Active Bundeswehr officers: Cut the chieftains!

Shorter active troops officers:
'Cut the division HQs, cut the branch generals' staffs, cut commands,
shorten procedures, wake up the procurement personnel':

There's one thing in the article where I disagree with it: The divisions of the Bundeswehr's Heer were NEVER necessary, not even in the Cold War.

Let me explain: Late in WW2 the Wehrmacht's Heer discovered that mobile forces better be easily led - no bigger than brigade size. The few official and promising TO&E experiments with brigades were one argument, the fact that the motorised divisions of that time were rarely at more than half strength and proved the advantages of this size is another.

During the early 50's the veteran officers planned for the new army and consulted with such famous WW2 veterans as v.Manstein and Guderian. The conclusion was simple: The divisional structure is pointless for an all-motorised army. A brigade-based structure is superior.

Sadly, politics proceeded in parallel and there was no opportunity to do what was considered the right thing to do.
The conservative-liberal Adenauer government had a Western integration & reconciliation grand strategy and offered an army for bolstering the defence of Western Europe in exchange for foreign political progress. At some time they promised "12 Divisionen" (out of a total of 26 Western divisions in Central Europe), and the Bundeswehr had to meet this even though it didn't really want any army divisions. The Heer actually raised 12 divisions on paper, but the 12th was not really at normal strength and the Div HQs were little more than a deadweight layer of command in what was actually a brigade-based army.
This brigade model actually influenced many NATO armies during the 60's and 70's (you won't read this often in Pentomic- and ROAD-focused U.S. literature, of course)

The Divisional HQ level of command was unnecessary deadweight from the beginning, even and especially during the Cold War!

Some recent rumours about a possible deletion of some other level of command than the divisional level didn't trigger a blog post here because I assumed that the idea was so obviously stupid that it would go away anyway. I had second thoughts. There's only a about 0.000000000000001% chance that this might help to prevent such a stupid move, of course.

Sven Ortmann


  1. Wouldn't the corps have to be reduced in size (the II GE Corps consisted of up to ten brigades during wartime) due to the increased command and control effort at the corps level? Or could that be solved by increasing the corps staff plus command support personnel (signals, ...)?

  2. My approach is to look at peace organisation and target organisation in expansion (in response to a crisis) as two different beasts.

    The multinational corps (HQs) should be split into two, enlarged national corps HQs during an expansion.

    The wartime duties do not need to dictate peacetime strengths at all.

    We should have one exemplary corps, one or more multinational corps - but we should have several top notch corps after a year of expansion (+/- six months).

    More general: All staffs should be as small as possible. Large staffs are cumbersome for command & control, there's no evidence for their superiority, they cost much and they become a force towards more micromanagement (and more superficial activity).

    I'd be fine with a Corps staff of 100 personnel in wartime, 50 in peacetime and something in between in peacetime exercises.

    Today's division HQs are closing in with the strength of WW2 army group HQs!

  3. So how many brigades would be ideal and what about e.g. armored reconnaissance or other divisional troops (AFAIK until the 90s there were no corps reconnaissance assets other than LRRP and ELINT and the corps artillery comprised only short range ballistic missiles like Lance), would these be held at corps level or integrated into the brigades? I'm simply concerned that the corps staff would be overwhelmed with the C2 effort if there are too many maneuver elements assigned to the corps.

  4. The definition of a Corps is really a book chapter for itself, if not a whole book if you want it well-explained and want to see the reasoning behind it.

    The answer depends also on the terrain. Eastern European terrain justifies battlegroups of reinforced infantry battalions for there are many small settlements and patches of forests on NATO's Eastern frontier. Light brigades and divisions don't make much sense over there.

    The span of command is traditionally 3, but radios have long since raised this practical limit to 5 and beyond. 5 brigades plus several relatively static battlegroups should be a nice Corps strength. In addition to that a one-Star coordinator in the Corps HQ for the relatively static Corps support (ATACMS, medical, army aviation, NBC, some engineers, logistical node, rear area air defence and others).