View Full Version : The U.S. Military: Under Strain And at Risk

04-22-2006, 03:46 PM
May edition of National Defense Magazine - The U.S. Military: Under Strain And at Risk (http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/issues/2006/may/TheU.S.MilitaryUnder.htm) by William Perry and Michele Flournoy.

In the current debate over the nation’s defense strategy and spending priorities, there is an elephant in the room that few are willing to acknowledge: Our ground forces are under enormous strain. This strain, if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive effects on the force.

Much of the pressure on ground forces today stems from their high tempo of operations. Every available combat brigade from the active duty Army has already been to Afghanistan or Iraq at least once for a 12-month tour. Many units are now in their second or third tours of duty, and some individuals are going back for their fourth tours. In addition, approximately 95 percent the Army National Guard’s combat battalions and special operations units have been mobilized since 9/11.

Short of full mobilization or a new presidential declaration of national emergency, there is little available combat capacity remaining in the Army National Guard. Less than 16 percent of the Army Reserve remains eligible for mobilization to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan under current authorities, and many of the remaining specialties are not in demand. At the same time, the average length of tour for reservists has more than doubled — from 156 days in Desert Storm to 342 days in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Marine Corps is also under significant strain. All active duty Marine Corps units are being used on a “tight” rotation schedule of seven months deployed, less than a year home to reset, and then another seven months deployed. Active duty Marine Expeditionary Units are experiencing two operational deployments per cycle rather than the usual one per cycle. In addition, all of the Marine Corps Reserve’s combat units have been mobilized...

The all-volunteer force is now in historically uncharted waters — fighting a protracted conflict with volunteers rather than draftees. What will happen if the current surge for Iraq becomes the steady state, and the Army and Marines are not resourced with the people, units and equipment they need for a long-term fight? When will the dedication and sacrifice of our troops run up against the needs of families and communities? Will they vote with their feet?

Most of our active duty military has chosen to stay in the force after one or even two tours, but it is reasonable to fear that after a third year-long deployment in a compressed period, many will choose to leave the force. Many senior military officers who lived through the Vietnam era and its aftermath believe that if significant numbers of senior non-commissioned officers and field grade commanders begin to leave the force, this could set off a mass exodus and lead to a “hollowing out” of the Army.

Meanwhile, the United States has only limited ground forces ready to respond to contingencies outside the Afghan and Iraqi theaters.

As a global power with global interests, the United States must be able to deal with challenges in multiple regions of the world simultaneously. If the Army were ordered to send significant forces to another crisis today, its only option would be to deploy units at readiness levels far below what operational plans would require...