is 3 or 4…. What this does is reduce the need for divisional support and makes the brigades more independent. The brigades do not require divisional support like they did before…

  2. It’s been long known that the US division system was inefficient compared to other systems. US divisions have a very long tooth to tail ratio. The Wehrmacht divisions of WWII were probably the best ‘modern’ combat structure ever devised. There have been tons of attempts to reform the US system to be more like the Wehrmacht structure. I am not sure that this ‘transformation’ is fully sound, but I applaud the desire trim the divisional bloat.

  3. I would point out to the good LTC that there is no requirement for the modular brigades to retain ‘pure’ battalions. In fact, I would expect that the brigade commander might develop three modular battalions by doing some cross-mixing if he were to desire to retain a reserve force. And if you buy into MacGregor’s ‘phalanx’ book, you could also add combat support packages to the battalion task forces. Easy.