Army Guard begins to reorganize force into eight divisions to prepare for possible fights with Russia and China


WASHINGTON — The Army National Guard will move most of its brigades under the command of its eight division headquarters as it reorganizes its fighting formations to give the force more combat power and some soldiers new career opportunities, officials said.

The Guard move will mark a substantial increase in the number of fully manned divisions that the Army can deploy, as only the service’s 10 active-duty divisions are now filled out with subordinate units, said Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the director of the Army National Guard. The increase to 18 complete Army divisions comes at a time when service officials believe a major conflict with a near-peer rival — namely Russia or China — would require the employment of full divisions, he said.

For the last two decades, the Army has focused on its smaller brigade combat teams as its primary fighting elements for counterterrorism operations and deployments focused on assisting the forces of other nations.

“When you look at the [2018] National Defense Strategy and competition among near-peer competitors, peer competitors — that great power competition, there is a potential for large-scale combat operations … [and] it could actually be division level fights,” Hokanson said in an interview Thursday ahead of the Guard’s planned announcement Saturday. “We wanted to make sure that everything that the Army National Guard did was in support of the total Army and the NDS, and one issue was that our divisions are just headquarters they don’t have brigades under them.”

The National Defense Strategy, crafted by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, guides the Pentagon on future planning, placing the potential for major conflict with rivals China and Russia as the nation’s primary national security threat. For the two decades prior, the military had focused almost exclusively on fighting transnational terrorist organizations, which the strategy defined as a lesser threat than those posed by nation-state competitors.

The Army National Guard now has eight headquarters elements stationed in Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, California and New York, which are each made up of about 300 or so soldiers. Some have established relationships with subordinate units, but none are manned in the way the Regular Army has built its divisions, which boast about 20,000 soldiers.


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