First, on a topic in several of the above posts; the Army in the early 70s. Both the drug and disciplinary problems existed -- both are also vastly overstated, mostly by revisionist historians with wee adzes to grind (most couldn't handle an ax). Both resulted as much from the societal breakdown that started in 1968 more than they did from any trauma from Vet Nam. The Army, in a harbinger of things to come, took about a year or so to realize there was a problem; another year or so to admit it and start programs to fix the problem and yet another year or two for those programs to start to work. By 1972-3 they were on the way to being significantly reduced, by 1977 they were for all intents and purpose gone.

My point is that it wasn't as bad as many today seem to believe or as many 'histories' imply, that it got fixed reasonably rapidly -- and that we are, indeed, no where near that today.

Cav Guy said:
"...I think the indicator to watch for, and the one most dangerous for the army, is the collapse of discipline. Numbers can be rebuilt, but from my observations the "soul" of the force is the key. It still seems healthy right now, even given the stress.

That's not to get cocky either, it could happen suddenly, in a tipping point fashion, rather than a long decline. Anyone with experience have advice on the indicators to watch?
agree -- and watch reenlistments. Not officer retention, reenlistments. We're over-officered (I know, I know -- but that overwork is due to Parkinson's Law, not being woefully understrength ). As long as the re-up rate stays at 25% or greater, there are no significant problems. Drug and alcohol, divorce, indebtedness are all indicators but they are also influenced by many things. I recall an early 1960s study that determined the divorce rate was higher for persons on short tours than it was for the Army as a whole or those on long tours. Duh. Cav Guy also said:
"...BCT readiness upon arrival at CTC's prior to deployment - unfilled key staffs, non-CCC CPT's in many key positions, some units without a MEL4 S3/XO, etc. All manned to 90% just before the CTC rotation, and in the "crawl" phase of teambuilding."
Happens in all wars, a peacetime structure (which IMO we should never adopt but that's another thread) has difficulty adapting to war. Elements of the Army have been at war many times over the last 58 years -- The US Army has NOT been to war since 1945. Most CPTs command or get staff jobs before they get to the CCC anyway -- or sure used to. You'd be amazed at how many non MEL4 MAJ -- and CPT -- have done a good job as an S3. Is it desirable? No. Is it an invitation to disaster? Only if commanders lacking self confidence allow it to be. Remember there was a time when Bn staff O's were all 1LTs, so the Co Cdrs outranked them. That was changed after Korea not to get more experience at Bn level (though that was of course the stated rationale) but to justify an overstrength in officers for mobilization purposes. Bn S3s were CPT by TOE until the mid-60s.
"...but it's akin to a "pro bowl" team rather than a "Super Bowl" team, which the modular BCT was supposed to solve - but can't with just-in-time manning. Makes me really worry that we have finally scraped the bottom, and may have entered a death spiral in readiness - that may result in elevated risk in deploying units."
Be far worse if it were a big war; we'd be sending in bush league teams. That's why I object to peacetime standards; they make life nice and fairly easy but they develop mindsets that don't adapt to wars at all well. I suggest we saw that in the first 18 months in Iraq and still have vestiges.

As an aside, In two tours in Viet Nam, I can assure that both Airborne Brigades I was with were C-4 across the board for the whole tour. Even with 2LT Co Cdrs, we had good, effective units.

Rank Amateur said:
I'm pretty confident that the subject will be discussed fairly seriously before the next election. (Though I will concede there is still a chance that the next election will be about Obama's pastor.)
Discussed seriously by whom? Certainly none of the candidates --none of them, including McCain (an Airdale) have much of a clue.

R.A also said:
"Is there anyone out there who doesn't believe that we need some new ideas and a different model?"
I know a number who don't believe that, some serving, some not. I'm one of the latter. I'd also suggest that there is no practical alternative to the Jenga model.
I think the answer is wives (or husbands in some cases.) I'm not joking. 20 year olds can fight with no girlfriend back home, but when wives start saying "You have to choose between the Army and me" we're in trouble.
Got to disagree. That's true for officers (more often than not);it is not true for the Enlisted guys (again, more often than not). The Army effectively bribes enlisted guys into marriage; we should pay folks to stay single; instead we pay 'em extra if they're married -- plus married EM get other breaks their single buddies do not. Perverse system. Bottom line is that the divorce rate will go up but a lot of those divorces would probably have occurred without the deployments as an excuse. IIRC, the rate effectively tripled during Viet Nam and the Army didn't really break -- it bent, far more so than today -- but it didn't break. It's noteworthy that even in peacetime, units that deploy a a lot for training, the 82d and SF, have a divorce rate that is almost double that of the entire Army.

Ancillary point, most Officers will depart before divorcing; most NCOs won't. We are (in my opinion) over-officered and we have had a great reenlistment rate for several years, particularly in the combat arms -- so we should have an adequate number of NCOs and an acceptable if low fill of officers.

Gian said:
"Ken is chomping at the bit to get at me here."
Nah, I agree with you and 'breaking' is a concern; I just don't think we're as close to that as you do. We do need to get back to big war stuff but we can go another year or two without any major danger in that sphere. Be nice if we didn't have to but I don't see much of anyway to get there. I will say that JCustis said "I know we have heard and can say that it involves a sovereign Iraq, with security for the civilian populace, and the rule of law in place and supported by law enforcement, courts, etc., but what the hell does that REALLY mean? to which you responded:
"I dont know either and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were not clear either when asked in testimony last week. And it is exactly the questions you raise about what is the strategic endstate in Iraq that I combine with my own questions about the current state of the Army and is it worth breaking over Iraq, especially if smart folks like you cant even figure out what the goal is anymore?"
I think that both of you know to one degree or another what was meant by the desired end state and that your real and totally fair question is; "Is it worth it." Casey and Cody are answering for the Army. Only y'all can answer that for yourselves. I'm long retired so I have no vote but I do have a serving son who's been there a few times and shares all the concerns expressed here -- and he thinks it is worth it. So far. When he gets worried, I will...