Size Matters

Quantity has a quality all its own, and you know it. The Army probably should be expanded more.

I realize that the number of troops deployed to Iraq is going to be coming down soon. But the war isn’t over. In fact, we should expect increased numbers of troops in Afghanistan as Iraq winds down. And the possibility always remains that Iraq isn’t going to go as well as we hope. It hasn’t since the summer of 2003, so why should we bank on it now?

We need a larger Army. Particularly after what’s been done with the National Guard over the past four years (and more).

Small active Army backed by Guard may have looked fine in peacetime. But peacetime this ain’t, and the Guard is probably going to struggle for a long time due to the overdeployment in Iraq and elsewhere. We are setting ourselves up for a situation where we have a too-small Army using the strategic reserve as the operational reserve.

Because the Army is too small, the reserve is used frequently. Because the strategic reserve is acting as the rapid response force, they’re used far, far more than they ever should be. That means that the ready force is overworked to begin with and has little back-up in the event things really go south.

Snowball:

  1. The active Army is too small for current missions, so
  2. Active Army is deployed too often for too long, so
  3. Reserve forces deploy too often for too long, so
  4. The Guard ends up being used as the reserve, so
  5. Part timers called on too often, so
  6. The strategic emergency reserve is already partially committed, so
  7. What do we do if there’s an emergency?

Please note that this is a (mostly) different issue than when politicians blame the war in Iraq for too few National Guard troops to fight forest fires or clean up after hurricanes. Sure, there is some demand on the Guard units during a war and that’s to be expected. But very few of the complaints so far have really held any water. It could potentially be an issue if a massive widespread long-term disaster struck, but the actual number of troops required for these sorts of things compared to the total number available is actually quite small.

But it should be concerning in terms of military strategy and defense of the nation. When you’re dipping into the second and third tiers on a regular basis as a standard operating procedure, your first tier isn’t large enough.

In the case of a truly massive military emergency, the National Guard is supposed to help hold things together while a massive conscript army is drafted, trained, and deployed to the front. If too much of the Guard is already at the front when the emergency begins, who’s going to hold things together.

Not to mention that the Guard is going to have trouble if potential civilian recruits and those getting out of the active military believe that their deployment tempo isn’t going to be all that different from the full-time troops.

Comments

  1. Why is it hard to put 200k men in the field in a 1m+ man army? Especially when logistics are often carried out by contractors? I find this thoroughly confusing.

  2. Why is it hard to put 200k men in the field in a 1m+ man army’ The actual active army strength is around 520K with rest being reserve forces. Next you have about 2-5 to 3 support troops for every shooter in the field. So to support 200K in the field you are going to need 450-600K of support. Now we contract a good chunk of it out, but that is still a lot of people. Now remember what we are doing, is basically moving the population of Kansas City halfway around the world, to an infrastructure deprived area, and then sustaining that population remotely, while in combat, while attempting to rebuild two countries. Logistically, this is one massive undertaking. To be blunt, no other country on earth could even could support this type of operation for a month, let a lone several years. That said, the structure of the Army demands the us of reserve troops as most of the logistical support specialists are only in the reserves. (Water purification, power generation, police and civil affairs units are simply not in the active service in any real numbers.) So even if we enlarge the army by 100K, we would still have to call in the reserves if we had to mobilize.

  3. I’m with Kevin. Are we finally admitting having the mercinaries out number our troops in theater is bad or what? If it’s good, what’s the problem?

  4. Even so, when you’re bogged down in a 3rd world nation crap hole like Iraq… We’re not talking about invading Russia here. This isn’t a war with Japan or Germany. We are completely using up our National Guard resources. Lot’s of people are like Bram. They didn’t sign up for the Guard to do an 18 month deployment overseas. That was never the purpose of the Guard, which is primarily a defensive force. And even then we have more foreign *contractors* in Iraq than we have US soldiers. You think China is real scared of us now? Do you think Russia is shaking with fear. Hell, they’re shaking with laughter at what a bunch of pussies we’ve become. This is the nation that caused the collapse of the Soviet Union? The great paper tiger that can’t fight its way out of a damp sack?

  5. Dfens, I don’t think having others living in fear of the US is always an optimal situation. And Russia and China both have a professional officer corps that understands America’s martial capability. And yes, limitations. Heck you don’t have to be a general to grasp what the US can do.

  6. Apparently you have to be a General to have a delusional concept of what America could do, if all the crap the contractors are peddaling had even an ounce of truth to it. And yeah, they understand the limitations of the US all right. That’s how Putin was able to steal yet another Russian election. After all, who does he have to worry about. Certainly not the great paper tiger.

  7. Dfens, You’re letting yourself conflate different types of power. Professional martial leaders, be they Russian, Chinese, or Martian, would never reduce American military capability to that of a ‘paper tiger’. That’s not the same power as that which might influence the goings-on in Russian politics.

  8. It is the very kind of power that influences crap like that. What do you think they’ll fear in that kind of situation, a nuke? It’s over reliance on those damn things that has got us in the hole we’re in. We don’t have a plan to win. We don’t even have a plan to win a nuke engagement. We hope the nuke will have the same effect it had on Japan in the ’40s without any slightly sane reason to believe it will. Like I say, we are nothing but a paper tiger, and every day we are stuck in Iraq we’re proving that to the world.

  9. Dfens, I’m not following your point…I think you have three now. But it seems you’re connecting a perceived weakness in American military power to Putin’s re-election. But there is no connection, because the US is not going to invade Russia to depose him. Whether strong or weak, it’s not something that’s going to happen, and there’s no correlation. I stand by my point earlier- no Russian or Chinese general, as a professional soldier, harbors any illusions about what the US can do on the battlefield. It just goes to knowing what a potential adversary is capable of. And of course they’re not quaking with fear- no such person would ever admit to that in this context- but they absolutely do have a respect for American capabilities. Dfens, ours is the only country on our planet that can put ~200k servicemembers downrange (into two disparate and hostile theaters), and keep them there as long as we feel like it. Before we even start talking about this American unit vs that Russian one, or this other American widget vs a CHinese one, the logistical challenge of pulling off the GWoT alone is testament to American martial capability.

  10. It should also be noted that increased troop strength in Afghanistan would fall almost entirely on less than half of the Army’s combat troops. By my rough count, something like 27 of the Army’s BCTs are either heavy (tank/mech) or Stryker. We’ve never sent combat formations of either type into Afghanistan. Just the light/airborne/air assault troops. More deployment inequality for folks to gripe about.

  11. The good news: Long neglected National Guard units are finally getting training and equipment that is almost up to active Army standards. The bad news: Experienced NCO’s are leaving the Guard because of the ridiculously long deployments. During the entire Vietnam conflict, a single National Guard unit was deployed (Rangers from Indiana). In 1990, I was with the first Marine Reserve battalion to deploy since Korea. These days, we deploy Reservists repeatedly without a thought. It’s not right.

  12. #2 James, ‘the structure of the Army demands the us of reserve troops as most of the logistical support specialists are only in the reserves. (Water purification, power generation, police and civil affairs units are simply not in the active service in any real numbers.) So even if we enlarge the army by 100K, we would still have to call in the reserves if we had to mobilize.‘ We did mobilize, in 2001. In fact, we’ve continued to mobilize every year since then. It’s not just about mobilizing and deploying 200k troops once, they have to be sustained and these days that means rotating them out with fresh units on a roughly annual basis. What we haven’t done is mobilize the nation. Deploying reserve and guard CS and CSS forces is fine for an initial surge, but you have to be bootstrapping your new forces in the meantime. We have (or did have) entire divisions (at cadre strength) intended for nothing more than training and fielding an expanded army. That cadre has been tapped to train Iraqi and Afghan forces, but that’s not unit’s primary missions.

  13. What we haven’t done is mobilize the nation. Deploying reserve and guard CS and CSS forces is fine for an initial surge, but you have to be bootstrapping your new forces in the meantime. We have (or did have) entire divisions (at cadre strength) intended for nothing more than training and fielding an expanded army. That cadre has been tapped to train Iraqi and Afghan forces, but that’s not unit’s primary missions.’ You are right. That said, it was a political decision to not mobilize the nation and expand the armed forces. Simply put Rumsfeld, put his faith in network centric warefare and refused to accept that it was not working. He believed that we did not have to mobilize the country and that small force could stabilize Iraq. So any mobilizations would be a limited nature. That is why he resisted enlarging the force, because enlarging the force would reduce the resources needed to for his ‘transformation’ / network centric efforts. The key component of network centric warefare is that your forces have an information acquisition/processing advantage over your foes. In an insurgency. the technology based intel systems of the army were outclassed by the Iraqi social networks. That is why we crushed the Iraqi army in 1991 & 2003 (we outclassed the Iraqi army’s information networks), but was losing against the insurgency in 2004-2006(We could not figure out who was shooting at us).

  14. Sadly, Rumsfeld may have been right. We might have been able to do the job with a limited force, but we would have had to have been a whole lot smarter in how we did things. For instance, why did we not have an indigenous government ready to go when we took Saddam down? Instead we put an American infidel bureaucrat in as their leader. Hell, that would strike up an insurgency right here in the US, let alone Iraq. Another way it could have gone. We could have snatched Saddam out of his spider hole, slapped him around a little. Let him crap himself thinking he’s about to get shot, then pull the hell out as fast as we went in. You think they’re going to f with us again after that? Not very damn likely. It’s like the whole point of this war was to see how badly we could screw it up. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so typical of everything our government does. It’s like every day starts off with a hurricane hitting New Orleans.

  15. Rumsfeld was a Navy flyboy who never got out of the cockpit mentally. Any grunt could have told him that holding, pacifying, and civilizing a country requires boots on the ground – not better gizmos.

  16. He and Cheney both really sold out to the defense contractors. They gave them everything they wanted and more. It will be a long time before the DoD digs out from under their legacy, that’s for sure.