The Army currently has 39 active-duty combat brigades, as it builds to a total of 42 under the restructuring plan known as “modularity.” Over the coming months, roughly 19.5 combat brigades will be committed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Army doctrine calls for 2 units to be held in reserve (for rest and training) for every unit deployed. As of today, the Army has only one unit in reserve for every unit deployed – a ratio that history shows cannot be sustained for any length of time without serious adverse consequences to the force...
Army military readiness rates have declined to levels not seen since the end of the Vietnam War. Roughly one-half of all Army units (deployed and non-deployed, active and reserves) received the lowest readiness rating any fully formed unit can receive. Prior to 9/11, only about 20 percent of the Army received this lowest rating – a fact driven almost exclusively by shortfalls in the reserves...
The main problem now is a shortage of gear:
Of the 16 active-duty, non-deployed combat brigades in the United States managed by the Army’s Forces Command, the vast majority of them are rated at the lowest readiness ratings. These ratings are caused by severe equipment shortages.
Of particular concern is the readiness rates of the units scheduled to deploy later this year, particularly the 1st Cavalry Division. This division and its 4 brigades will deploy to Iraq in October at the lowest level of readiness because of equipment shortfalls....
Funding shortfalls have created backlogs at all of the Army’s key depot maintenance facilities. At Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, some 600 M1 tanks sit in disuse. At Red River Army Depot in Texas, 700 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and over 450 trucks have not been serviced. Roughly 2,600 Humvees are sitting idle at various Army depots. Tens of thousands of small arms, communications sets, and other key items have been similarly backlogged.
It is also worth recalling that Iraq and Afghanistan aren't the only places that U.S. Army troops are deployed abroad. There is still a substantial presence in both South Korea (not entirely a cakewalk, given recent tensions with North Korea), and in the Balkans.
This also doesn't include Army troops deployed in the nebulous "long war" formerly known as the "war on terrorism" outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, we have troops acting as advisors in counter-insurgency tasks in the Phillipines. The number of troops so engaged is probably small, but the stress levels associated with that duty likely rival those of troops in war zones.
The active duty, regular Army is too small is we are really going to be engaging in sustained military operations in Iraq. But, President Bush has already made clear that troops will remain in Iraq, at least, until his term of office is completed. The Army is staffed at peacetime, post-Cold War levels, yet is being called upon to fight two regional conflicts at once.
In contrast, the Air Force and Navy (exclusive of the Marines) are larger than what the nation needs. The Department of Defense knows this, and is reducing the size of both of those military services, but deeper cuts are called for in those services, which are very lightly taxed at the moment.
Procurement lapses for the Army are unforgiveable, because the Army's needs are dramatically less expensive than those of the Navy and Air Force.
A Bradley fighting vehicle costs $2.4 million give or take. A Stryker costs under $1 million. An armored humvee costs $0.2 million or so.
The cheapest naval ship on order (the Littoral Combat Ship) costs about $200 million. So does an F-22. The DDG-1000 Zumwalt (fka the DD(X)) will cost $3,000+ million each. We are buying both, yet have a pressing shortage of neither fighters nor ships.