More on the size of the Army

Norman Polmar at Defense Tech writes about The Downside of End-Strength Increases:

Critics of the buildup point out that in the next few years, possibly before the additional troops are added by 2010-2012, the United States will have withdrawn combat troops and possible all military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Even today, they note, the U.S. commitment of ground troops in the two wars is just over ten percent of the total active Army-ARNG-USAR and Marine Corps strength.

Frank Hoffman, a retired Marine officer and leading defense analyst, has observed that the global war on terrorism and the Iraq conflict are being used as “lame rationales” for enlarging the military.

Seriously, does anyone really think we will have withdrawn all combat troops, let alone all military forces, from Iraq or Afghanistan by 2010? And though the “ten percent” number is accurate and probably surprising to many, it doesn’t change the fact that the ground forces are stretched badly. If not, why would five National Guard brigades just have been alerted for deployment to Iraq and Afghansitan in 2009? It’s possible that these orders will be changed before the deployment, of course, but the idea that the 2009-2010 rotation will require five brigades of Guard means the active Army needs to be bigger.

And actual, real-world combat lessons are “lame rationales” for military policy decisions? Maybe someone should make a PowerPoint presentation to make the rationale more meaningful and convincing.

Which would make more difference in the probable missions of the US military over the next five years? 10 squadrons of F-22s or 10 brigades of infantry? Just think about how different the deployment schedule would have been with 10 more brigades from day one.

The only thing worse than having 18 infantry divisions when you only need 11 is having 10.


  1. He’s making an error in assuming NG in total troop strength. Yeah, they’re there; but it’s really a defensive army. They keep calling these guys up and sending them away for prolonged periods and there isn’t going to be much of a national guard left. I’m all for an overall troop increase. Hell, they should double what they expect to. The cost of maintaining a larger standing army ‘just in case’ is trivial compared to the cost of having to throw one together last minute unless you’re just planning on drafting everyone. Even still, it’s a logistical nightmare equipping and distributing everything, not to mention training.

  2. There is no choice between ‘do we need more troops’ or ‘do we need more F-22s’. If you have more troops but can’t maintain air superiority, they’ll be dead troops in short order. If you buy more F-22s you won’t be able to afford more troops, but then how can you afford not to have either? If we’re bogged down in a 3rd crap hole with what we’ve got stretched so far past the limit that we have to hire a greater number of mercinaries than we have US soldiers, then how do you even think we don’t have a problem? I mean hell, if Blackwater alone could take you, what the f kind of defense is that?

  3. This is a false argument, that ignores the obvious. We have more then enough money flowing to the pentagon to have both F-22′ and a 20 division army at full strength. What we need is R&S funding and procurement reform. Killing the FCS program alone could fund both the F-22 need and the division need. Restarting the the B-2 lines, but incorporating some of the new stealth materials could save billions from the Air Forces dubious new bomber program. If you are not going for a supersonic bomber, why reinvent a stealthy F-111 when you already have a stealthy heavy bomber in production.

  4. Consul-At-Arms makes a good point worth kepeing in our back pockets for future reference- that in the GW1, end-of-the-Cold-War era, there was really very little difference between an ‘Armor’ division and an ‘Infantry’ division. But what we really need is a platoon’s worth of Heinlein or Haldeman suited infantry. Let’s ask Dfens how long it would take to field such a unit- 80, 100 years?

  5. Well, James, you’re forgetting the solution that the defense companies are out there peddaling. They say that defense spending has FALLEN to only 2% of GNP and that we need to bump it back up to 4%. Never mind the fact they are getting twice as much at that rate as they were getting during the Cold War. Don’t mind the waste, fraud, and abuse. Don’t say the names Darlene Druyun, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, or more recently Charles Riechers who mysteriously committed suicide shortly after taking over Druyun’s job. After all, these companies deserve more and more of your tax dollars. But if we are going to fix what’s wrong with the procurement system, then let’s stop talking about resurrecting old weapons and start designing new ones. We not only need to fix the broken system, we also need to get new weapons designs under way. If we don’t get started we are going to very shortly lose our edge. We’ve already shipped our industrial might overseas. We are already dependent of foreign energy sources. The value of our currency is collapsing along with our status in the world market. Our military might is going the same way.

  6. in the GW1, end-of-the-Cold-War era, there was really very little difference between an ‘Armor’ division and an ‘Infantry’ division.‘ Just to clarify, that’s a more-or-less true statement if (and only if) you’re talking about mechanized (i.e., ‘heavy’ infantry divisions). It’s less true in varying degrees for light, airborne, air assault, or mountain infantry divisions. All division-level formations in the American military use a combined arms concept. There’s a mix of equipment and capabilities at differing echelons. The difference between a heavy/mechanized infantry division and an armor/cavalry division might be primarily that rather than having two armor brigades and one mechanized infantry brigade in the armor division, the heavy/mechanized infantry division would have two heavy mechanized infantry brigades and a single armor brigade. Bear in mind that each of the armor and heavy/mechanized infantry brigades wouldn’t be purely tank or purely armored personnel carrier (or Bradley Fighting Vehicle). An armor brigade might have two armor battalions and a mechanized infantry battalion organic to it; the mechanized/heavy infantry brigade might have the same units but in the reverse proportion. This sort of mixed/combined arms situation can be carried to a fairly low (company-level?) echelon.

  7. But what we really need is a platoon’s worth of Heinlein or Haldeman suited infantry.’ Actually you would be surprised how close we really are. The new nano based materials has a lot of promise. The only real limitation that remains in the field of energy management. (Storage and generation) We could field ‘powered’ armor suits in 10-15 years.

  8. James, Wowsers. Are we closing in on Steve Jackson’s ‘biphase carbide armor’ from his OGRE games? Such that the only effective weapons against units thus armored were nuclear? Man…think a Mk19, say, but with micronukes. Or one of those Hellstorm jobbies shooting a fission munition. Crazy.

  9. Netcentric warfare anyone?

    The Pentagon is a sitting duck for a computer network attack because of its reliance on foreign software and inadequate protection, according to the Defense Science Board (DSB). ‘Software has become the central ingredient of the information age,’ DSB says in its ‘Report of the Defense Science Task Force on Mission Impact of Foreign Influence on DOD Software.’ ‘However, as it improves the Department of Defense’s (DOD) capability, it increases DOD’s dependency,’ DSB says. This growing dependency is a source of weakness exacerbated by the mounting size, complexity and interconnectedness of its software programs, DSB warns. ‘It is only a matter of time before an adversary exploits this weakness at a critical moment in history.’ Now global in nature, much software code is developed in other countries, DSB says, including those with interests ‘inimical to those of the United States.’ DOD’s profound and growing dependence upon software and the expanding opportunity for adversaries to introduce malicious code into this software has led to a growing risk to the nation’s defense, DSB says. – Aerospace Daily 12/06

  10. Still want to hear some more about this stupidity?

    Software developed in foreign countries and used by the Defense Department and other agencies puts federal information systems at serious risk of being hacked and compromised, according to a recent report issued by Defense’s top advisory board. The report, released last month by a Defense Science Board task force, warns that ‘globalization of software development where some … U.S. adversaries are writing the code that … [Defense] will depend upon in war creates a rich opportunity to damage or destroy elements of the warfighter’s capability.’ Defense relies heavily on commercial off-the-shelf and custom-built software developed in countries such as India, China and Russia, so it can quickly and cheaply take advantage of the latest advances designed for global markets rather than relying solely on U.S. developers. But the task force’s report, ‘Mission Impact of Foreign Influence on DoD Software,’ concluded that relying on software developed in other countries ‘presents an opportunity for threat agents to attack the confidentiality, integrity and availability of operating systems, middleware and applications that are essential to operations of U.S. government information systems and the DoD.’ The report emphasized that ‘the most direct threat is foreign corruption of software: insertion by the developer of malware, backdoors and other intentional flaws that can later by exploited.’ – GovExec

  11. The ability of an opponent to shut down the military with a key stroke is an issue that needs to be addressed, but is something I can’t see the pentagon doing. This is simply a field beyond the brass.(Which I think is our main line of defense, as it appears that all the militaries seem to have the same defect.) With respect to needing nuks vs Ogre’s… Not quite there yet. Though there are new compounds that combine the hardness, temperature resistance of diamond with the tensile strength of carbon nanotubes. If we can produce this stuff on a industrial scale, you can get close.

  12. But really, James, how smart do you have to be to figure out that outsourcing your weapons development to your potential enemies is a bad idea? Seriously, how stupid are these people?