Thursday, January 26, 2006

US Military Stretched Thin

Two reports released in the last two days both indicate that the US Army has reached its breaking point because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first report, commissioned by the pentagon, said there is a real possibility of “breaking the force” if troop levels are maintained in both countries without increasing the size of our army. The second report, commissioned by Capitol Hill Democrats, indicated that failing to relieve the pressure of the present situation “will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had not read either report, but rejected them both. “It’s clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected.” As far as the status of our troops, Rumsfeld said “It [the US Army] is a force that has been deployed, functioned effectively and, as I say, battle-hardened.”

How does Rumsfeld know the reports are wrong if he has not read them? How can he state that they are out of date or misdirected when he has not gone over the content. The Pentagon-requested report is by Andrew Krepinevich, a highly respected retired officer, who now directs the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think-tank. Does Rumsfeld assume he can’t have a valid opinion that he’s completely incompetent, or just that he’s not smart enough to indicate anything Rumsfeld hasn’t figured out himself?

The Krepinevich report sites soldiers leaving the military because they are in combat too often, lack of strategic reserves, lack of recruits, and the acceptance of lower-quality candidates as leading to the weakening of our armed forces. The Army fell short of it’s target number of recruitments last year by 6,700, the biggest shortfall since 1979, and as a result decided to accept more high school dropouts and to lower the acceptable score on the military entrance exam. The upper age for potential recruits has also been raised from 35 to 42. No, I’m not enlisting.

If it rotates its troops too frequently into combat, the Army risks having many of its soldiers decide that a military career is too arduous or too risky an operation for them and their families to pursue. How often can a soldier be put in harm's way and still desire to remain in the Army? Making matters worse, unless the Army is willing to stress its rotation base further, it effectively has no strategic reserve.

Krepinevich makes these assessments based on 138,000 troops deployed in Iraq and 19,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan. Those numbers were accurate as of this morning. Krepinevich and his think-tank are widely regarded as Republican, but the Democratic report came to the exact same conclusions. Are they both wrong in exactly the same way, despite being independent reports, or is it possible that Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration are out of touch with the state of the US military? It can’t help but look that way to me.

Posted by Scottage at 2:11 AM / | |