The Army Engineer Total Force
Transformation, Training and Leader Development
The U.S. Army’s effort to be “Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged” will be guided in part by Army Total Force Policy as well as a Regionally Aligned Forces concept, which will require the Army to build readiness and employ units from across all components of the Engineer Regiment.
By Col. David C. Hill, M.SAME, USA
Considering the “Prevent, Shape, Win” framework established in the Army Strategic Vision, it may be fair to characterize the U.S. Army’s focus since 2001 as having been to “Win” in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Army’s Force Generation process, robust access to the Reserve Component, and significant fiscal augmentation through Overseas Contingency Operations funding.
With combat operations concluded in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan continuing through 2014, it may be reasonable to assume that the Army’s focus throughout the Future Years Defense Program (FY2014-FY2020) will shift to “Prevent-Shape” through support to the theater strategies of the Geographic Combatant Commands framed by the Army Chief of Staff’s priority “Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged.” This priority also frames the Army’s mission to build readiness so that it can rapidly deploy, fight and win whenever and wherever our national interests are threatened.
The Army’s effort to be “Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged” will be guided in part by Army Total Force Policy and a Regionally Aligned Forces concept. Future operations within the context of these approaches will require the Army to build readiness and employ units from across all components of the Engineer Regiment—Active, National Guard, Army Reserve, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) Divisions and Districts—in order to adequately support theater strategies and provide flexibility to strategic leaders. To do so will require multiple authorities and the ability to program base funding to execute within those authorities.
This will be particularly true as the Army Engineer Regiment transforms along with the Army through Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Reorganization and as we considers force design updates to optimize our modular Echelon Above Brigade (EAB) force structure.
FORCE STRUCTURE CHANGES AND CONSIDERATIONS
At the heart of Army Engineer transformation in the near term is the creation of Engineer Battalions within every BCT. The organization of the BCT Engineer Battalion (BEB) and implications of this new formation for leader development, engineer mission command, and a Wholeof- Regiment approach to delivering engineer effects is well underway.
In the first quarter of FY2014, the Army activated five BEBs and is aggressively executing a plan to establish a total of 32 BEBs in the Active Component by the end of FY2015 and 28 BEBs in the Army National Guard by the end of FY2018. Although the activations of BEBs do not equate to force structure growth for the Regiment, they represent a better alignment of engineer capabilities with the Army’s BCTs. The centerpiece capability of the BEB is robust engineer mission command.
By the completion of BCT Reorganization at the end FY2018, the Army Engineer Total Force will be postured with 26 percent in the Active Component and 74 percent in the Reserve Component. At echelons above brigade, the Army Engineer Regiment will be postured with 15 percent in the Active Component and 85 percent in the Reserve Component. This disposition of forces will require Army Engineers to build on lessons learned during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with regard to cooperation across the four components of the Engineer Regiment in order to accomplish the mission for the Army and our nation. Success in the Joint Engineer fight at echelons above brigade will be increasingly dependent on Army Engineers across the Reserve Component.
As the EAB engineer force is transformed through BCT reorganization and resized through the Army’s planned end strength reductions, the Engineer Regiment is considering force design updates that would reshape the EAB force across its three disciplines: geospatial engineering, general engineering and combat engineering.
These force design updates will address issues identified in the preparation, deployment and employment of modular engineer forces over the last decade. With respect to geospatial capability and capacity, several changes have recently received approval for implementation in FY2015–FY2016. These changes include increasing the number of Geospatial Planning Cells to align one with every Geographic Combatant Command and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, as well as increasing the number of geospatial soldiers in Engineer Brigades to enhance geospatial data provisioning and collection in theater and at the operational level.
General engineer and combat engineer force design updates will consider the vulnerabilities associated with the current level of modularization of the EAB Engineer force. Today, general engineer and combat engineer inventory at EAB consists of single purposed units that have routinely deployed to provide “in lieu of ” capabilities through much of the last 10 years of operations. Force design updates will review the merits of reorganizing single purpose units to provide multi-functional capabilities that increase the flexibility of supported commanders at all levels operating across the range of military operations in support of unified land operations.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPING LEADERS
As the Engineer Total Force transforms, training and educating officers and enlisted personnel will be the key means to accomplish the future missions of engineer units.
Engineer leaders will enhance opportunities for growth across all three domains of training and leader development (institutional, operational and self-development) in order to build competence in operating across all levels of war, increase technical proficiency and inculcate professional values. Building competence in operations across the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war will necessitate a shift from the more narrow focus on stability operations required to win in the current fight to enhancing core war fighting competencies (combined arms maneuver and wide area security) through the broader application of the Army Engineer lines of support as part of decisive action.
This strategic relationship between decisive action as part of unified land operations, Army Engineer lines of support, and an Army Engineer Total Force capable of delivering effects in all three engineer disciplines is depicted in Figure 1.
The Army Engineer Regiment is well postured to get after the essential tasks that will enhance our core warfighting competencies. These include: integration with BCTs as part of the BEB in realistic, multi-echelon home station training; Decisive Action rotations at Combat Training Centers beginning early in 2014; and leader training at the U.S. Army Engineer School to regain proficiency as “Task Force Engineers,” advising commanders at all levels on integration of the engineer lines of support into Joint and combined arms.
With respect to technical proficiency and professional values, the Engineer Regiment is transitioning to a 21st century talent management model under the guidance and direction of the Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, and the Engineer School Commandant, Brig. Gen. Tony Funkhouser. The Army Engineer Regiment is striving to recruit and train diverse personnel with strong and increasing educational backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math. The Regiment is intensively managing opportunities for assignment to key and developmental positions and encouraging talented engineer officers and enlisted personnel to compete for, and serve in, broadening opportunities that will shape them as senior leaders of the future. Examples of broadening assignments include fellowships, training with industry and enterprise assignments across the Army and Joint Force.
Regarding technical skills, the Engineer School and USACE are creating opportunities and encouraging engineer soldiers to strive for technical credentials and licensing that enhance their ability to contribute to the engineer profession in the Army and after transition to the civilian work force.
INTEGRATING THE ARMY ENGINEER TOTAL FORCE
Going forward, it will be vital for senior leaders across all components of the Army Engineer Regiment to openly communicate as they consider strategic drivers of change, work to shape an Army Engineer Total Force, and adapt training and development of future leaders.
Several active, vibrant forums exist to sustain that communication and integrate the collective efforts of the Regiment.
Monthly, the Office of the Chief of Engineers in the Pentagon hosts an Engineer Worldwide Secure Video Teleconference with engineer leaders in Army Service Component Commands, Forces Command, Theater Engineer Commands, Engineer Brigades, and leaders from HQ USACE and regionally aligned USACE Divisions. This forum reviews an engineer common operating picture and discusses strategic items of interest for the Regiment. Semi-annually the Engineer Commandant hosts a Regimental Command Council with similar participants to discuss the Commandant’s priorities as the branch proponent within the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.
Annually, the Chief of Engineers hosts a Command Council to exchange information and seek consensus on key issues impacting the Army Engineer Total Force.
Through these forums and others, Army engineers will continue to anticipate and lead change by building an Army Engineer Total Force that is recognized as a relevant, ready and respected Regiment in the most highly trained and professional land force in the world.