Ms. Karen D. H. Saunders, SES, the senior leader for U.S. Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), spoke at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Sunshine Chapter’s luncheon in Orlando, Florida, March 6.


Saunders’ comments focused on Total Army Analysis (TAA), the process that determines the required support forces necessary to sustain combat divisions and brigades. She began her talk by saying that the TAA has been an iterative process since the early 1980s in how the Army assesses how it should be shaped. Saunders noted that the Army had recently released the 2025-2029 TAA the week prior, which examined what the Army should look like in the next 10 years, and she said that changes would start as soon as the fourth quarter of 2024.


“There are significant changes in both new capabilities being brought into the force, as well as force structure changes,” Saunders said. “A lot of the Army today is what I would call a ‘hollow Army,’ [meaning that] we have a lot of spaces that don’t get filled by faces, and by restructuring, we’re bringing down the ‘hollow’ spaces and making smarter decisions on how we’re going to restructure our force. TAA is fully aligned with the National Defense Strategy and the six operational imperatives that the Army chief of staff and the secretary talk about all the time.”


Saunders said that rightsizing the Army would take the force structure from about 494,000 to 470,000, but she emphasized that the approximate 24,000 difference represented “open spaces” that soldiers were not actually filling. According to Saunders, the TAA’s changes are currently focused on active-duty Army forces, while the Army’s other components would be slightly affected, but would see more significant changes at a later date.


“It’s no secret that the Army has challenging days ahead as we transform from a counterinsurgency-type organization to a large-scale combat operation[-focused] formation, and with near-peer adversaries creeping up and making plays publicly, it’s imperative that we make our changes now,” Saunders said.


She noted that the reductions would primarily be seen across the force in 17 installations and said that the Army had used a great deal of modeling and simulation in the process to keep disruption for soldiers and their families to a minimum.


“Soldiers who will be disrupted in place, will have the opportunity to reclassify [their military occupational specialties] and remain at their locations,” Saunders said. “[Although] there will be disruptions in the civilian force, the Army will ensure that nobody is losing their job. We just might be reshaped to support the TAA.”


Saunders went on to explain that the results of reallocating people from brigade combat teams to division echelon would give division and corps commanders greater flexibility because many organizations would be “coming up” to a higher level for better leverage of those units and their assets. Units that do not regularly deploy would also see a decrease in authorizations, which she reiterated would amount to “spaces, not faces,” to minimize risk across cutting capability. In response to recruiting challenges the Army – and all services – have faced in recent years, the recruiting workforce would be professionalized.


“The Army is standing up a warrant officer corps, specifically to address recruiting, and they’re looking at very innovative ways to attract people to the Army,” Saunders said. “They’re not just focused at the high school level – there will be specific, directed effort at young adults in college. The secretary will also be standing up a three-star recruiting command that will report to directly to the chief.”


According to Saunders, the force structure changes are not expected to affect operational tempo, but readiness will increase because units will have higher fill rates, so when units are called to deploy, they will have the strength to respond.


Saunders said that PEO STRI would not be affected by these changes. Her organization would continue to build modernization through programs such as the Synthetic Training Environment, the Persistent Cyber Training Environment, and the Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer.


“We will still be training soldiers in the field every day in the next 10 years, just like we did today,” Saunders said. “There may be changes in scenarios and TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures], but my mission will not be negatively affected by the TAA.”


Saunders will be leaving her post at PEO STRI later this summer for her next assignment. Brig. Gen. Christine Beeler, currently the commanding general for Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, will take her place.


AUSA is a nonprofit educational and professional development association serving all components of the U.S. Army and supporters of a strong national defense. Its mission includes educating soldiers, their families, and other Army supporters with programs, products, resources, and events, as well as informing elected officials and the public about issues affecting the Army. AUSA also seeks to connect the Army, its industry partners, like-minded associations, and other supporters at the national, regional and chapter levels.


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