WASHINGTON - A pair of reports by outside experts in the last two days warn that the Army has been stretched thin by repeated combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and could soon reach the breaking point.
The first, a report on the Iraq war that was commissioned by the Pentagon and made public Tuesday, said defense officials risk "breaking the force" if current troop levels are maintained in both countries without increasing the size of the Army or slowing the pace of deployments.
The second, issued Wednesday by Democrats on Capitol Hill, warned that unless the strain on the Army and Marine Corps is relieved soon, "it will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." Over time, it argued, the services would be weakened and the country would be more vulnerable to potential enemies.
The report's author, retired Lt Col Andrew Krepinevich, a Vietnam veteran and former adviser to three defence secretaries, says the decision to reduce troop numbers in Iraq was an admission that the military was overstretched.
If the 500,000 strong force does not win its "race against time", leaders "risk breaking the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.
As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army's 2005 recruiting slump -- missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 -- and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives.
"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue," 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.
He wrote that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.
The report from the Democrats was done by former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Perry and Albright advocate increasing the size of the deployable force.
The Perry/Albright report specifically recommends enlarging the Army's active-duty force by 30,000 troops and creating 48 combat brigades -- six more than the service now plans. The former officials recognize that, given the Army's failure to meet recruiting goals in 2005, substantially increasing the size of the force will take time.
It would come with a hefty price tag: about $1.5 billion to stand up and equip each new brigade, according to the study. Army leaders have opposed efforts in Congress to authorize a much larger force, arguing that doing so would jeopardize their high-priced plans to transform the service technologically.
But where could the US military get the troops to create new brigades? In an increasingly desperate attempt to find new soldiers the US military is already dipping much lower in the IQ scale (confirming what House Rep. John Murtha claimed) and offeriing bigger bonuses while still failing to recruit enough soldiers. The US military is becoming dumber.
To support its conclusions, the Democrats' report noted that "every available combat brigade from the active Army has already been to Afghanistan or Iraq at least once" and many units are on a second tour. About 95 percent of the Army National Guard's combat battalions and special operations units have been activated since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaving little force available for call up without a new presidential declaration of a national emergency, it said.
Also, all active duty Marine Corps units "are being used on a tight rotation schedule" with less than a year home between seven-month deployments, it said.
The California-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force now is deploying to Iraq for the third time since early 2003. About one third of the enlisted Marines in those units are facing their third combat tour while another third will be going for a second time.
I can't see how the US could attack Iran except with air strikes. The US would first have to withdraw from most of Iraq in order to launch an attack and Iran has three times the population of Iraq. An Iran invasion would be much harder.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 January 25 08:56 PM MidEast Iraq Military Needs|