Congress finally gets a clue?
The WA Times has begun an editorial series on the issues confronting the US military. In this first issue, the question of troop strength is discussed.
Official Washington is quickly reaching consensus that U.S. ground forces need to be bolstered by a significant margin over the long-term. The proposals are in the range of 40,000 to 150,000 more troops. We're inclined toward the high end of those proposals, and maybe even higher.Keep in mind, these are the same bozos who were all too happy to spend the "peace dividend" at the end of the Cold War on all their pet projects.
Historically speaking, expenditures on ground troops are absurdly low, even by peacetime standards. As the Congressional Budget Office's September 2004 report on long-term defense spending showed, U.S. expenditures on ground forces are about half what they were at the height of the Reagan defense buildup in the mid-1980s, when the United States was without a hot war to fight and waged the Cold War mostly by proxy.
That decline -- most evident at the Cold War's end and reaching a nadir during the Clinton administration -- was unsustainable well before the September 11 attacks. All the more is it unsustainable afterward, in an era with new and challenging commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
As retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales pointed out on the opposite page yesterday, these days, if all Army and Marine infantrymen were collected together in one place, they wouldn't even fill FedEx Field. It hasn't always been this way. Five years after World War II ended, amid the postwar "peace dividend" and a pre-Korean War retrenchment, the end-strength of the U.S. Army was almost 700,000. Right now, it's about 480,000.
Last week, Senate Democrats, including John Kerry and Carl Levin -- the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee -- proposed increasing the Army and the Marines by 40,000 over the next two years. In a statement explaining the move, Sen. Levin pointed up troop needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in the short term this won't do: The Army estimates it takes about two years for any increases to affect the number of "boots on the ground" at all, so Iraq and Afghanistan would scarcely benefit.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are equally guilty. So are the "experts". Everyone was falling all over themselves trying to spend the Pentagon's budget on "other" priorities. After the Republicans regained the majority in 1994, they continued the Clinton administration's policy of gutting the military, against the advice of real experts like Colin Powell.
Arguments like this were made routinely back in the salad days of the "peace dividend".
Although some significant savings might be achieved if the Pentagon were to undertake further changes in the roles and missions of the armed forces, there is little prospect of that occurring. The roles, missions, and functions report, released by then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell in February 1993 largely ratified the existing structure and security strategy. The General Accounting Office found that the report did not recommend significant reductions in overlapping functions and that the depth of analysis of many functions was insufficient for proposing more extensive changes.(11)Now that our troops are suffering from the shortsightedness of our representatives, everyone is clamoring for change, falling all over themselves to "support the troops". If they had been serious about supporting the troops in the 1990's, our troops wouldn't be overextended now.
Congress was so frustrated with General Powell's report that as part of FY94 defense legislation it created its own Roles and Missions Commission of outside experts. They are scheduled to provide recommendations to the secretary of defense later this year. There are many areas in which they could offer suggestions, including redundancy in air superiority, conventional strategic attack, interdiction, and close air support; air and missile defense; and duplication of expeditionary (i.e., intervention) forces by the Army and the Marines.
As I've written before on this subject, for every person in Iraq, you need two more at home one training and one resting. With almost 150,000 in theatre now, you need 300,000 more at home. Add to that deployments all over the world South Korea, Kosovo, Germany, etc. and there are no troops left to send to Iraq.
Perhaps now our shortsighted representatives will finally heed the wise aphorism the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. You can't be vigilent when you have no one left to guard the entrance.