View Full Version : Expand the Force ?

10-20-03, 07:23 AM

Army Transformation Is Not Enough: Expand the Force

By James W. Revels

We all know that the U.S. armed forces are over-stretched by ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global treaty commitments. If the Bush administration is serious about fighting the war on terrorism warriors, it must recognize that more troops will be needed.

Currently, the United States spends more on defense than any other nation, nearly $400 billion annually. But despite its size and power the U.S. military is exhausted and over committed today. During more with less is exacting a high toll on all involved.

Congress and the Pentagon are already arguing over whether to add two new divisions to the Army’s force structure. The New York Times on Oct. 5 reported that such a move would cost an additional $20 billion. Clearly, no administration will eagerly add another $20 billion to defense spending without significant spending reductions elsewhere. Given the current political divide in this country, federal spending reductions cannot be achieved without compromise. Visionary leadership is needed to achieve such compromise and spending consensus.

Since the end of the cold war, politicians have debated the correct size of the armed forces, and the Army during the late 1980s and 1990s saw its size cut from 18 to 10 divisions. The pace of operations during that period was unrelenting and the Army found itself having to do more with less. But doing more with less undermines the combat effectiveness of our fighting forces.

The Pentagon’s decision to invade Iraq with fewer troops than used in Gulf War I was a calculated risk that initially proved successful. However, the ongoing guerrilla war in Iraq has exposed the flaws in proceeding with an economical use of military power. Soldiers are dying daily in Iraq because sufficient forces are unavailable to restore order.

Our options at this point are extremely limited. To ensure the Army has sufficient forces to meet U.S. treaty obligations and current requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as replacement needs – the service must have more troops on active duty. We can either activate two new active-duty divisions to provide the needed manpower, or we can call up two reserve or National Guard divisions and significantly retool them for their mission.

There is no substitute for manpower, even when technology is used to improve combat effectiveness. I am sure mobilized reservists would welcome the creation of two new active Army divisions that will reduce the current impact of their extended deployments. While the initial cost of two new divisions is significant, I believe the long-range benefit outweighs the cost.

As the Pentagon grapples with Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker’s plan to transform the Army by creating smaller “modular” combat units out of the existing division and brigade structure, officials should also proceed to create two additional modern divisions that will benefit from the lessons already learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, the Army should focus on improving deployment mobility for these new divisions.

Giving this need additional urgency is the Bush administration’s failure at the United Nations to attract support from other military powers to send troops to Iraq. The New York Times noted on Oct. 5, “[T]he burdens of occupation will start to strain severely the Army’s capacity to deploy trained and rested combat forces worldwide in a matter of months.”

While force structure issues are framed by budgetary concerns, the resulting debate will go much farther, impacting the U.S. government’s ability to carry out its foreign policy agenda, including the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan. And if the nation is unable to meet its treaty obligations as a direct result of budgetary constraints that prevent increasing the size of our armed forces, then our global influence will significantly diminish.

An important question we must ask – and answer – is this: What costs are we as a nation willing to endure to maintain the world’s strongest military force?

The nation enjoyed a “peace dividend” throughout the 1990s that came from draconian cuts in the size of the active force. It is time for the nation to realize that our security needs and global commitments require a new investment in Army force structure. With nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran waiting in the wings, now is not the time for our leaders to be dishonest about our pressing Army force structure requirements. It will take years to staff, train and equip two Army divisions, so we cannot afford to delay.

If we are to be successful in the war on terrorism, we must make the tough decisions now. When it comes to national security, time is something we cannot afford to waste.

As Theodore Roosevelt once wrote, “Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.”

Col. James W. Revels retired from the U.S. Army after a distinguished, 25-year career that included service in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star. He can be reached at j077927r@earthlink.net.