Pentagon Report: Army Near Breaking Point
A report by a highly respected military analyst and commissioned by the Pentagon says that the strain of recent operations has the U.S. Army near breaking.
Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a Ã¢€œthin green lineÃ¢€ that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon. Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the PentagonÃ¢€™s decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.
As evidence, Krepinevich points to the ArmyÃ¢€™s 2005 recruiting slump Ã¢€” missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 Ã¢€” and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. Ã¢€œYou really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue,Ã¢€ he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the ArmyÃ¢€™s condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.
Illustrating his level of concern about strain on the Army, Krepinevich titled one of his reportÃ¢€™s chapters, Ã¢€œThe Thin Green Line.Ã¢€ He wrote that the Army is Ã¢€œin a race against timeÃ¢€ to adjust to the demands of war Ã¢€œor risk Ã¢€˜breakingÃ¢€™ the force in the form of a catastrophic declineÃ¢€ in recruitment and re-enlistment.
Col. Lewis Boone, spokesman for Army Forces Command, which is responsible for providing troops to war commanders, said it would be Ã¢€œa very extreme characterizationÃ¢€ to call the Army broken. He said his organization has been able to fulfill every request for troops that it has received from field commanders.
I’ll see if I can get a copy of the report.
My inclination, from various other reports I’ve read and from numerous conversations with serving officers is that, while the Army is tired, it is far from broken. Still, when Krepinevich speaks about military affairs, I listen.
The Pentagon –and Secretary Rumsfeld, which is not always the same thing–will pay attention, too. A West Pointer with a Harvard Ph.D., his analyses have been quite prescient in the past. Not only does he have the professional bona fides to be taken seriously by the generals, but his is one of the founders of the Revolution in Military Affairs school of thought that has Rumsfeld so excited.
Guesting at Ace’s, Dave at Garfield Ridge, like me, guesses that Krepenovich’s “highlights don’t quite sync up with the ‘doom and gloom’ bits the Associated Press chooses to tout.” Further, he notes that, even in a multi-hundred billion dollar force, tradeoffs are a fact of life.
The Army *is* stretched thin. Everyone acknowledges that, the Pentagon and its critics alike. The question is, what do we do about it? Do we try to win the war with the force we currently have, with some modifications at the edges, or do we take an entirely different tack, and restructure the Army in order to combat the insurgency? Do we undergo wholesale changes in equipment, force structure, and manpower in order to fight and defeat this insurgency?
There are a few problems here. Again, there’s that threat assessment– we may be tailoring the Army to the war we have, but that might not be the gravest threat we face tomorrow, or even today. By radically changing the Army to win the war in Iraq as quickly and efficiently as possible is politically attractive. And I’m sure it could even save lives. But if saving hundreds of American lives in Iraq puts us at risk of losing tens of thousands of soldiers in East Asia, is that the right choice to make? It’s a cold-hearted calculation foreign to the “feelings” crowd, but it’s one that’s made every day when forced to balance resources with risk.
A fair point. Of course, if the preview of the RMA touted in the LAT yesterday is any indication, it may just be that Rumsfeld and company are determined to build their dream force regardless of the reality around them.