Gerry Long's article in this month's Journal of Military Operations about "organizing infantry." Long provides a concise history of the U.S. Army's fiddling with the infantry squad between 1946 and today and then comes up with three recommendations of his own. They are:
1. "The squad/section weaponry should be based around one LMG and one grenade launcher.Now I'll be the first to admit that I don't have strong feelings about this one way or the other. The issue seems to be, in Long's words, that "...although a fire-team squad might be useful when at full strength, in combat it would remain to brittle. The four man fire-team could not stand casualties and remain effective. After a few losses, the squad would either reorganise into fewer fire-teams or else stop using its fire-team organisational structure. Either way this to-fro with squad organisation in combat would needlessly complicate an already confusing situation, adding to the friction of war."Hmmm.
2. (E)liminate the fire-team structure. Organise the squad (or in the British case, section) around a squad leader (section commander) & 2ic. The 2ic could still command an ad-hoc fire-team if the tactical situation required.
3. (S)implify the light infantryman’s tactical employment. The squad (or section) would either fire or manoeuvre, not both. Battle drill along with fire-teams should be seen for what they were designed for: a vehicle to train the squad, not a basis for offensive doctrine. This would simplify the low level commander’s tactical duties and training."
I think one factor in this question that Long doesn't take into account is the one that (in my opinion) has been a big, if unexamined, problem that currently afflicts and will continue to afflict my Army; the impact of rebellion-suppression guerrilla wars, both on unit organization and skills.
The 1946 conference that Long cites in his article as having come up with the gold standard for infantry small-unit organizations had just come away from the "high-intensity" fighting of WW2. The U.S. Army has not since then faced a peer foe equivalent to the German military of the Forties or even the Japanese Army of the 1942-43 period except for the CPVA in Korea (where the post-WW2 reorganization seems to have worked effectively) and, in isolated engagements, the NVA between about 1965-1972.
Since then the U.S. Army's opponents have been exclusively either local guerrillas or the sort of half-assed Third World "armies" typified by the Saddam-era Iraqi military. Much of the fighting the U.S. infantry has done has been against lightly-armed, poorly-organized, and badly-led rebels like the Sunni muj in Iraq and the Talib irregulars in Afghanistan. Frankly, there is very little that sort of enemy can do that will expose a flawed organization...assuming that the organization is flawed. One of the lessons from WW1 was that imperial policing of the sort that the British Army had trained on for most of the 99 years prior to 1914 was not a good way to train a modern army for a mechanized First World War. I suspect that if - Moloch forfend! - the U.S. Army gets into a similar sort of war that we will find that fighting a bunch of raggedy-assed Third World mooks will have done us very little good.
But...let's be real. Mechanized warfare is a bloody business for infantrymen. Something like, what, 90% of the combat casualties from WW2 were infantry. For a low birthrate, danger-averse society like the 21st Century United States to get involved in a WW2-level of infantry fighting would take...well, it'd take another Korea, and I don't see where that could happen (except maybe...Korea...)
So perhaps there's nothing to be concerned about, this question of fire teams and squads and what they can and can't do...
Or perhaps there should be.
But I am hopeful we will never have to find out.