Transforming An Army at War: Designing the Modular Force, 1991-2005

Transforming An Army at War: Designing the Modular Force, 1991-2005
Transforming An Army at War: Designing the Modular Force, 1991-2005
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CMH Pub 70-108-1. Examines the origins of the modular concept, the reasons for undertaking it, and the process for developing modular unit designs in a modern armed forces. The United States Army has been exploring the notion of modularity since shortly after the end of the Cold War. Modularity, at its most basic, was the idea for creating a pool of standardized, self-contained units--combat, support, and headquarters--that could plug into (and unplug from) unit formations as needed with minimal augmentation or reorganization. A modular force would greatly improve the Army’s ability to configure packages of units tailored for specific missions by the regional combatant commands.

By the summer of 2003, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had markedly strained the Army. General Peter J. Schoomaker, chief of staff of the U.S. Army as of 1 August 2003, believed that these operations, along with the demands of an open-ended Global War on Terror, called for a major change in how the service organized its forces. In early September 2003, he ordered the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to begin the process of converting the Army to a modular, brigade-based force. This would be the most far-reaching transformation of the operational forces since World War II and the most radical since the Pentomic reorganization of the late 1950s.

The chief of staff identified the 3d Infantry Division, scheduled to return to Iraq in early 2005, as the first formation to change to a modular structure. He also directed that normal force development methods not be used. Instead, an ad hoc group, Task Force Modularity, would draw up the modular force plans. By the time the task force disbanded in February 2005, most of the major design decisions for the modular force had been made and modular brigade combat teams of the 3d Infantry Division had deployed to Iraq.

This account of designing the modular force highlights a critical part of the Army’s program to prepare itself for an increasingly turbulent world and illustrates the intellectual and organizational resources the service can call on in that effort.


This publication would be useful to the military's analysis community, civilian leaders, military commanders and staff officers at all levels, policymakers, members of government and defense agencies/contractors, and members of military-focused committees.  This publication would also be useful to historians and students engaged with historical/political/military studies.

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Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History
  • Donnelly, William M.
Key Phrases:
  • Center of Military History Publication 70 108 1
  • Global War on Terrorism
  • Iraq War, 2003-
  • Afghanistan
  • Army History
  • Military History
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