Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2004 / 27 Shevat, 5764
Remaking the military
Eight of the 10 divisions in the U.S. Army either are in Iraq and
Afghanistan, or are preparing to go there. So when Gen. Peter Schoomaker
revealed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is using his emergency powers to
increase the size of the Army by about 30,000 soldiers, the reaction of many
defense observers was "it's about time."
Schoomaker, the chief of staff of the Army, made the revelation at a
congressional hearing Jan. 28 where he testified against a measure that
would make the Army permanently larger.
Schoomaker opposes a permanent increase in end strength because Congress is
more willing to authorize more soldiers than it is to pay for them. There
currently are about 493,000 soldiers in the Army, 10,000 more than the
congressionally authorized strength of 482,400. But Congress has only
appropriated the money to pay for 480,000 soldiers.
Soldiers are expensive. Rumsfeld estimates that each additional 10,000
soldiers costs $1.2 billion. Since Congress hasn't authorized enough money,
Schoomaker must pay for the additional troops by spending less than he
planned on weapons and modernization.
I've long argued that it was a mistake for President Clinton to reduce the size of the Army below 12 division equivalents, and I believe that a force of that size is required effectively to prosecute the war on terror.
But more combat and support units can be created without increasing end
strength, if long overdue reforms are implemented. For instance, at any
given time 63,000 to 70,000 soldiers - the equivalent of 4 divisions - are
in transit from one assignment to another. Maj. Donald Vandergriff, a noted
military reformer, said that number could be reduced substantially if the
Army went to a unit manning system, and didn't move soldiers between units
Vandergriff advocated these changes for reasons of military effectiveness -
the individual replacement system was a disaster in Korea and Vietnam, and
the longer soldiers serve together in the same units, the greater their
combat effectiveness - but they'd also save a ton of money. If the number
of soldiers in transit at any given time could be cut by 25 percent, that
would be roughly the equivalent of creating another division.
Further savings could be made by trimming bloated headquarters and training
We've suffered less from a shortage of an absolute number of troops than
from a shortage of the kinds of troops that would be most effective in the
war on terror. The Army is still organized chiefly to fight the Soviet
hordes on the central German plain, and that's not a good organization for
the war on terror.
We need more infantry, special operations forces (Rangers and Green Berets),
military police and civil affairs troops than we have, but we have more air
defense artillery, field artillery and armor troops than we need.
Converting or disbanding less important units makes it possible to create
more of the more necessary units without increasing overall end strength.
For instance, the Pittsburgh-based Battery A of the 107th Field Artillery,
Pennsylvania National Guard, is going to Iraq in the Spring rotation. But
the Guardsmen are going as military policemen, not cannoneers.
Reorganizing units can make them more effective without increasing absolute
numbers. Col. Douglas MacGregor argues that the division is too large to be
moved anywhere quickly, and too unwieldy to be effective as a fighting unit.
MacGregor argues that brigades (typically, there are three maneuver
brigades in a division), should become the basic measurement of combat
Gen. Schoomaker is heading the advice of Vandergriff and MacGregor.
Beginning at the end of this year, soldiers will spend roughly twice as much
time assigned to one base as they do at present. And he's announced a plan
to downsize brigades and to make them the Army's basic "units of action."
We may not have a larger Army at the end of the process. But we'll almo.
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