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AC/RC Integration: Today's Success and Transformation's Challenge

Authored by Dr. Dallas D. Owens. | October 2001

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SUMMARY

The 30-year-old ?Total Forces Policy? was designed to meet Cold War requirements; 10 years ago a total force policy remained important, but proved inadequate to meet the need for increased use of the reserve components (RC) in response to challenges posed by a smaller military, more diverse missions, and more frequent deployments. Since the mid-1990s, AC/RC integration programs and initiatives have successfully addressed many of the barriers to timely and effective mobilization and employment of a trained and ready reserve component. The current Army transformation, changing missions, and fiscal constraints will further redefine the role of the RC and the level of integration necessary to perform that role.

The recommendations in this monograph suggest ways that the Army can ensure success in its future integration efforts, based on the transformation campaign plan; the evolution of the Army?s vision of AC/RC integration; past and current efforts to achieve integration; accomplishments and failures of integration programs; and future integration issues for the transforming Army. These recommendations for supporting AC/RC integration during the transformation process and after the objective force is fielded follow four lines: (1) support and expand the most effective current programs while creating new programs; (2) avoid choosing roles and missions that segregate the force; (3) change the mobilization process to fit the transformed force; and (4) conduct periodic analyses to determine how the force is changing and the effects of that change on AC/RC integration. The most important of the specific recommendations are to (1) support the AC/RC Association Program and related activities, especially the Training Support XXI Program; (2) transform RC units, when possible, at the same time as their affiliated AC units are transformed; (3) support that portion of the Multi-component Units Program that research shows has an optimal chance of success and contributes to effective mission performance; (4) expand the Integrated Division Program; (5) in the context of mission specialization, avoid making any mission exclusively RC or AC when detrimental to the prestige or funding of a single component; (6) support Army Forces Command?s changes to maximize the flexibility of the mobilization process; and (7) monitor the transformation process constantly for its impact on AC/RC integration and adjust as necessary to continue supporting an integrated Army.

INTRODUCTION:

The concept of ?Total Forces Policy? is widely attributed to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, who in 1970 directed that a Total Force be considered when planning, programming, manning, and equipping Defense Department forces. It was designed to meet Cold War requirements to fight a European war between huge mechanized militaries. Ten years ago a total force policy remained important, but proved inadequate to meet the need for increased use of the reserve components (RC) in response to challenges posed by a smaller military, more diverse missions, and more frequent deployments. Since the mid-1990s, active component/reserve component (AC/RC) integration programs and initiatives have successfully addressed many of the barriers to timely and effective access to a trained and ready reserve component. Army transformation, changing missions, and fiscal constraints will further redefine the role of the RC and the level of integration necessary to perform that role.

The current Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, and his two predecessors, General Dennis Reimer and General Gordon Sullivan, employed their own special rubrics?The Army, Total Army, and One Army,1 respectively?to commit the Army to a modern and enhanced version of the concept. Secretary Laird?s intention was to create ?a vehicle to promote a reduced response time for the reserves to back a small Active establishment in a national emergency.?2 General Shinseki retains Secretary Laird?s goal, but his vision of The Army is of greater scope. Charles Cragin, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, characterized the increased scope as?profound . . . changes are clear: the Reserve forces are not just sitting around waiting for the bell to go off and World War Three to begin.?3 The past decade has seen a new focus on AC/RC integration, marked by increased frequency of intercomponent training, plans and operations incorporating multiple components for even minor contingencies, and routine use of two or more Army components for day-to-day worldwide shaping activities.

So how successful have 30 years of effort been? The integration of the Active and Reserve Components has obviously changed during that time, but has this been the product of the Army leadership?s vision and their programs designed to fulfill that vision? Or is today?s status merely the culmination of a series of disparate programs designed to address emerging Army force structure issues, changing missions, or increases in deployments of forces to meet national security requirements?

It is the purpose of this research to examine the evolution of the Army?s vision of AC/RC integration, past and current efforts to achieve integration, accomplishments and failures of integration programs, and future integration issues for the transforming Army. The examination will lead to recommendations about how the Army should endeavor to ensure success in its future integration efforts.

CONCLUSIONS

Even the most cynical analyst is likely to admit that there have been huge improvements in AC/RC integration over the past 30 years and significant reemphasis over the past 10 years. Over the past 2 to 3 years, there has been a decrease in the number of new programs and DoD initiatives, possibly because our very success has decreased the amount left to fix, or because we have already fixed the easy part, or because of some combination of the two. To complicate the overall evaluation, the last 10 years have been a fairly stable time for the Army in terms of fielding major weapons systems and doctrine. This stability, combined with increased information processing capabilities, has generated a nearly ideal medium for integration. Finally, for the last 3 to 4 years, senior leaders of the three Army components have increased cooperation, allowing many of the new programs an optimal chance to succeed.

Transformation, an unstable medium, has the potential to decrease integration, at least temporarily, because of uneven transformation and strains on affiliation. Combined with external dynamics, like moving towards specialization, the setbacks for integration could be substantial.

Existing programs for integration vary widely in their demonstrated success at integrating our Army. Taken as a whole, they address most of the structural and attitudinal barriers to integration, at least for that portion of the Army they target, and cover all the joining dimensions. But no single program of large span or high impact covers all the dimensions, nor do they combine to address all barriers for all of the Army. The most effective programs, like their predecessors, are loosely grouped as AC/RC Association Programs. These are successful because they are related and collectively reach a large portion of the Army, they address both structural and attitudinal barriers for all dimensions of joining, and they work at the interpersonal and organizational levels where there is potential for operational outcomes for all parties in the association. They still fall short of the ideal of being a single program that effectively addresses both types of barriers for all of the Army, across all dimensions.

Accordingly, the existing programs that are best suited to sustain integration during transformation are probably those that continue to enhance effective and relevant associations. Supporting and, if possible, expanding the most effective programs represent our best chance to get through the transformation with an integrated Army. But more is needed. Gaps left in even the best of present programs need to be filled, and existing programs need support from aforementioned DoD initiatives, especiallythose that create greater flexibility and efficiency in mobilization, the process that is seldom addressed by Army programs.

ENDNOTES

1. Eric Shinseki, General and Chief of Staff, United States Army: Active! Reserve Component Integration, http:!! www.paed.army.mil! acrc!index.htm1, p. 1.

2. Charles E. Heller, Total Force: Federal Reserves and State National Guards, Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1974, p. 2.

3. Charles L. Cragin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, ?AC/RC Integration,? speech to the Reserve Forces Policy Board Symposium on AC/RC Integration, National Defense University, Washington, DC, July 16, 1998, pp. 2-3.