"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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"For the all-volunteer force to work, it has to work all the time, not just in peacetime."

Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military
Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post Original Article

Two years after the United States launched a war in Iraq with a crushing display of power, a guerrilla conflict is grinding away at the resources of the U.S. military and casting uncertainty over the fitness of the all-volunteer force, according to senior military leaders, lawmakers and defense experts.

Analysis (see comments):

Great citations and facts in this article; however, the completely wrong conclusion was inferred. The title, "Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military" is completely erroneous to the supporting argument. The title should be a quote by Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, "For the all-volunteer force to work, it has to work all the time, not just in peacetime."


Blogger Lieutenant Colonel Caveman said...

Analysis: Iraqi or End Strength Quagmire.

"For the all-volunteer force to work, it has to work all the time, not just in peacetime."

Great citations and facts in this article; however, the author arrived at the completely wrong conclusion. The title, "Two Years Later, Iraq War Drains Military" (Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post) is completely erroneous to the supporting arguments and quotes by military leaders. The title should be a quote by Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, "For the all-volunteer force to work, it has to work all the time, not just in peacetime."

The mission of the US Army is to win the nation's wars. Short, sweet, to the point. The US Army has further identified that in order to win the nation's wars, the Army must be capable of executing two near simultaneous major (high-intensity) conflicts. All other military services support the Army's mission and their end strength is adjusted accordingly so the focus of this analysis will be on the Army.

While the military was able to fight two near simultaneous major conflicts with Afghanistan and Iraq, it is difficult to believe that the military could do this with Iraq and say Iran, Korea or China currently without additional manpower and equipment.

The fact that the conflict in Iraq is not completely over does not support the inference that it (Iraq) has drained the military. The conflict in Iraq does however support the conclusion that the all volunteer force was downsized to such an extent that the Army cannot win two near simultaneous major conflicts and therefore may not be able to win the nation's wars--its primary mission. It also points to the fact that wartime may not be the best time to increase end strength of the military, hence Lt. Gen. Schultz statement, "For the all-volunteer force to work, it has to work all the time, not just in peacetime."

The Army was able and more than capable to accomplish two near simultaneous major conflicts when it was right-sized at 750,000 personnel and 18 Divisions. If the Army had this structure now, we would not be seeing the pressures on the states' National Guards or the pressures we are seeing in the active Army with multiple back-to-back rotations.

Iraq is not a quagmire. It is only involving 150,000 personnel at any one time and is at best a mid-intensity conflict. Unfortunately these 150,000 personnel, mostly Army soldiers, currently represent 1/3 of the Army's personnel strength. The constant deployment of approximately 150,000 military personnel to a mid to low-intensity conflict should not cause such a drain on the country's military might. If mid to low-intensity warfare in Iraq is draining the military might of this nation, Iraq is not the disease, but merely a symptom of a larger problem. That problem is the current end strength of the military.

Current Army unit rotation is one year in Iraq (with 3-4 Divisions); one year recovery, training, and preparing for deployment (with a different 3-4 Divisions still in Iraq); and then one year back in Iraq. The current one year in-one year out cycle is what is causing the drain on the military. That is what happens when you have an end strength of 472,000 personnel with 10 Divisions. And this draining situation is with help of an extra 8 Army National Guard Divisions, which cannot support the same rotation cycle of as the active duty Army. At best, the National Guard can support one year in-three years out.

If the Army had an end strength of 750,000 and 18 Divisions, then the rotation cycle would be completely supportable while still allowing forces to be available for another major conflict in support of the Army's mission to win the nation's wars. With 18 Divisions, the Army could have 3-4 Divisions in Iraq for one year, 3-4 Divisions recovering for a year, 3-4 Divisions training up to major conflict standards for year, and finally 3-4 Divisions preparing for deployment for a year. This end strength would not only allow one year in Iraq and three years out of Iraq; thereby, limiting any "drain", it would also allow the military to continue to prepare to support another major conflict. This capability is at risk now.

Iraq has not produced the drain, it has only shown that the current end strength of the military does not allow the Army to execute two near simultaneous major conflicts and puts its mission to win the nation's wars at risk. Iraq is not a quagmire, end strength is the quagmire and the president and congressional leadership must deal with this problem if we are to retain our leadership role in the world.

President Bush Sr. and a Democratic Congress brought the Army end strength down from 750,000 in 18 Divisions to 600,000 in 12 Divisions. President Clinton and a Democratic Congress further reduced the Army end strength 472,000 and 10 Division. It accomplished this by reducing battalion strength from four to three combat companies. Effectively, in combat strength, the Army went down to 8 Divisions. It maintained capabilities due to new systems, but did not maintain versatility that only end strength can give.

President Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld are dealing with this lower than needed end strength by reorganizing and restructuring the military to bring it from 33 combat brigades in 10 Divisions to 44 combat brigades in 10 Divisions, effectively reversing Clinton era cuts by increasing each division from three to four brigades. The extra 11 brigades of combat personnel are coming from reductions in Air Defense, Artillery, and other non-front line soldiers.

These personnel in Air Defense and Artillery are moving to the National Guard. The intent is that these personnel will be needed for major combat operations (i.e. the March to Baghdad), but not in the mid to low-intensity situation that is in Iraq now. This restructuring helps the National Guard, as they would be solely be called upon to help fight the major war with the Active Army, and then leave the peace building process mostly to the Active Army. It is a great idea and may prove the most efficient, but it inherently also has its own associated risks, namely that another Soviet Union style continental offensive would not be able to as easily contained.

The only force that can bring such a large continental force to bear now is the Chinese; however, the fight is not expected to be across a continent, but instead directed against the island of Taiwan and have a large naval involvement. So while restructuring has risks, they are mostly mitigated given projected enemies in the next decade or two.

Going from 33 brigades, which currently have a one year in-one year out cycle, to 44 brigades allowed a one year in-two year out cycle. While producing less drain on combat forces, it is still compresses the old three year (recovery, train for major combat, and prepare for deployment) cycle into two years. However, in the short term it doubles the out of combat time for soldiers to recover/retrain the units and rebuild their families. Both of these are extremely important in an all volunteer force, especially given the fact the military is well over 50% married.

This increase in brigade strength does not allow for rotations in mid-intensity conflicts to go back to a more preferable 6 month cycle (six months in-18 months out). While the increase in brigade strength allows for the execution of two near simultaneous major conflicts, it would again severely drain the military. However, in the short term, it appears sustainable. The question at hand is Iraq an aberration or the future norm?

Would a war with Iran, Korea, or China produce the same long-term mid-intensity conflict that is currently seen in Iraq? Is war needed in any of these areas or will milder forms of diplomacy produce the democratization in these countries?

War in Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted (either directly or indirectly) in a free Afghanistan, a free Iraq, a free Georgia, a free Ukraine, a free Palestine (thereby reducing Israel-Palestine tensions). The Iraqi war has further resulted in Egypt announcing democratic federal elections, Saudi Arabia announcing democratic municipal elections, a greatly weakened Syria and possible a free Lebanon in the future. Finally, both wars have resulted in old rivals in Libya and Pakistan to tame their ways and support reforms.

In four short years since Bin Laden's attack on the United States, several rogue countries have come back into the international community. Yes, there is strain in the military. Yes, if we never reduced the end strength of the military, we would be better postured to deal with the remaining countries like Iran, Korea, and China. Yes, President Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld are restructuring the military to better deal with current strain and future threats. However, with minimal commitment (and death) of combat forces, this president and his action in Iraq has accomplished more in four years than others have accomplished in the last forty years.

We are strained, but we are far from broken and have in turn broken many old evil alliances. The mighty industrial complex of the United States has not even had to go into overtime yet. Nor has the President needed to reinstate a WWII or Vietnam-style draft. What is strained is solely the current all-volunteer active duty military, national guard, and reserve.

All evil nations need to be weary if the United States brings its industrial might to bear or reinstates the draft. We have helped liberate over 40 million people in the last four years with volunteers. Our military is tired and it is strained, but it has heck of a lot to show for itself in the last four years.

We and other nations are now home of the free, because of the brave men and women who have volunteered to instill, maintain, and keep the peace others enjoy so dearly.

Saturday, 19 March, 2005  

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