Aisle F – Force Structure

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Force Structure concerns the military forces stationed around the world to support military objectives and our national interests. It addresses the way that the military is designed and organized. Unless readiness that can be characterized as “do we have things right?” force structure is about “do we have the right things? And in the right places?” Although portions of the resource management community tends to narrow force structure down to end strength, for present purposes we take a much broader perspective. Force Structure includes the size, shape, and positioning of the force and involves organizational design of both the combat forces and all supporting elements along with the enterprise that provides the resources and strategies/plans needed to get the forces ready to fight and win.

​​​​​​​Force structure constitutes one ‘point’ of the defense resourcing triangle with modernization and readiness as the other two points. Whereas the latter two discuss decision outcomes that are intangible or uncertain, force structure decisions govern what the military physically has on hand – people, materiel, and infrastructure – and what the military could generate when needed. The essential questions explored in this lesson include:

  • How much force structure does the military need to satisfy the requirements of its national strategy?
  • How is that structure divided among the departments (Army, Navy, Air Force) and further divided among services, components, branches and so on?
  • How is that structure organized into capabilities, such as how many divisions/BCTs or carrier battle groups or wings?
  • Where do these forces need to be stationed, and with what capabilities at hand (facilities, land, etc.) to train and ensure readiness?

Put another way – What capabilities do we need? How much do we need? And where are we going to station it? This topic generally gets short-shrift behind readiness and modernization because it is neither glamorous nor easy to grasp. Consider how the “Big 5” exists as a modernization success story, or how leaders all understand readiness even if many define it differently. But both readiness and modernization both depend on the proper design of the force in the first place. Build the wrong force and there is little that any readiness activity can do to overcome it.

— Bob Bradford and Tom Galvin

​​​​​​​Faculty Publications:
Strategies and Reports:
Racks in this Aisle:
Rack FA – Force Strategy & Planning - Force Strategy & Planning addresses questions that help focus the Services as they build the force. What does the force need to do? How will it do the critical tasks? Where does it need to be to accomplish assigned missions? Continue Reading
Rack FC – Concepts & Doctrine - This rack is focused on concepts and doctrine from which the defense enterprise (especially the services) determine their force structure requirements. Resources are focused on "Capstone" concepts and the structures and theories of concept development. Continue Reading
Rack FD – Force Development - This rack provides resources regarding the overall enterprise processes and systems related to force development -- which is the translation of strategies to force structures. It includes the application of organizational design to the military. Force Development is combined with Force Integration to comprise the overall force management system used in the U.S. Army. Continue Reading
Rack FM – Manning the Force - This rack provides resources regarding the "spaces" in the human resource/talent management equation. "Spaces" are the space allocations based on total end strength, plus the strategic questions of what to in-source and out-source. Continue Reading
Rack FO – Organizing & Equipping the Force - This rack constitutes the equivalent of rack FM for the establishment and equipping of units. How many brigade combat teams, carrier groups, and such do we need and what will they have? Do we place all the combat and support in fixed modular units or separate them by function to be combined as task forces when needed? Continue Reading
Rack FP – Force Posture & Stationing - Military organizations at all echelons need to establish a footprint. This rack provides resources that explore force posture and stationing decisions, along with real property issues and other constraints. It also provides resources about systematic reviews to adjust the posture. Continue Reading
Rack FR – Roles & Missions - How do we divide the work that the military services and agencies must perform, or divide the work within the services? This rack provides resources related to past, current, and future debates over the establishment of roles and missions for each entity in the defense enterprise. Continue Reading

Title image credit:  Jim Garamone​​​​​​​ via, public domain.