January 29, 2016

CNAS Press Note: The Final Report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army

Washington, January 29 – Following the release of the final report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army, Center for a New American Security Bacevich Fellow Katherine Kidder has written a Press Note on the Commission’s key findings and recommendations. The Press Note, “The Final Report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army,” is below:
The National Commission on the Future of the Army, a panel Congressionally mandated by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released their final report on January 28 – ahead of the February 1, 2016 deadline. Fundamentally, the Commission was tasked with articulating how best to structure the Army Total Force – the active, Guard, and reserve components – in an era of drawdowns and budget constraints. In order to do so, the Commission necessarily had to address growing friction between the three components.  The commissioners captured existing tension levels, highlighting that during the course of the study “it was disheartening to sometimes hear elements of discord from within the Army’s ranks – and some from without – pitting the Army National Guard against the Regular Army… such parochialism undermines the Army’s values, does disservice to soldiers and veterans, and adversely impacts the Army’s mission.”
The Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) – a 2013 proposal to remove all AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard and move them into active duty units – was the most salient dispute the Commission was called upon to address. Supporters of the ARI argued that, in an era of diminishing budgets, it made logical sense to transfer the existing supply of highly effective combat helicopters to the active duty fleet; many proponents of the plan further argued there was limited-to-no need for attack helicopter capabilities resident at the state level. Proponents of National Guard Apache helicopter battalions argued that the transfer would result in a lack of strategic depth, providing “no wartime surge capability” resident in the Army National Guard to support the active duty in a time of war. Further, and perhaps even more importantly, a widespread belief exists that the ARI betrayed the tenets of the Army Total Force Policy, wherein active and reserve components must organize, man, train, and equip all three components as an integrated operational force “to provide predictable, recurring, and sustainable capabilities” sufficient to range Army commitments worldwide. Beyond the important logistical considerations, what was truly at stake is the relationship between the three components; questions surrounding the “interchangeability” of the three components yielded public debates regarding the quality of the Reserves and National Guard relative to the active duty force, a particularly painful fight given the high level of Guard and Reserve participation in the post-9/11 wars. 
The Commission put forth a compromise solution, recommending that the Army maintain 24 manned Apache battalions: 20 in the Regular Army and 4 in the Army National Guard. While the proffered plan is accompanied by significant costs, the Commission provides options for cost offsets. Further, the report highlights the strategic benefit outweighing the cost: to develop “one Army that trains together in peacetime and, when necessary, fights together in war.” 
The Commission’s Final Report provides an important framework for the way ahead. However, successful implementation hinges upon strong uniformed and civilian leadership from the new Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Army.

Kidder is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at [email protected] or 202-457-9409.


  • Katherine Kidder