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.
- The active Army is too small for current missions, so
- Active Army is deployed too often for too long, so
- Reserve forces deploy too often for too long, so
- The Guard ends up being used as the reserve, so
- Part timers called on too often, so
- The strategic emergency reserve is already partially committed, so
- 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.