24 January 2006

Army Breaking

An internal Army report shows that the U.S. Army's heavy duties are on the verge of "`breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline."

As I've noted before, it has 47% of its troops serving abroad at any one time, compared to 28% of Marines, 22% of the Air Force, and 13% of the Navy. The President's capacity to call up the national guard is almost exhausted, and they are starting to call upon the Individual Ready Reserves, which were the least mobilized reserve component of the military, with little success. There are efforts to use the resources of the Navy (also here) and the Air Force to carry out traditional Army tasks, but this has limits. Also, the Air Force and Navy are each actively reducing the number of active duty military personnnel that the maintain. Almost no one has taken up offers to allow laid of sailors to transfer to the Army on favorable terms. Republicans and Democrats agree that a draft is politically impossible. Army recruitment efforts, particularly for support troops and in African-American communities, are struggling. Army forces in Iraq are finding themselves spread more and more thinly as the Coalition of the Willing evaporates.

Most of the Army soldiers abroad are in tense situations. They are fighting wars or putting down insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or in other war on terror postings like Guantanamo Bay and Saudi Arabia. They are spending longer tours in combat zones than the Marines do. They are not allowed to leave service, under stop loss orders, in many cases, even though their planned term of service has expired. Deployments in South Korea and Germany may be less perilous, but those posts are being reduced in size and South Korea does face more than negligable military threats. No country in the world is more mobilized for war than North Korea.

A 500,000 person Army does not have the capacity to put 500,000 on a foreign battlefield. The Navy can only manage to keep about a third of its warships deployed at any given time and the Army, at its best, isn't designed to handle much more intense operations itself. Something has to give, and it isn't clear what it will be, but the Army's difficulties in finding personnel to carry out its mandates is increasingly becoming a driving force behind Iraq War policy.

No comments: