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Thread: Army Reserves Capability

  1. #1

    Army Reserves Capability

    I would like to know what Forum members think in relation to the Reserves (in particular Army Reserves): about their role, structure and readiness specifically. The background reading on the topic is troubling and disconcerting even if not entirely unexpected.

    Strictly speaking the views on the reserves may vary widely depending on the time-frame analysed. My query relates more to the approaches adopted in more modern times - say the last 20 years. As recently as 2000, the Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (Jfadt) considered issues pertaining to the Australian Army and the Army Reserves in its Inquiry entitled "From Phantom to Force: Towards a More Efficient and Effective Army" . Overall, it made for some depressing, but not entirely unexpected, reading. However conclusions reached as part of that analysis have not been adopted as part of the Defence White Papers of 2000 and 2009.

    To provide some context - at the time of the report, the ARA had around 23’906 personnel and the Reserve 21’486. Recruitment for the forces was, as a percentage of targets, around 80 for the ARA and 51 for the GRes. ARA personnel were 34% more expensive than the personnel of the RR Scheme and 72% more than GRes personnel. In December 1999 Reserves were leaving Army at a rate of 23.45%.

    (Department of Defence, Defence Annual Report 1998–99, Defence Publishing Service, Canberra,
    19 October 1999, p. 162)
    Also, at the time of the Inquiry:
    1) 1st Brigade was staffed at 70%
    2) 3rd Brigade was staffed at 85%
    3) 7th Brigade (Integrated) was staffed at 73% (6 RAR’s Timor Tour was to include 300 Reserves on VS)
    4) 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th & 13th Brigades averaged 31% staffing.
    5) 4th Brigade, trialling new structures, had a staffing of 40%

    Ultimately the Inquiry concluded that Army needed 3-4 brigades in the Ready Deployment Force with the capacity to generate up to 8 brigades within two years. The was based on a perceived need for Army to maintain a both a brigade and a battliongroup on operations.

    Intriguingly, in the Defence White Paper of 2000the government dismissed such a force structure but still recognised the requirement for Army to maintain a Brigade on extended operations whilst simultaneously maintaining a battalion group ready for contingencies. (http://www.defence.gov.au/publications/wpaper2000.PDF)

    In the lead up to the May 2009 DWP, Neil James (Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association), in a September 30 2008 speech to the Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales, stated:

    I see no future, however, for the Army Reserve (five brigades nominally) as a manoeuvre force above company level because of irreversible decline in the size of the reserve and the huge expense required to maintain it as a separate force. As an integrated part of the total force it still has a very bright future.
    (can be found here: http://www.rusinsw.org.au/Papers/20080930.pdf )

    These words appear to have been prophetic. The Defence White Paper 2009 had this to say about Reserves. You’ll note the emphasis on individuals for unit round-out and High Readiness and Reserve Response forces limited to no more than Company (or Combat Team) size.

    The Use of Reserves

    10.12 In some circumstances, Defence may be required to surge its capabilities to rapidly increase force levels, enhance preparedness or broaden our military response options. The balance and structure of the ADF's full-time and part-time forces can be a force multiplier in such circumstances, and could be managed more strategically.

    10.13 Over recent years, Defence has employed part-time units in several operational deployments and large scale 'national security' activities such as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, APEC meetings and visits by international dignitaries. Critical specialists, such as surgeons and other professionals, provide invaluable service to Defence operations on a part-time basis.Part-time personnel also routinely undertake extended operational deployments in the near region, such as the infantry company group currently deployed on rotation to Solomon Islands. Part-time units can also undertake very short notice aid to the civil community tasks, such as assistance during and after bushfires and floods. Individual part-time personnel from all Services have also contributed to multinational peacekeeping tasks in a number of theatres, and have served in multinational headquarters and coalitions.

    10.14 However, a number of factors have constrained the ability of part-time personnel to play a larger role in the delivery of trained and ready capability. These factors include:
    the complexity of the tasks performed by the ADF (and the sophisticated and intensive mission preparation required);
    the availability of part-time personnel for extended duty;
    the complexity, cost and availability of some equipment (and the higher training load required to maintain competencies);
    the significant annual wastage rate among part-time personnel, which can be a brake on the delivery of capability; and
    the dispersion of part-time units and facilities.

    10.15 The Government is committed to a better integration between part-time and full-time service in the ADF, and removing the factors which can impede the contribution that part-time forces can make to ADF capability. Chapter 9 describes how this will be done in relation to the Army, which contains the largest number of part-time personnel.

    10.16 The Government also intends to further enhance the High Readiness Reserves (HRR), a category of part-time service that allows for some part-time personnel in the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force to be held at much higher readiness for deployment than most reservists. By January 2010, six company-sized Army combat teams, made up of HRR personnel, will be available for operational tasking such as protecting points of entry (for instance ports or airfields), and guarding headquarters and vital installations. Defence will grow this capability, to provide a total of more than 1,000 troops in deployable combat teams, and more than 1,700 additional individuals and small teams to round-out other elements of the Army, including Special Forces. Additionally, the Army's Reserve Response Forces (RRF) provide six teams, each of company-size, for the purpose of Defence Assistance to the Civil Community, in the case of natural disasters, and Defence Force Assistance to the Civil Authority tasks. As discussed in Chapter 9, Defence will also investigate a new form of part-time service based on workforce sponsorship, with the current HRR scheme possibly being adapted to support such an initiative.

    (http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper...paper_2009.pdf)


    What do you all think? Is the debate over? Are Reserves to be confined to willing individuals for small tasks or is there a real need for a much larger force? Even if there is a potential need for a larger force, is there likely to be the political will to establish and maintain it? Can we make the reserves a useful and rewarding experience for its members?

    Brett.

  2. #2

    The reserves will never again make up large parts of the manoeuvre force, and IMO this is a good thing in the real world we live in. The main two reasons are the cost and training liability.

    Cost. Defence is a zero sum game. You give money to the reserves you have to take it away from the regs. As an example, the cost of LAND 400 is so great that it is unlikely the army will be able to buy enough new vehicles to fully equip all the units that require them. The army will be forced to make greater use of pooling and simulation to make up the difference. It is the same for pretty much every other new project. Why would you give equipment to reservists if you don’t have enough for your regs?

    Training liability. The equipment and new skill sets required for modern combined arms teams is too great for it to exist in a part time force. Even the regs are struggling to maintain proficiencies – how are reservists supposed to do the same?

    The way I see it the reserves will have three major functions:

    - Providing HRR coys etc for domestic security tasks, relieving the regs of the burden.

    - Providing a pool of highly qualified specialists (doctors, medics, linguists etc) to supplement the regular force in war time. You only need so many medics in peacetime, in wartime you need as many as you can get etc.

    - Providing sub-units to be incorporated into reg units groups after an appropriate period of training. Ie, a reserve rifle company acting as the fourth rifle company in a battalion.

    In the end, the art of war has progressed to the point that the cost and training liability to get reservists to a level of capability useful to the government is too much. Better to spend it on capabilities that can and will actually be used.

  3. #3

    I'd add low risk level foreign security taskings, similar to Solomans and Timor, too. There seems to me to be little about these taskings, that a predominant, but not wholly part-time Australian/NZ force couldn't successfully undertake, especially after the early "frenetic" activities and missions are sorted out...

  4. #4

    Based on my experience in Finland the biggest problems for using reservists have always been availability issues (deployability) and physical fitness requirements. Because these things seem to be more and more important I don´t see a very bright future for reserve forces. Other things kind of depend on what is the background of your reserve force, what is their mission and how much you are willing to invest in their training. Probably the biggest role of reserves in the future is to give flexibility for human resources planning and to provide added capabilities in the form of civilian specialists.

    Just my 2 cents
    Cheers,
    Riđđu, arctic storm

  5. #5

    Neil James wasn't being prophetic he was being 20 years behind the times... The structure of most reserve units is ridiculously high compared to their manning, even back in the peak of 30,000 something back in the 1980s (taking into account who was fully trained). This is because the reserve used to be an expansion base. Like the German Army between the wars the idea was to train a leadership cadre that would be rapidly filled out by volunteer spear carriers with six months training come Armageddon. It is no longer but getting the army to get rid of useless command and staff appointments seems to be impossible.

    The Phantom to Force report has the required recommendations to make the reserves far more useable. Its quite simple: restructure. From 1 Div HQ and 6 1/2 brigades to six battle groups plus training groups (for reservists yet to reach full IET trained level) at current ~18,000 manning. Of course this is a 2/3s cut in command appointments but it would provide units at strength of trained soldiers. The second step is to provide employment protection so these units can be called up and injected into the Army's rotational deployment structure. Obviously reserves deploy at a lower rate than regulars just as in the USA. But it provides more capability from the current human pool.
    Last edited by Gubler, A.; 08-04-10 at 01:40 AM.

  6. #6

    Quote Originally Posted by Raven22 View Post
    Cost. Defence is a zero sum game. You give money to the reserves you have to take it away from the regs.
    The problem with this metric is it doesn't take into account human resources. Defence can't buy and sell willing soldiers as easily as it can armoured fighting vehicles. Making use of those Australians willing to be soldiers is something that needs to be accounted for.

    Currently the ADF has found enough Australians to raise the Army Reserve personnel levels to 12,000 trained and 6,000 being trained (from memory). Of these soldiers only a minority are in useful units: 1 Fd Regt, 16 AD Regt, some specialist engineer capabilities, RFSUs, 1 Cdo Regt and the six HRR combat teams. The rest are wasted in the bloated 2 Div structure maintaining an illusion of an expansion force which is no longer needed.

    Now if 2 Div was restructured into six battle groups (7,200) and six force support groups (4,800) and six training groups (6,000) you would have something that could be deployable by need in a way to make a SIGNIFICANT difference to Army capability. The groups for individual training would also provide something of an expansion base as well as a low intensity respite posting for full timers and even a dumping ground for surplus middle management to save the command structure from the current over bureaucratisation.

    The full time Army’s nine deployable battle groups (armd cav regts and inf bns) can sustain long term in theatre at the most three battle groups with each serving eight months out of every two years on operations. There are other battle group HQs (1 Armd Regt) and the aviation battle groups but realistically only these nine units provide the combat teams that make up COIN/PSO battle groups.

    Now if you had six more functional and organised part time battle groups they could sustain a fourth in theatre battle group. Serving one year full time out of every four (or eight months out of four years in theatre plus pre deployment training) in a similar service demand to US Army National Guard and Army Reserves during the height of the OIF campaign.

    So using the Army Reserves can provide the Army with a 33% increase in deployable combat power. As to equipment needs applying the Adaptive Army rotational structure to the Army Reserve means only a 33% increase in combat systems (assuming only battlegroups deployed and undergoing pre deployment training are fully equipped) and a steady state to training systems (2 Div has more equipment demands than its six useable HRR combat teams).

    The less tangible element of all this is that giving the reserves a real mission and organisation will significantly improve their training and motivation as well as ground the Army’s current operational commitments in the community. Currently very few Australians notice, understand and feel the strain of our war commitments. If units raised from the wider community, rather than the garrisons, were to be deployed this would change.

  7. #7

    Quote Originally Posted by Raven22 View Post
    Training liability. The equipment and new skill sets required for modern combined arms teams is too great for it to exist in a part time force. Even the regs are struggling to maintain proficiencies – how are reservists supposed to do the same?
    Only the way the Australian Army seems to be doing it. Other armies have no problems raising and sustaining reserve units equipped with the most sophisticated weapon systems. The US Army even has reserve attack helicopter regiments.

    Part of the problem with current reserve units is untrained soldiers are injected into units before they have trained up to their IET level. These soldiers should be in training units until they finish their individual training. I wonder how competent an ARA unit would be if 10% of their E1s hadn’t gone to RTB, another 10% had only finished half of RTB, 20% had only finished RTB and 20% had only done half of IET and only the remaining 40% of E1s were IET trained (not to mention actually Proficient!).

    I don’t think anyone realistically expects the reserves to provide anything more sophisticated than motorised infantry battle groups. So we don’t need to train them on M1 tanks, ASLAVs, LAND 400 AFVs, ARH Tiger, etc. The rotational structure also provides a mechanism for sliding scales of competency as units rotate around the deployment cycle.

  8. #8

    Quote Originally Posted by Gubler, A. View Post
    The problem with this metric is it doesn't take into account human resources. Defence can't buy and sell willing soldiers as easily as it can armoured fighting vehicles. Making use of those Australians willing to be soldiers is something that needs to be accounted for.

    Currently the ADF has found enough Australians to raise the Army Reserve personnel levels to 12,000 trained and 6,000 being trained (from memory). Of these soldiers only a minority are in useful units: 1 Fd Regt, 16 AD Regt, some specialist engineer capabilities, RFSUs, 1 Cdo Regt and the six HRR combat teams. The rest are wasted in the bloated 2 Div structure maintaining an illusion of an expansion force which is no longer needed.

    Now if 2 Div was restructured into six battle groups (7,200) and six force support groups (4,800) and six training groups (6,000) you would have something that could be deployable by need in a way to make a SIGNIFICANT difference to Army capability. The groups for individual training would also provide something of an expansion base as well as a low intensity respite posting for full timers and even a dumping ground for surplus middle management to save the command structure from the current over bureaucratisation.

    The full time Army’s nine deployable battle groups (armd cav regts and inf bns) can sustain long term in theatre at the most three battle groups with each serving eight months out of every two years on operations. There are other battle group HQs (1 Armd Regt) and the aviation battle groups but realistically only these nine units provide the combat teams that make up COIN/PSO battle groups.

    Now if you had six more functional and organised part time battle groups they could sustain a fourth in theatre battle group. Serving one year full time out of every four (or eight months out of four years in theatre plus pre deployment training) in a similar service demand to US Army National Guard and Army Reserves during the height of the OIF campaign.

    So using the Army Reserves can provide the Army with a 33% increase in deployable combat power. As to equipment needs applying the Adaptive Army rotational structure to the Army Reserve means only a 33% increase in combat systems (assuming only battlegroups deployed and undergoing pre deployment training are fully equipped) and a steady state to training systems (2 Div has more equipment demands than its six useable HRR combat teams).

    The less tangible element of all this is that giving the reserves a real mission and organisation will significantly improve their training and motivation as well as ground the Army’s current operational commitments in the community. Currently very few Australians notice, understand and feel the strain of our war commitments. If units raised from the wider community, rather than the garrisons, were to be deployed this would change.
    That's quite an interesting idea, and I agree that East Timor, Butterworth and Solomon Islands deployments appear tailor-made for your Reserve units. It would give them valuable institutional experience and value, whilst maintaining moral and community exposure.

    I have a couple of questions though:

    Your Battle groups appear to be quite large (1200), is this including a 120% manning establishment for the BG's elements?

    Would you envisage these BGs equiped homogenously as Light Infantry or Motorised with Bushmasters or would it vary?

    If there were a large 1bde presence in SA (APISA), would there be an opportunity for the Reserve unit based there to be equipped with whatever the ASLAV replacement might be (Patria AMV?) - structure with the notion of say, 4 deployable squadrons?

    The Inquiry report noted reaearch indicating that warning times for conflicts had typically been 14 months or less (up to and including ET). What sort of readiness are you really talking about here for your Reserve BGs? (obviously money and equipment are key issues here)

    Brett.

  9. #9

    Only the way the Australian Army seems to be doing it. Other armies have no problems raising and sustaining reserve units equipped with the most sophisticated weapon systems. The US Army even has reserve attack helicopter regiments.
    Comparisons with the US aren't very useful in an Australian context. The US Air Force Reserve also operates stealth fighters, but that isn't a very good argument for Australia giving our stealth fighters to reservists. Politics also plays a big a part in the US as it does in Australia - its worth pointing out that the US Army Reserve retains exactly zero combat units, it consists entirely of CS and CSS units. The part time combat units are part of the National Guard, and of course the politics and interstate rivalry is generally the deciding factor in who gets what instead of need. Hell, if we told the premier of NSWthat he could have his own tank regiment if he paid for it, maybe that would work.

    However, even the US National Guard is reducing its number of combat brigades and 75% of it will be support units. A large part of this is the reduced efficiency of Reserve/Guard units during ops in Iraq. It is no surprise that with less training and less experienced commanders that part-time soldiers weren't doing as well as the full time units. Now, to the US that was acceptable, they were warm bodies and they were doing the job, if imperfectly. To the Australian government that would be unacceptable - anything less than perfect is not good enough to risk. This is the same government after all that in an inquiry into the death of a soldier in Afghanistan decided that an experienced combat officer and beret-qualified commando wasn't sufficently trained in track discipline and that contributed to his death. The excitement that 1 Cdo is causing in the papers with their antics doesn't help either.

    That's the biggest kicker - Army doesn't exist in a perfect world, it exists to do the bidding if the government of the day. Why waste money on a capability the government of the day is not going to use? Now, low level capability to conduct domestic security tasks and wander the jungles of Timor and the Solomons is a different matter, and how ever you want to organise an organisation for this can't be worse than the current set up.

  10. #10

    Quote Originally Posted by battlensign View Post
    That's quite an interesting idea, and I agree that East Timor, Butterworth and Solomon Islands deployments appear tailor-made for your Reserve units. It would give them valuable institutional experience and value, whilst maintaining moral and community exposure.
    If the Army Reserve was restructured into six battle groups as part of the Adaptive Army’s force generation rotation those reserve battle groups activated for deployment one out of every four years should be able to deploy anywhere a regular/full time battle group does. If managed properly the reserve battle group should be just as well (or badly) equipped, as well trained and physically fit as the regular battle group. The biggest differential would be in quality of leadership which is often found in reserve units to be better in human quality but poorer in military skills (compared to regulars).

    Quote Originally Posted by battlensign View Post
    Your Battle groups appear to be quite large (1200), is this including a 120% manning establishment for the BG's elements?
    Nope. 1,200 is the Army’s rough standard for a fully pimped out battle group. That is around 800 for an infantry battalion with attached cavalry (or swapped), artillery, engineers and CSS team (company sized). Basically it’s a one third slice of a brigade.


    Quote Originally Posted by battlensign View Post
    Would you envisage these BGs equiped homogenously as Light Infantry or Motorised with Bushmasters or would it vary?
    I would imagine that all six battle groups would be best organised based on a light infantry battalion (4 Bde: 5/6 RVR, 5 Bde: 4/3 RNSWR, 8 Bde: 2/17 RNSWR, 9 Bde: 10/27 RSAR, 11 Bde: 9/49 RQR, 13 Bde:11/16 RWAR) with light cav sqn (PMV-L) and APC sqn (Bushmaster PMV-M) support provided as needed by Army Reserve RAAC units. Apart from being cheaper, easier and so on it would provide the Army with a deployable capability of two medium battle groups and two light battle groups which is a fair balance.

    Quote Originally Posted by battlensign View Post
    If there were a large 1bde presence in SA (APISA), would there be an opportunity for the Reserve unit based there to be equipped with whatever the ASLAV replacement might be (Patria AMV?) - structure with the notion of say, 4 deployable squadrons?
    There are no plans to locate any armd cav units (ASLAV and replacement) in SA. Providing the former 9 Bde battle group (10/27 RSAR) with ASLAVs or LAND 400 AFVs would just be too complex, too much training demand and unnecessary. A Sqn, 3/9 SAMR would be better equipped with PMV-L and PMV-M to provide light cavalry recce and Bushmaster APCs as needed. Any armd cav / mech inf capability needed by reserve battle groups being deployed on operations would be provided by the full time units that provide this type of capability as per the general nature of assembling battle groups and combat teams to meet the need.


    Quote Originally Posted by battlensign View Post
    The Inquiry report noted research indicating that warning times for conflicts had typically been 14 months or less (up to and including ET). What sort of readiness are you really talking about here for your Reserve BGs? (obviously money and equipment are key issues here)
    Phantom to Force’s concept of readiness is 10 years out of date and based on the emergency response (aka ODF) concept. Currently the Army is moving to the adaptive army rotational concept (in a typical half arsed way, see thread discussing this elsewhere on the forum). Under this method units rotate between previously typical peacetime posture of raise, train, sustain to pre deployment training to high readiness state or operationally deployed.

    Based around the eight month deployment block this would mean of the six reserve battle groups at any one time four would be at a typical lower readiness raise, train, sustain posture, one at a higher readiness pre deployment training (which could probably be conducted as a mix of part time and full time activity) and the sixth at full time service high readiness either operationally deployed or at a high readiness state for potential emergency deployment if there is no demand for operationally deployed units.

    If the reserve units were not activated into the force generation rotation because of low demand they would be at a low readiness. However since these units would only comprise trained soldiers and be kept at full strength their readiness would be much higher than most current reserve units. Which even if they were activated tomorrow would need months to train up the high percentage of untrained soldiers in each unit.

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