The recent small wars turned out to last long, very long. Just like several Balkan peacekeeping missions. These wars are no great wars, no wars which justify to send troops into theatre till accomplished their mission (for real). Instead, troops are rotated in, rotated out, formations rebuilt & retrained and rotated in again. Rotations are a proved countermeasure against burning out troops real fast. World War Two included frequent removal of troops from the front-line for vacation and service as trainers, for example. The ratio of front duty to garrison duty seems to be reversed in the more recent cases. The wisdom of short vs. long tours shall still not be the topic here, but the effect on thinking about brigades in general:
The rotation schedules have a certain in theatre period- out of theatre period ratio, 1:4 is apparently typical. The apparent problem is that this rotation mode seems to have influenced the whole thinking about brigades in general.
Brigades used to be handy combat formations, now they're apparently the administrative unit for deployment. The rumours about the development of the new German army structure included the idea of about half a dozen mixed brigades - not any specialized formations like mountain, armor, mechanized and airborne any more.
The thought process wasn't about maximizing army strength with a given budget, but about the creation of exchangeable, rotatable units for deployment.
2.A.6 In the land environment, Future Force 2020 will be able to provide: light, specialist forces for short-duration interventions; sufficient multi-role forces to provide flexibility for larger or more complex intervention operations or to undertake enduring stabilisation operations; [..]
2.A.7 Capabilities will include:
• five multi-role brigades [...] each comprising reconnaissance forces, tanks, and armoured, mechanised and light infantry, plus supporting units, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation, and four in support to ensure the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation; [...]
Brigade design according to rotation schedules. 1:4. Hundreds of dead generals and field marshals of fame roll over in their graves.
Don't get me wrong; multi-role brigades can make sense as an alternative to more specialized brigades if you have the specialized components ready for attachment in order to make them suitable for different missions and environments. It just freaks me out that brigades could be believed to be rotation assets. This is not about baseball or tennis.
What would it take to bring back brains and make decision-makers think of brigades as manoeuvre units in a corps context, almost all of them to be used at once in a war of necessity?
Are Western military forces reduced to the toys of politicians or is there still some seriousness about actual defence?