Small Wars Journal

Establishing a Floor Under the Army’s End Strength

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:47pm

Establishing a Floor Under the Army’s End Strength

Kevin Benson

How much Army is enough and too much? The essence of the argument, the size of the active Army, puts the cart before the horse. The challenge for the Army and indeed the Department of Defense: there is no longer a broad consensus on the threat (s) to the security of the Republic. The burden of educating national decision-makers on the need for the Army is on the Army itself. Our Army must determine what the Army needs to do to ensure national security, how to accomplish those tasks, the range of the size of the force required to accomplish the tasks, and articulate the risk to national security which accompanies the range of forces vis-à-vis the threat.

The Army must find a better argument. The number 490,000 is not yet the floor as indicated in news reports on the new Army budget wherein the number is now 420,000. 490,000 may well be the ceiling. Our Army’s case requires a public, visible post-war strategic review, similar to the effort that produced the Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine.  The Army must frame the problem and develop a broad consensus on how to address it.

Here is how I would put this together.

First, I would task the Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth to host a conference. I would put the Army Concepts Integration Center, ARCIC, the School of Advanced Military Studies, SAMS, and the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, UFMCS (the red team school) in direct support. The conference should be held at Fort Leavenworth because Leavenworth is far enough from Washington to ensure people who attend cannot rush back to their offices in the afternoon to “work“on the merely urgent vice what is important.  A conference such as this demands the full attention of the participants.

Second, I’d invite scholars from think tanks across the political spectrum; defense beat reporters; active and retired officers, and House and Senate Armed Services Committee staffers. I’d ask them to tackle defining the correct problem; what the Army must do for the Republic and what else might be required of the Army. Next, given the “correct” problem, answer what is the floor and ceiling for the size of the Army needed to address the “correct” problem. For the ceiling and floor numbers I’d also require the group to articulate the risk associated with each. Dealing with the “correct” problem also demands a clear understanding of anticipated risks, recognizing we will never divine ALL potential risks. The other main agenda point is ensuring there is broad understanding and support for the floor on Army numbers as well as convincing thought leaders just what the threat or range of threats consists of and the risk which accompanies “too small.”

My guidance would be thus:

1] Take a cold, hard look at what the range of threats, human and natural, are to the security and defense of the Republic and our national interests.

2] Determine the Army’s role by answering what the Army MUST do in defense of the Republic. This means the total Army, regulars, reserves and National Guard.

3] Based on what the Army must DO determine the range of numbers of Army forces which can accomplish those tasks, yes determine the floor and the ceiling.

4] Using the accepted list of what the Army must do and the range of the size of the Army, balance this against the range of threats and articulate the risk to the defense of the Republic and our interests associated with the ceiling, floor and other numbers in between.

5] Based on the number of people invited to attend and those who actually show up break into four sub-groups each of which determine answers and each supported by a designated red team.

What are other points for the conference to bear in mind?

War is an extension of policy and policy is affected by budget. Budgetary policy will influence security policy as hard choices must be made in light of spending cuts; mandated and impending.

The U.S. Army is the only substantial land force in the Western world.  Our European allies are reducing the size of their ground forces to the point where they could become irrelevant.  A powerful regular army supported by reserves enables U.S. diplomacy and is the true deterrent to adventurism by forces inimical to the U.S. and our interests.  If the Army becomes too small, U.S. diplomacy loses powerful backing.

The dark art of force design, planning and anticipating where the next war will happen is not precise.  The object is really to be not too badly wrong and have enough resilience in the active force to buy time for reserves to activate and to allow doctrine, tactics and techniques to adapt to the demands of the ongoing fight. 490,000 soldiers represented the Army’s opening position to find the best, affordable structure dealing with a world that is uncertain, where the challenges to U.S. vital national interests are multiple, complex, and dynamic.  Now the Army must figure what 420,000 means. 

Not being too badly wrong demands that the general-purpose forces in the active component of the Army be balanced forces: armored, infantry and motorized brigades, led by division headquarters in combined arms teams.  The proposed floor and ceiling numbers of the standing Army must afford the nation the ability to respond to a range of crises from hurricane relief to firefighting, raids to war in a distant theater. 

I assert the best guarantor of deterrence is a balanced and capable team of land forces with both general purpose and special operations units. The challenge to this statement is the unstated assumption which has been around for a number of years, the U.S. technological edge will continue to enable the U.S. military to conduct swift, nearly bloodless, and tactically decisive campaigns. Reliance on improved technologies will enable “frictionless war.”

The trouble with this thinking is without links to strategic and policy objectives tactical success is squandered. We choose to forget that reason without passion is impotent, that our adversaries are rational actors from their frame of reference and they want to win just as much as we do. Small numbers of special operating forces and precision guided munitions will not guarantee the attainment of policy objectives under all conditions.

At the end of the conference the Army will have a better argument for its role in the defense of the Republic and the size of the Total Army needed to do what the Republic requires. The Republic will have an Army that can fight.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Benson, Ph.D., Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, is currently a seminar leader at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  He holds a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, an M.S. from The Catholic University of America, an MMAS from the School of Advanced Military Studies and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.  During his career, COL Benson served with the 5th Infantry Division, the 1st Armored Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, XVIII Airborne Corps and Third U.S. Army. He also served as the Director, School of Advanced Military Studies. These are his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army or Department of Defense.



Thu, 01/30/2014 - 2:56am

I think most here are focused on the wrong area of this article... We should be cutting spending not on troops. We need more of them. (I have never been in a unit that had to many), but on equipment, programs and requirements that are out-dated, redundant or just plain stupid. Can anyone tell me why it takes more paperwork to take a four day pass, than buy a fully automatic class 3 machine gun?

Spending half the defense budget on research and development is stupid. How much government funding did John Browning get to develop the M-2? Defense contractors have been given an key to the vault. I still haven't been issued a black ninja suit, with motorcycle helmet and 5mm wrist gun... We spent 5 BILLON to re-invent a different colored uniform... Yet Multi-Cam was invented in a guy's garage... And I bet he didn't spend 5 billon to develop it. 5 Billon is a lot of Soldiers. It's a lot of ammo. It's a lot of training. The Defense Contractors should have been given a set of specs and nothing more. This should be done for all items.

If more thought and common sense was put into the way we spent our defense dollars we could reduce spending, keep troops strength up. But when we have stupid laws forcing us to buy un-needed and unwanted equipment, that is usually may do a lot of thing, but none of them well. We will continue to spend in this way unless we radically evaluate our needs and spending.

How much did we spend on the SGT York Defense Gun? The Comanche, the failed multi purpose assault rifle and the countless other systems, programs and office supplies that have been spent to let defense contractors and engineers live out fantasies than never did pan out?

The brass are in love with technology... Too in love. No objective is taken till a Soldier or Marine stands on it. Too heavy a reliance upon it has disastrous results.

If you want to reduce personnel start at the top. Additionally we have become top heavy with regard to rank. We have way too many E-9's doing E-8, E-7 and E-6 jobs. Same with Generals and senior officers in general.

I think the army has got about 320 G/O. Figure a we have got enough G/O's for 75 divisions worth of troops... but no 75 divisions... Looks like allot of buddy, buddy deal wait to me. We only need 50 to 75. If the best thing for the Army (or any of the other services) was to reduce the number of G/O's, how many would volunteer for the good of the Army or the Nation. One, maybe, and likely he would be the one we would most likely want to keep.

With the internet, it is easy to disseminate information. The Army Safety Center has not made me safe. So why do we have it? Choppers and plans still crash, Soldiers crash motorcycles and cars etc. It has raised by blood pressure. You deploy a civilian all the way to Iraq/Afghanistan to tell me I need to wear gloves at the burn barrel? What do you figure it cost to send him over to give me that piece of advice? A lot more than the band aid and motrin I would have got, had I burned myself.

Why spend on safety? Is it to keep me safe or protect the brass? I vote protect the brass and the careers of the brass and their buddies.

How much time, energy, resources are wasted on stupid change of responsibility ceremonies? Hey 1SG/CSM, it's a blue collar job... If you want anything other then a burial detail and a retirement ceremony, go to OCS.

Leave the troops in the foxholes. Fix our equipment. And stop adding useless, foolish, wasteful, redundant programs, equipment and requirements. This will fix the spending.

Bill M.

Wed, 01/29/2014 - 3:49am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

Our national security strategy states we will promote democracy, which is a long ways from your claim that it is our national strategy that we modernize outlier states. The National Security Strategy is currently being rewritten, so debating what it will say until is published is a waste of time.

However you did on more than one occasion claim we desire to integrate outlier states economically, but in fact we intentionally isolate several countries (Cuba, Saddam's Iraq, Iran, etc.) that were previously integrated economically into the global economy. Most countries don't need our prompting to integrate economically, since it is generally a win for them to do so. I don't think modernization is really our overall strategy, if it was we wouldn't isolate these nations which keeps them locked into earlier time periods. It seems we actually think some countries, if modernized would be more dangerous to our national interests.

We get idealists occasionally who embrace Tom Barnett's view of the world, but that view does not seem to the prevailing view, but rather an episodic view based on rotating leaders and their philosophies. We can't design an Army based on the occasional episodic leader who embraces this view, but we can design an Army based upon enduring interests related to protecting our nation from attack and our critical interests overseas. Like others have argued, not having a standing army large enough to support excessive ambition makes it harder for these Presidents to use the military as a tool to pursue these ends. That forces us to either modify our ends, or use a more intelligent approach to pursue that end.

Bill C.

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 8:12pm

In reply to by Bill M.

COL Moore:

Sir: We are in agreement, I believe, if we both see things somewhat like this:

It remains the primary foreign policy goal and objective of the United States to transform outlying states and societies along modern western political, economic and social lines.

Thus, the United States intends to use all of its governmental assets (to include its military assets) and all of its instruments of power and persuasion (to include those contained within the private sector) to bring about these political, economic and social "developments" in other countries.

In these transformational activities, however and henceforth, the military will no longer take the lead. It will, instead, play more of a supporting role, while our other instruments of power and persuasion (governmental and non-governmental) move to the front of the column and take the initiative in this endeavor.

In addition to this change in modus operandi, the United States also accepts that it must view these necessary transitions -- to a western way of life and western way of government -- now as more of (1) a long-term project that (2) must be handled in a more delicate manner.

Why these necessary changes in understanding and operations?

Because we have learned that populations, despite the so-called "end of history," will not, as we initially thought -- if liberated from their oppressive regimes/governments -- quickly, easily and, mostly on their own, adopt our way of life, our way of governance and our values, attitudes and beliefs.

Thus, the view that populations would drop like so much "ripe fruit" into our hands has been discredited by our recent experiences.

Therefore and accordingly, what also has been discredited is the idea that the rapid and complete transformation of outlying states and societies could be accomplished by simply having our military come in and decapitate and replace the oppressive governments/regimes.

We now understand/re-understand that what we are up against are not just contrary regimes but indeed -- and as in days past -- contrary values, attitudes and beliefs -- upon which contrary populations today -- as in the past -- cling to. (Explains the return to "human domain" study -- which had been eliminated due to "end of history" thinking.)

Thus we acknowledge that these are matters (state and societal transformation) that will take much more ruthlessness -- or much more time and finesse -- to overcome.

Ruthlessness having been rejected -- and given that the military, generally speaking, is not an instrument of finesse nor an instrument that can be applied for long periods of time -- we have determined to look to other ways and other means (WOG/NGO in the lead) to achieve our objective.

Bill M.

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 1:30am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

In my opinion you are confusing COIN doctrine with national strategy, and frankly if you quoted the new manual correctly it demonstrates that we're finally learning as an organization that development is secondary to first establishing security. Development has always been part of our national strategy for a variety of reasons ranging from practical (our ability to assert influence, it is mutually beneficial economically, etc.) to purely humanitarian reasons. I agree if you're saying we desire nations' economies to be integrated to facilitate trade and so forth, but we do that through trade and other agreements, not by occupying a nation to transform its culture and political structure.

Did President Bush believe he could create long term peace by transforming the Middle East by establishing a democracy in Iraq? Apparently so if what I read is accurate. Did it work, and more importantly was it apparent it wouldn't work by regional experts who were ignored? In my opinion, sadly the answer is yes. Is that our national strategy now? I think not, based on the National Defense Strategy published in 2012, it states we will NOT sustain a large Army that can conduct large scale occupation/stability operations, but we'll retain these skills if a need occurs to do so again. Like every war and/or conflict in our history we have the ability to expand our ranks to meet the crisis and then contract again. To sustain an Army to pursue your suggestion that we can forcefully transform nations via large scale occupation operations when there is no clear need to do so undermines our strength as a nation by sapping its economic strength.

I suggest we look at the world beyond our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and attempt to assess what really threatens our nation first, and second what threatens our interests. Insurgencies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere do not threaten our nation directly. You can make arguments they threaten our interests in the region. What threatens us are: transnational and homegrown terrorists, transnational and homegrown organized criminal organizations, long range missiles, weapons of mass destruction/effect in the hands of adversaries, potentially cyber (I don't understand this enough to separate the hype from reality), and denial of access in the commons, especially the maritime, space, and cyber domains, which would threaten our national economy. What role, if any, does the Army play in protecting these interests or defeating these threats? I think the frustration with the Landpower advocates is that they're focused on yesterday and not the next decade. The Army's size in my opinion is going to be less important than what capabilities they develop to protect our nation. Conducting large scale stability operations for multiple years is seldom in our national interest, so the focus in my opinion should be elsewhere.

Consider this from the new JP 3-24:

a. "COIN efforts should focus on providing predictable and tolerable conditions for the population, leaving long-term development until there is sufficient security."

b. "However, counterinsurgents should aim to ensure that short-term stabilization measures do not undercut long-term development goals."

The term "long-term development" in both instances here (as in "development, diplomacy and defense") refers, I suggest, to governmental and nongovernmental efforts to build the economic, social, and political foundations of stable communities and societies.

Note that "development" is listed first in "development," diplomacy and defense" and, therefore, should be considered THE priority of the foreign policy of the United States. (Diplomacy and defense seeming to be means by which to help bring about and achieve these ends.)

Thus, if war is an instrument of policy,

And the Army an instrument of war,

Then the Army would seem to need -- in one way or another -- to service the aims of war -- which, in turn, must service the needs of policy (outlined above).

Is that what our COIN efforts for the future (as described in the quoted sections of the new JP 3-24) are specifically designed to do, to wit:

a. To lay the foundation (for example: "predictable and tolerable conditions") that will be needed,

b. To achieve security and, thereby,

c. Create the conditions needed for "development" (as defined at my second full paragraph above)?

Colonels Jones, Maxwell and Moore:

Sirs: I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Bill M.

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 4:38am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.

Tom Barnett is the most prominent advocate of integrating outlier states into the international system, but lets be clear he doesn't dictate strategy, he provides recommendations. Two very different things.

Wiser leaders have realized his proposed strategy is amoral, unaffordable, and unfeasible. We have no history of doing so effectively, as for Germany and Japan they were already industrial and integrated economically globally before the war, we helped them transition back to their normal. That process was further enabled by the threat of communist expansion.

Do I consider Bush Junior and McCain liberals? I hate the labels of liberal and conservative, but based on accepted use of those terms I definitely consider their interventionist foreign policy against those who didn't or don't threaten us as liberal. U.S. liberals in my view push political correctness, limit free speech, and push their values upon others nationally and globally from democracy to gay rights. Conservatives in theory should be more realistic and don't push transforming others to conform to their ideal view of the world, but they also won't hesitate to challenge real threats to our interests with appropriate military action. Appropriate military action doesn't mean transforming societies.

The bottom line is there is absolutely no guidance for our Army to right size to transform outlier states. In fact we have policy guidance to avoid repeating our approach in Iraq and Afghanistan (large scale stability operations), so I suggest you read the National Defense Strategy as a refresher on our policy. It is signed by the President and the Secretary of Defense, not McCain who to often simply postures for political points. This is the same McCain that posed with Al-Qaeda affiliated militia in Syria because he didn't understand the nature of the conflict there, and the same McCain that fell asleep during briefings on his visits to Iraq. Guess he had his mind made up and didn't want to hear any contrary opinion from the folks actually fighting. I heard McCain go on at length during one interview on American exceptionalism and why should intervene is various conflicts. Part of me sympathizes with his argument, but when it happens I force myself to wake up.

Bill M.

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 3:01am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.

Tom Barnett who pushes your "proposed" strategy doesn't dictate our national strategy, he makes recommendations. He has pushing his agenda for years, but wiser leaders have realized it won't work and it isn't affordable, nor is it in line with U.S. values. Have you actually assessed our ability to transform societies? You side stepped by comments about Japan and Germany because frankly your argument falls apart if you're forced to find any factual underpinning that we transformed Germany and Japan. They were already industrial and integrated economically globally before the war, we helped them transition back to their normal. It was relatively easy to displace a Hitler with a new government that had a historical precedent, and Japan remained Japan other than being demilitarized. No major transformation took place.

Do I consider Bush Junior and McCain liberals? I hate the labels of liberal and conservative, but I definitely consider their interventionist foreign policy against those who didn't threaten us as liberal. U.S. liberals in my view push political correctness, limit free speech, and want to push their values upon others globally from democracy to gay rights. Conservatives are historically more realistic and don't push transforming others, but won't hesitate to challenge real threats to our interests. Liberal and Conservative views are no longer determined by what political party people are in, but by what policies they embrace.

I fully suspect to comment on every thread with your theory on what our policy should be, whether the article relates to your theory or not. There is absolutely no guidance for our Army to right size to transform outlier states. I suggest you read the National Defense Strategy as a refresher on policy, which is signed by the President and Secretary of Defense, not McCain who is simply posturing for political points.

Bill C.

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 1:40pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

I did not know that former President Bush -- and those of his ilk -- were liberals.

Nor did I know that Sen. John McCain was a liberal.

"Sen. John McCain on Thursday announced that he no longer trusts President Obama’s word on Syria, and believes that military intervention in the war-torn country could be launched quickly and “easily”."

I thought that the enduring goal and policy of transforming outlying states and societies more along modern western lines -- and to use military force when considered prudent and necessary to do this -- was (1) somewhat common to both political parties in one degree or another and (2) had been so for some time.

Is not our (liberal?) President today condemned by elements on the right (such as Sen. McCain) for his less-interventionist/less-militant stance -- as relates specifically, for example, to the cause of helping to transform, along modern western lines, such outlying states and societies as Syria?

Again the crucial question becomes -- for liberals and conservatives alike -- whether the nation security of the United States is put more at risk by (1) attempting such transformations or by (2) taking a more "hands-off" approach and allowing "self-determination" to take place.

Prior to 9/11, former President Bush seemed inclined to believe that a more hands-off/self-determination approach was the better policy.

After 9/11, he came to believe that the more hands-off/self-determination policy -- in his mind now obviously -- put the United States more in harms way.

And here former President Bush may be in good company.

Certainly many 20th Century presidents -- confronted with problems arising from differently-oriented states and societies (fascist Japan and Germany; communist Russia and China) -- acted in such a way as to favorably transform these outlying states and societies; herein using the threat and/or application of military force when such was considered necessary to (1) accomplish these transformational missions and, thereby, (2) take the United States out of harms way.

Bill M.

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 2:02am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

I think you're wrong on all accounts if you think "we" transformed Germany, Japan, Russia and China. Our Army didn't fundamentally transform any of these states. Germany was already integrated into the West culturally and economically, they simply choose to reintegrate after the war. Japan was industrial long before WWII and were modernizing their in own way rapidly without our Army forcing change. The change we did push, we did so wisely by ensuring we respected their culture. In fact Japan is not Western to day, it is very much Japanese. The people of Russia transformed Russia, not our Army, and they transformed it into something not quite Eastern or Western, but very Russian. China transformed themselves, and they're hardly integrated with the West. The COLs remain correct, and there is no need to discard a policy that never existed outside the minds of a few liberals who felt we should dictate how the rest of the world behaves.

Bill C.

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 6:55pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Colonels Jones and Maxwell:


Given that we have had what would seem to be such important success, in the last half-century or so, in significantly transforming -- along modern western political, economic and/or social lines -- ALL of the great and vastly more dangerous outlying states and societies (Germany, Japan, Russia and China),

Why then would we abandon this policy as relates to the small-fry holdouts, to wit: the lesser and remaining, and vastly less dangerous, states and societies having non-western or less-western orientation?

Was not the national security of the United States enhanced by our efforts -- and our success -- in transforming all four of the great powers noted above? (The Army, one might suggest, playing an important role in these endeavors.)

Certainly the regimes and the populations of these great nations then -- much like the governments and the populations of the lesser and remaining states and societies today -- had little interest, no interest or only mixed interest in being transformed along modern western political, economic and social lines.

This, however, did not stop us.

And neither did "self-determination. For we saw "self-determination," then as now, as the right of people everywhere to a western way of life and a western way of governance.

Thus, if we did not shirk our duty in the 20th Century -- when confronted with the horrors which could be wrought by the outlying great powers -- why then would we shrink from our task today, when confronted with what the lesser and remaining outlying states and societies can throw at us?

And, as in the case of the great powers noted above, does not the risk incurred from failing to transform these lesser and remaining states and societies vastly outweigh the risk of attempting to do so?

If the answer to my question immediately above is "yes," then the Army today, as in the past, may have an important role to play.

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 12:25pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Bob: Concur with your parenthetical statement. We should keep in mind our values - e.g., the most important being respect for self determination.

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 10:37am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C says: "Herein, I suggested that our policy was -- and still is -- the transformation of outlying states and societies along modern western political, economic and social lines, and I offered as evidence:"

1. I suspect this is a horribly failed policy we are trying to back away from as quickly, yet stealthfully, as possible.

2. The Army is perhaps the worst instrument of this policy. In fact, the heavy use of the Army as a tool to implement this policy is one of the major contributing factors to its failure.

(The largest factor, IMO, however being that in a time when populations everywhere are seeking to be more like themselves, their is not only little appitite, but actually vigorous resistance, to the US attempting to make them like us.)

Below I asked:

If war is an instrument of policy, and the Army an instrument of war, then why do we discuss war, and the size and shape of the Army, from the perspective of defense or national defense, instead of from the perspective of policy?

Herein, I suggested that our policy was -- and still is -- the transformation of outlying states and societies along modern western political, economic and social lines, and I offered as evidence:

a. The transformations of Russia and China -- in significant ways along modern western lines -- which we brought about via our efforts in the second half of the 20th Century and

b. The transformations -- along modern western lines -- that we have recently attempted in the cases of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

One could also offer as evidence -- of American policy as described above -- the governing and other transformations that the United States brought about in Germany and Japan following World War II.

Bill M below suggests that the United States no longer wishes to transform basket-case outlying states and societies today and uses the example of North Korea.

But should we not say that the policy of the United States today, as in the past, is to do exactly that, to wit: (1) to transform North Korea along modern western political, economic and social lines and (2) to integrate this country, and its human and other resources, into the global economy and the international community -- much as was done/is being done with basket-case East Germany following the Cold War?

Thus, if war is indeed an instrument of policy, and the Army an instrument of war, then I think that we must:

a. Begin by acknowledging what our policy actually is (outlying state and societal transformation) and then

b. Start discussing the size and shape of the Army from this perspective.

This is, after all, what "by, with and through," "building partner capacity," "diplomacy, development and defense" and "WOG" are really all about, to wit: Our determination -- not to abandon our political objective (described by me above) -- but simply to use other ways and other means to achieve it.

Move Forward

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:15am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

<blockquote>One hundred years ago our regular force was about 100,000. But we really had no global mission at the time. The UK was the maritime nation with a global mission, and they had an army of about 250,000. Nations without the luxury of maritime borders had large standing armies. France, Germany, Russia, etc. All were forced by their geostrategy and looming threats to maintain large ground forces, but remember, this was in an era before there was an air domain or a space domain, and before the deterrent effect of strategic air or nuclear weapons.</blockquote>

Agree completely about the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons. That is why the persistent next-war-it-is of the Pacific Pivot is so puzzling since China has no incentive to either destroy their economy or risk nuclear war with the U.S. The other threat Russia, is a shell of its former self and has far fewer global ambitions these days relative to those of yester-decades. Because theirs are the sole air forces that pose even a remote threat to thousands of F-35s and F-22s, it is more than questionable that we require a large active USAF given that the current ones somehow got by with 4-6 month tours over the past decade of war while Soldiers deployed nearly the same number of times...yet for a whole year or more.

Perhaps you have not noticed how small the U.K's Navy has gotten. They are incapable of a global mission because there is no particular need to be forward deployed all the time as a Navy. The near total absence of major naval battles since WWII should explain why many Pacific and other nations have large standing armies but very small navies despite local "global commons" and trade that relies heavily on the seas.

Perhaps they realize what the Chinese must realize. There is no incentive to close sea lanes to commercial traffic when you are the world's largest sea exporter and you have no blue water Navy. Off-shore control would cripple China and they know it...and much of that control could come from adjacent land with no need for obvious land bases. A recent Marine aviator in "Information Dissemination" denigrated the need for Army Aviation to do more on and from ships without bothering to compare the relatively few Marine and Navy rotorcraft on amphibious vessels to the hundreds of Army rotorcraft that could island and ship-hop without remaining on sea vessels for very long. With a faster, longer range Joint Multi-role rotorcraft platform, self-deployment from island-to-island or deeper into enemy territory would be even more common carrying thousands of Army infantry.

In addition, as Billy Mitchell and other history illustrated back in the day, large forward-deployed surface sea forces are extraordinarily vulnerable to both submarine and air attack. Why field large forward navies when they are susceptible to surprise destruction ala Pearl Harbor, DF-21D, and sudden surprise short to medium range attacks on Pacific ports? Army bases can be attacked at long range as well. However, dug-in Army forces and those in armored vehicles are far less susceptible to long-range missile attacks and more easily can disperse and hide after or during initial attacks.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:26pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---two questions that are often over looked in the draw down question is;

1) Just what country is out there is even can or wants to go force on force with us--what Russia, what China, or what Iran?

2) What is the greatest threat going forward for us over say the next ten years---failed countries in Africa, transnational crime organizations, drug cartels in Mexico, Latin/Central America, AQ and it's various forms or even say the TCO activities within the 1600 hundred US towns and cities.

When you have answered these two questions then the next question would be just why do we then even need 250K---Robert is right bring it down further.

We have an expeditionary force the MC, we have a rather expensive Navy and equally expensive AF---and if one looks at the thinking in the drawdown of the 90s--it was to have a smaller standing Army with the intel, combat support and logistical support in the AC and the combat arms in the RC---that idea went nowhere then but now with the ever smaller budgets maybe the
the idea should be revisited.

TO the comment on the multiple number of Army unit deployments---the core reason for that was the simple fact we fought a two front war and keep what at a minimum 20 BCTs constantly deployed in the two fronts which required at a minimum 20 others in training mode for RIP/TOA---that was the reason for the multiple and long deployments.

If you think about it---the heavy use of the NG was the attempt to not go to the general draft that in theory was needed to maintain a 10 year two front war---no President was ready to tell the American public the draft was coming back so the NG became the draft Army.

Army theory for years concerning the two front war was that it would and could be fought but at some point it had to go to a draft in order to maintain it--never saw a draft happen.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 6:07am

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---the comment referencing national service is interesting for many reasons, but try to bring it into the discussion of "let's change the AVF".

My comments on getting pounded is no different that the complaints on the abuse of VA disability side and overpay. The curious thing though is that it splits into two groups 1)those that are not married and 2) married.

Those that are not married "loved" the constant deployments as they were cash making deployments with new high end cars usually after the second tour---sometimes shared as well with the married group. What is really interesting now that the deployments are slowing down----both groups are dreading remaining for long periods "in garrison" as "out of garrison" as strange as it sounds gave them a certain amount of freedom from the traditional military day to day service.

Both groups also "enjoyed" the extra cash for the deployment earned via TDY payments---to my knowledge it was the first ever "war" that one could earn TDY payments on.

If in fact we had the general draft the constant deployments would have been slowed and the stress levels lowered---but we did have the draft---the constant deployment of the NG which had massive stressors since they were taken out of their regular jobs/careers, taken for long periods from their families as well, or out of their education environments for up to 18-24 months on each deployment.

The married group were the ones that took the harder hit mentally but I think due to the instant messaging abilities of both partners (one could have a really hard gun truck patrol day and in the evening be talking with the kids and your wife and arguing about their school performances).

Instant war front communications all the time via the cellphone was the norm.

If you have ever deployed with them ---I have never seen the way a war was fought as this one was ---everything from social media for instant home communications (units deployed with complete satcom internet abilities---actually paid for by the US tax payer with the standard 25K unit CC)to home-- to KFC and Pizza Huts---meaning the US Army evidently was not capable of deploying for long periods of time without taking home with him.

For those of us that came from the "have not" bases it was an eye opener every time we saw this. The MC took a different tack since they were on shorter tours.

This is what I mean with the term of getting pounded--they did not get pounded by day to day constant fighting and constant IDF attacks.

The interesting thing is that yes you are right about the VA response---which should have been the same as it has been with VN vets and DS vets---prove your disability. BUT they could not because they are just as trapped in the "hero's" mindset that underscores what I call the entitlement attitudes.

VA on several occasions attempted to push back on the general over the board awarding of up to 100% PTSD disability claims, but when they did the screams could have been heard all the way to the Panama Canal---"you are not responding to our heroes"--"you have no empathy for the countless deployments they are doing" and on and on.

The problem I see is if you are aware of the abuses and I am aware of them THEN senior leaders are as well---so are they ignoring the problems as they ignored sexual assaults for years or do they simply do not want to rock the boat because it then would openly question the AVF?

There truly needs to be a frank and open discussion of 1)an overall national service vs AVF, 2) just how much can the taxpayer be asked to provide for a military out of the national GDP, 3) overall review of pay levels, benefits, and retirements, 4) disability abuses along with the current issues of drug/alcohol abuse, increasing disciple problems, sexual assault and other issues.

Just a side note---there is a large number of Army personnel suffering from sleep issues which gets a large chuck of VA disability payments---has anyone asked the simple question---WHY is that?

The answer is so open and in your face and it has a name Red Bull and other related energy drinks. I had a 24 man PSD team supporting me when I was on the move and you would be surprised just how many cans of RB was stored in each gun truck for each patrol and literally all were emptied by the end of the patrol-I personally never touched the stuff.

Then I and my interpreter would wind down the day with a long meal, fruit and a hot tea, listen to the Egyptian music radio station and be asleep by 2200 in order to do it all over by 0600 the next day (a very old VN SF trick for winding down) ---my PSD team could not wind down from RB until about 2400/0100 and then do it all over again at 0600. They would often laugh about our evening "ritual", but we never had sleep issues---my entire PSD team did though.

And you wonder why the Force has sleep problems that VA is paying for?

When even the BCT Commander realized the problem and had the DFAC pull RB from the coolers--there was an open revolt across the BCT and two days later it was back in the coolers---check out now in garrison how much is drunk on a daily basis.

PTSD issues/levels in the Force are interesting and no one questions WHY---the VN vet had to prove that we had seen/experienced violence over a length of time in order to be granted PTSD by VA.

This Force has had nowhere close to the same violence levels over a long period as did the VN vet so what is triggering it? Never looked at by senior leadership, nor actually VA.

You mentioned Agent Orange---you had to fill out a 12 page questionnaire which asked questions like "how did you know you were exposed to AO or how did you know it was in the drinking water or how did you even know where it was sprayed" when all AO spray missions were classified. Only in 90s when a former SF individual who was going through stored VN Ranch Hand mission records and found the maps were many able to finally prove it.

By the way if you answered one question wrongly you were immediately denied AO claims.

What does this Force have to prove to VA in this current "entitlement" mindset-as he "gets it right" on the final Army physical.

BUT still the bear in the room is do we really need a 250K man standing regular Army in the face of the types of problems we will be seeing in the next 20 years---my answer is no.

Move Forward

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:19pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>By the way ask the 19,000 CPTs and MAJs that are now being RIF reviewed what they think about the coming RIF even after all of their deployments?</blockquote>

Yes, junior officers will get screwed as well and in far greater numbers than in the USAF and Navy. As for disability, I'm fully aware of abuses but in many cases VA is the problem the other way as well. It took years for my two-tour Vietnam vet CSM father-in-law to get reimbursed for agent orange. He retired making a fraction of current pay rates for his grade.

However, these troops are a fraction of the 1% of youth these days that actually serve, with most in the Air Force and Navy experiencing far fewer austere and lengthy deployments than Soldiers and Marines. I tried to get my college grad son to enlist because as an instant SP4 he would have earned $34 grand which is as much as he makes now as a civilian with far fewer benefits and far less tax-free income. He wasn't the least interested nor was my ER doctor daughter after a trip to the induction center that turned her off. Those willing to serve and who endure a number of tours because others won't...deserve our gratitude and support.

I also agree with those who say a return to the draft is a possible solution along with National Service. It would bring down personnel costs of both military and non-military (DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Homeland Security) personnel and civil servants and let all experience what only a few currently endure.

Also, perhaps pay increases for active duty and reservists need to get pared back to civil sector reality while many in civil service deserve raises. My GS-05 wife makes only about $40 grand a year, and that is only due to locality adjustments, and she has served for over 30 years, has supervisory responsibilities, works multiple hours beyond 40 performing Washington-PhD-generated paperwork, and has had zero cost of living adjustments the last few years until recently. Funny thing, she was offered early retirement the last time I brought that up. An implied threat of a RIF or quit-your-complaining?

Also, I saw that you said this in another post (Secret Life of Robert Gates) which tends to differ from what you are saying here and shows that you at least partially agree that Soldiers are going to get "pounded" by the advocated policies of so-called Think Tank Strategists with <strong>unlikely-war-it-is</strong>:

<blockquote>Check the high PTSD rates, high disability rates, and related injuries---this group has been literally pounded into the ground.</blockquote.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:19pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---your following comment seems to reflect what I have called the "entitlement army" that has arisen in the junior/middle ranks since 9/11.

"Perhaps, but your argument is conveniently made when you soon will have a large retirement check. Your deployments abroad as a senior officer held little risk and less austerity than your junior counterparts in arms. What about the thousands of junior Army and Marine E-5s/E-6s with multiple deployments inducing PTSD or at least ruined marriages and now facing a forced exit from the Army and USMC? That’s why it bugs me when senior officers (and officer-historians) badmouth the need for our Army and the value of stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan...meanwhile looking forward to $60,000+ annual retirement checks that their underlings will never see a fraction of if anything."

I will give you recent examples of this "entitlement" attitude that covers two areas---one the day to day say TDY and secondly the way that junior/middle ranks "understand" just exactly what is "necessary" in order to crank out a great VA check for "disabilities for a lifetime"---what I call the silent wave that is hitting the VA that absolutely no one wants to discuss.

Example one: two Sp4s were outside the travel office complaining (they were headed to a new training session in the US) bitterly that they were having to stay in military housing and were not being allowed to have a rental vehicle---"man am I p....ed--we have always gotten hotels and rental cars---WTF is the Army coming too?"

Did the two Sp4s ever stop to think that the US taxpayer can no longer support the luxury of hotels and rental cars?

A subset to this conversation is the following in the "old" days when on TDY you only got exactly what you paid for meals--currently junior/middle levels get the full meal benefits all without receipts which amounts to in some places 125 USD a day.

The Army could have saved money for years if it wanted to by paying the exact meal costs---their argument was "it is to much paperwork to ask for receipts".

Example two: it is common knowledge among the junior/middle ranks that you have an opportunity during your last physical before leaving to "claim" multiple health issues that will count towards a hefty VA disability check after one leaves the service---ie "sleep issues, PTSD, back/knee/feet problems and the list goes on and on. Believe me--they fully "understand" what has to be said during that health check.

HAS anyone asked just how is it possible that there is a large PTSD problem in the current junior/middle ranks when in fact they have truly never faced intense day to day combat operations (24X7 365) ie the intense firefights, high personnel losses/wounded/prisoners and the daily IDF that was faced by say VN vets who then had to fight to get the VA to even accept PTSD.

Just what has been the core problem that have contributed to the immense epidemic of PTSD claims? Especially when in the past PTSD was directed related to true combat violence seen and experienced by the junior/middle levels.

Lastly when you start comparing the past to the present and who gets what from who for what and when---then consider just what the income and related benefits that the junior and middle levels are getting today say versus the 90s during DS and let's go back to VN.

For a SF SGT, married, with airborne pay, demo pay, language pay and MOS pro-pay and being tax free the total was 375.00 USD and that was for a true 24/7 365 combat tour when getting shot at and mortared/rocketed which was an everyday event not the occasional IDF or IEDs that one sees in AFG currently. WHAT is the current earnings for say a Sp4/SGT/SSG versus say the same rank in 1990 or even 1970?

Even if we factor in the inflation rates from say the 60s/90s and the annual civilian earnings of the two periods the current junior/middle levels are vastly overpaid. Do not use the counter argument "it is due to the countless deployments".

When we are comparing let's look at your education benefits---the VN vet got exactly for his education after leaving the Force regardless of the years the following, married no dependents---exactly 48 months at 450 USD and no stipends, no college housing, no books---one had to make it on the exact sum nothing more nothing less.

Do you think that is correct for a 24X7 365 service period where one was in actual combat for the entire year? Versus say a junior/middle level individual who while he deployed did not even earn a CIB?

NOW here is the interesting question that even you are sidestepping---namely there is absolutely no guarantee ever given by the Army when you join that the job is for 20 years---again a reflection of the current "entitlement" mindset.

SO why is there the "feeling" of "entitlement" meaning I have a right for a 20 year pension just because I did what I signed up for---come on.

BY the way ask the 19,000 CPTs and MAJs that are now being RIF reviewed what they think about the coming RIF even after all of their deployments?

IT is in fact time to discuss costs and numbers---meaning just what can the taxpayer actually afford?

Move Forward

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:38pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

<blockquote>The army loves to argue "first battles."
As Clausewitz noted "only final battles are decisive."</blockquote>

If final battles are decisive, how do you explain that WWI was essentially a draw and led to the tragedies of WWII. How many millions died in early WWII Russia and other European countries while the U.S. concentrated on the Pacific and was weak and ineffectual in North Africa and Italy? What would have resulted from Soviet and Red Chinese expansion efforts if we had not drawn red lines in Korea and Vietnam, thus weakening their sponsor regimes in the same manner we did during the Cold War in Europe and in Afghanistan?

If ultimately, WWII Army and Marine ground forces were the force of decision in both Europe and the Pacific, what portion of the death toll resulted from initial unpreparedness? Despite years of manufacturing assistance and supply shipments to Russia and England, what was the quality of our initial and subsequent equipment vs what the Germans and Japanese were employing? Only late in the war did we have the capabilities to mount an amphibious attack over very short distances onto Europe, and Marines were not the ones who mounted it.

The later bombers, P-51 Mustang and nuclear bomb did as much to end WWII as anything. However, how many bomber aircrews of today would be permitted to carpet and fire bomb cities today as they were allowed to back then? Never mind current ROE… could we have mounted such major conventional air attacks against Japanese or German civilians if they had nuclear weapons? If air and naval forces are so supreme, why did it take a Normandy invasion and ground force island-hopping to route enemies out of hidden and hardened positions?

More recently, what final battle of Desert Storm precluded the subsequent no-fly zone and eventually OIF? What final battle of our assistance to mujahideen against the Soviets precluded the ascendency of the Taliban and al Qaeda camps? How did our final battles and exit from Iraq preclude extremist Sunni ascendancy in Syria? The whole of war matters and there must be adequate ground forces to conduct that war for all aspects of combined arms maneuver and wide area security stability operations (to include large scale training of host nation surrogate fighters) without expecting “for the duration” tours.

In contrast, decades of ground forces in Korea have precluded a return to open warfare there just as they did in Europe during the Cold War to include a POMCUS commitment of rapid reinforcement by stateside active Army forces. If that deterrence had failed, how do you suppose we would have repeated the Normandy invasion with a European nuclear wasteland in some areas and A2/AD threats against the U.K?

A2/AD threats are not new, nor are threats to carriers...which is why it helps to have ground forces already present or able to access rapidly threatened territories (not Chinese) of the Eurasian land mass and its island neighbors. Like you, I was in Germany during the early 80s. I used to look at our Army airfield and ponder how rapidly all those helicopters would be blown to bits by Soviet bombers and missiles. Later, a Patriot battery was installed however then I looked at the adjacent woods and German houses and pondered a Spetznaz sniper having a field day on preparations to get the aircraft off the ground. The USAF had Zulu alerts to help get its planes airborne and we had monthly alerts to get off those airfield in hours. Isn’t something like that a potential solution in the Pacific today? Can’t we install Hesco barriers in places we might deploy to have lower cost solutions to austere access and dispersion?

<blockquote>Today we define interests that, like the Platte River, are "a mile wide and an inch deep." Historically we had TWO vital interests, and I believe they are still our two vital interests today:
1. Maintain access to resources and markets;
2. Do not allow any single enemy or coalition of enemies to dominate the Eurasian continent.</blockquote>

Ever heard of a flash flood? That "mile wide and inch deep” river can rapidly and unexpectedly turn into something different. When that serene or “none-of-our-business” interest suddenly spawns terror that kills thousands and risks devastation of our economy, our outlook about that interest radically changes. When that risk involves WMD, your pleasant notion of no risk to our homeland is proven to be so much hogwash. Terrorists and WMD threats addressed abroad with armed, aerial, and armored land forces precludes planning and unimpeded execution of such attacks on our homeland. Our forces become surrogates to focus foreign and homegrown fighters who otherwise might and have been proven to engage in attacks in Europe and the U.S.

I suspect China would like to maintain access to markets and resources as well. It's in both our mutual interests which is why alarmist talk of war with China is disconcerting. The combined resources of all adjacent U.S. friends is more than enough to preclude any Chinese domination of Asia. Threats of AirSea Battle attacks deep into China only hinder that access and encourage distrust and nuclear escalation.

In addition, simply bombing smaller countries like Libya (as covered by Robert Egnell in the recent COIN podcast), can lead to proliferation and dispersion of WMD and MANPAD missiles and result in events like Benghazi, Lockerbie, and worse. Look at the terrorism that Russia now faces by indiscriminate aerial and artillery crushing of Chechnya. Many Muslim rulers, countrymen, and extremists have long memories that recall help and military and civil-military assistance provided and more recently help and CMO ignored such as in Syria. USAF proponents like to point to Serbia as an example of 78 days of bombing creating a solution. What goes unmentioned is the decades of ground force peacekeeping that precluded Serbia from stomping on its neighbors before and after that bombing stopped.

<blockquote>This cannot be an argument rooted in passion or advocacy for any particular service.</blockquote>

Perhaps, but your argument is conveniently made when you soon will have a large retirement check. Your deployments abroad as a senior officer held little risk and less austerity than your junior counterparts in arms. What about the thousands of junior Army and Marine E-5s/E-6s with multiple deployments inducing PTSD or at least ruined marriages and now facing a forced exit from the Army and USMC? That’s why it bugs me when senior officers (and officer-historians) badmouth the need for our Army and the value of stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan...meanwhile looking forward to $60,000+ annual retirement checks that their underlings will never see a fraction of if anything.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:54am

In reply to by Move Forward

The army loves to argue "first battles."

As Clausewitz noted "only final battles are decisive."

As I recall the US Army was the force of decision in all of the conflicts you listed, as I also recall, in none of those conflicts was the US homeland seriously threatened. In other words, the army being a wartime force, did its duty in war.

This cannot be an argument rooted in passion or advocacy for any particular service. This must be an argument rooted in truly vital interests, actual threats to those interests, and the force necessary to deter threats to or defeat attacks upon the same.

Today we define interests that, like the Platte River, are "a mile wide and an inch deep." Historically we had TWO vital interests, and I believe they are still our two vital interests today:

1. Maintain access to resources and markets;

2. Do not allow any single enemy or coalition of enemies to dominate the Eurasian continent.

Large standing armies are not necessary to either of those missions. Nor are they necessary to defend the homeland, as we can build an army to defend our shores far larger and faster than ANYONE can build an invasion force to attack them.

An Army strategist and PhD I work with has told me a few times "you can't expect the Army to make itself smaller." Actually yes, yes I can expect that. I believe it is the Army's duty to do so in peace, and that the Army is negligent in its duty currently. Others disagree, but I have not heard arguments from those others that justify the cost or need for what they argue.

Move Forward

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:31am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Since you want to focus on the pre-Cold War, let's look at how well prepared our smallish and under-equipped ground component was for WWI, WWII, and Korea which was early in the Cold War.

If a large reserve component and small active duty Army makes little sense in that historical context, now imagine a 9/11-like event that relies on a grid-locked Congress to decide on war. That argument would be made publically for our enemies to observe and lobby. It would spell out timelines and durations of conflict...again letting our enemies know everything.

There are many decisions and executive orders that our President should have <strong>no business in making</strong> without Congressional approval and law passage. The decision to act rapidly to protect U.S. interests and servicemen abroad should not be one of them.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:20am

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward.

You need to "move forward" in how you think about our military, and our pre-Cold War history is rich with the information you need.

You argue for the force we need to do what we have done, not the force we need to do what must be done. Do not confuse the errors of enabling a standing army to allow Presidents to by pass constitutional protections to engage this country in conflicts of choice, and the military demands of those conflicts, with what this nation needs to secure its true interests.

Can national guard soldiers with two available days of training a month perform collective tasks like active forces who live on post and have 30 available days to train? Of course not. But I assure you, the soldiers of the Oregon Guard were far better at being Oregon Guardsmen than the regular soldiers sent to train them were at their job. Exceptions on both sides, of course, but by a rule this is very true, and I was there.

But that is a side bar to the real issue at stake. We have the wrong force for the nation. We have mis-defined our interests. We have exaggerated our threats. We have weakened our Congress. We have twisted our Constitution. We have let down the American people who trust in us, not only to be a military force that can fight and win, but also a military force that prioritizes the Constitution and the people over itself.

Move Forward

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:17am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

<blockquote>On 9/11, like most citizen soldiers, I was at work. Serving as a Deputy DA in Portland I was running my opening statement for a felony trial through my head in traffic on I-5 when my wife called in shock to tell me that "something was happening in New York." Something indeed. <strong>Six months later I was back in boots.</strong></blockquote> Part of the dilemma of ground component military unpreparedness is exemplified in this passage. We don't know when extraordinary events will occur. When they do and our nation responds, there is no 6 month window for large forces to get back into boots.

You are an unusual circumstance since your peacetime occupation largely mirrors that in wartime. Nurses, doctors, and some military police are somewhat similar. However, a warehouse worker or store clerk turned infantryman is in a whole new world. That initial mobilization must be followed by extensive training before ready to respond to 9/11-like events.

In contrast, a commercial pilot's peacetime experience closely parallels his wartime duties in technical skills. A Naval maritime commercial sailor's ship and experience easily has wartime applicability. In addition, it is theoretically far easier to mirror the vast open skies and seas in a simulator for reserve components than it is the complexity of land with terrain and civil considerations to integrate. The land component Soldier and Marine has far more ROE considerations individually than a sailor or enlisted airman who is making far fewer life and death decisions on the spot. Commercial aircraft fixed-wing mechanics also translate easily into the reserve component military aircraft maintenance fields in the USAF, Navy, and Marines.

So the real issue should be which of the land, air, and sea services most easily translates to additional reserve component capability. As good as the reserve components have been in current wars, they could not perform all functions as immediately as the land component in OEF I and OIF I. I worked with an infantry officer who served as an ROTC instructor and NG advisor in Oregon and his stories were at times less than flattering. That is not to say that ground reserve components are not as capable in the long run after <strong>training once back on active duty</strong>. However, that training requires time. That time is not available in most sudden contingencies such as war in Korea, another crisis originating from the Mideast, or a war we are dragged into by allies or friends such as Israel, the Philippines, Japan, or Taiwan.

The other factor getting short shrift is the deployment lengths of individual services. When the Army routinely endured 12 month tours and longer, while other services often had 4-7 month tours, it says a lot about the relative sizes of respective services. If the active Army was large enough, there would be no need for 4-5 year-long tours which was not that unusual. If reserve component forces were adequate to spell active Soldiers from this many and this long tours, why couldn't they. So now we will reduce our Army's size to stupidly low levels, making 9 month tours harder to accomplish, and guaranteeing that next time our Soldiers again get the shaft relative to other service in terms of numbers of long tours in combat and overseas.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 8:41am

Given Dr. Benson's background, it is hardly surprising that he appears unable to escape the powerful inertial forces of his own bias.

I too am a retired Army Colonel with advanced degrees, but I have a very different perspective. Perhaps it is the inertial bias of my own background. I accept that.

I am a product of ROTC, not the USMA. I served about 8 years as a regular, spanning the waning days of the Cold War as a Company and Battalion Fire Support Officer, and mechanized infantry platoon leader in West Germany. I routinely stood upon my small piece of the Fulda Gap that I was tasked to defend, and I seriously doubt the long, thin line of soldiers we were prepared to throw into that fight had much of a deterrent effect on Russia for the fight we would give. The Soviets would have penetrated our thin shield of politically construed defenses (defense in depth and aggressive counterattacks were not PC) with long spears of armor columns in a dozen places, and France would have nuked them before they reached the Rhine - and our broken, surviving units and families as well. But our sacrifice would have vested America in WWIII, and THAT was the deterrent effect Land Forces brought.

I then successfully made it through Special Forces Qualification and was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group. Two weeks into my 30 day leave following graduation, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. It was the first war of the post Cold War era, and once again our massive war-fighting Cold War Army served as no deterrent to Saddam. After all, he had his own massive army, and at the time most thought of it as a near peer force. So we built a coalition of Arab countries who actually had interests in keeping Saddam in check. A lesson we forgot in dragging NATO allies to Afghanistan where the only interest they possessed was that of maintaining a healthy relationship with a United States who was declaring to the world that "you are with us or you are against us." It was in there interest to be with us.

But a year or so later I left the regular force to attend law school, and I joined the 41st Enhanced Infantry Brigade, who I served with for the next 8 years. Like most regulars I looked upon my new peers with a certain arrogance for a year or two, an arrogance that slowly turned to appreciation, then understanding, and ultimately to deep respect. The regulars formed training brigades to build our capacity, but they only brought regular army training doctrine, regular army training experience, their own arrogance and bias, and virtually no empathy or desire to appreciate the fundamental difference between pre-mobilized RC units and the regular force. I saw this same approach to efforts in Afghanistan to build an Army there, btw. If ever tasked to build partner capacity anywhere, I would send SF first, the Guard second, and the regulars only if no one else was available. I say that having served in all three. Happy to debate that assessment with anyone else who can say the same.

On 9/11, like most citizen soldiers, I was at work. Serving as a Deputy DA in Portland I was running my opening statement for a felony trial through my head in traffic on I-5 when my wife called in shock to tell me that "something was happening in New York." Something indeed. Six months later I was back in boots. Eight years after that I had put in the years to retire from the active force, having served in the Pacific, Afghanistan and a handful of major headquarters.

But I understand that the first duty of the Army is to support and defend the Constitution, yet no one talks about why Congress is directed to "raise an Army" on 2-year money, but to "maintain a navy" with no such budgetary constraint. No one talks about the terms of the debates between our founders in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere about the dangers of a standing army. "No one has more reason than a King to start a war" warned Madison (as memory serves this morning), as he debated the dangers of maintaining a warfighting army in peace. No one except a President, it appears.

Forced to maintain a warfighting land force as part of our containment strategy, a string of US Presidents were able to launch the US into a string of unnecessary conflicts. The post-WWII era became the era of "wars of choice." When one has an Army on the shelf, it may not deter the enemy, but it sure as hell enables a President. Congress became a rubber stamp instead of a golden key, and one sad result has been a slow shift of power from Congress to the President until we have the political disaster that exists today. The Army is supposed to support and defend the Constitution, but is so obsessed with preserving itself that it cannot see the harm it has done.

Consider Iraq. If the President would have had to ask the Congress to tax the people and task the department of defense to raise and train an army, would we have gone to war? The 18-24 months necessary to conduct that task and the tremendous increase in taxes would have facilitated the national debate we never truly had. Instead we deployed the force, crossed the LD, and the argument devolved to a simplistic guilt trip of "you have to support the troops."

America has a geostrategic luxury that no other country shares to the same degree. We are a maritime nation, with large oceans on both flanks, and friendly, much weaker countries to our north and south. We need strategic forces in peace - naval and air. We need a small, highly trained contingent force in peace, the USMC and a handful of army forces for punitive expeditions, NEOs and other such. We need a warfighting reserve component that we can bring up to speed if a true need to defend the nation should arise. And we need a capable Special Operations force. But we don't need a large standing army.

One hundred years ago our regular force was about 100,000. But we really had no global mission at the time. The UK was the maritime nation with a global mission, and they had an army of about 250,000. Nations without the luxury of maritime borders had large standing armies. France, Germany, Russia, etc. All were forced by their geostrategy and looming threats to maintain large ground forces, but remember, this was in an era before there was an air domain or a space domain, and before the deterrent effect of strategic air or nuclear weapons.

Today European nations with the same geostrategy are rapidly shrinking their land forces. Geography + threat= land force size. No threat, so no need for land forces. Some day that will change, but for now they reap the dividends of peace.

It is time for the US to also reap the dividends of peace. It is the duty of the military to serve the nation, and currently the costs of the military cannot be justified. But Congress must lead. Congress must cut funding in meaningful ways. Congress must kill highly tactical programs like the F35. Congress must update old treaties that are dangerously out of touch with the modern era. Congress must update old policies that are equally out of step, and new policies as well (such as the ones that dominate our current national security strategy calling for US leadership, the promotion of US values, the protection of virtually everyone else on the backs of the US taxpayer, and the advancement of democracy rather than self-determination).

We did not get lost all at once. We did not just wake up one day in an alternate universe. We got here slowly, over generations, one decision at a time. But here we are all the same. We cannot sneak back onto azimuth with the same generational approach. We need to rip off the proverbial bandage, assume some risk, make bold decisions, and get back to being the America we actually are. This new version is one we cannot afford, and frankly it is not one we can be very proud of either. Time to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves.

And reducing the Army to about 250,000 is not the solution, but it is a damn good start.

God Bless America, But first God, please save us from ourselves.


Bill M.

Sun, 01/19/2014 - 8:39pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.

Why should the Army determine its force structure to conform to your theory when there is nothing in our defense guidance from the strategic level that tells us our role is to integrate outlier states into the norm? We help defend S. Korea from North Korea, no state is eager to invest in the billions required to rescue and integrate that sick child into the West's international system. You confuse one President, Bush Junior, who had ideas that were proven to be unrealistic with an enduring national interest. Yes our diplomats become over zealous in judging others and pushing for sanctions and non-engagement when countries don't conform to their views, but that seldom results in the military being employed. Even the worst Secretary State we had, Dulles, with his lofty ideas would accept pretty much any form of governance as long as it wasn't communist (or perceived to be communist). We'll have more Presidents like Bush who drag the country into nation building adventures if they have an Army available to do it. If the Army downsizes it will be harder to get the political consent to do so.

What threatens the U.S. that the Army can defend or counter against? That is first and foremost the focus in my opinion, anything beyond that is dependent on the prevailing policies of the day and affordability.

Given that war is an instrument of policy.

And the Army an instrument of war.

Why then are we discussing the size and shape of the Army in terms of "defense" or "national defense?"

Instead of discussing the Army in general -- and its size and shape specifically -- in what would appear to be the more correct and more appropriate forum, to wit:

a. In terms of war as an instrument of policy.

b. And in terms of the Army as an instrument of war.

Thus, should we not first articulate what the overriding policy is, for example: outlying state and societal transformation -- along modern western lines -- as was significantly achieved via containment, etc., in the case of Russia and China in the late 20th Century.

Present-day policy also being outlying state and societal transformation along modern western lines -- as now relates to the lesser and remaining outlying states and societies -- and as is evidenced by our recent attempts/efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Herein, I am suggesting that the overriding policy of the United States noted above (outlying state and societal transformation -- along modern western lines) has not changed due to the financial crisis,

Only the ways and means by which we seek to accomplish this mission.

Given that we have not abandoned this political object, but only the ways and means by which we hope to achieve it, what size and shape Army do we need to (1) help accomplish this mission today and (2) effectively stand against those who would resist/fight back against our such efforts?

The idea and structure described by the author are right on the money for the Army to figure out its force structure, but a step is missing.

First, a similar conference must be held by national leaders before the Army ever has theirs. The best thinkers in the spheres of foreign policy and defense should be invited (OSD CAPE and Policy would be excluded, they spend too much time making the requirement fit the budget, rather than making the requirement fit the actual need).

This conference must decide what the nation wants the Department of DEFENSE to do in DEFENSE of the Republic. “21st Century Defense” did not accomplish this; it just says we want to do everything.

Hard decisions must be made.

For example, how do we want to deter and defeat aggression? Currently each service is allowed to come up with their method and then lobby to the administration and Congress about why theirs is better. Why aren’t we determining a collective method for accomplishing these missions? For example, does the AC have to deter AND defeat aggression, or can it focus on just the “deter”. It can then partner with the RC to accomplish the “defeat” part.

Asking these questions will allow the next set of questions, like does the US have to provide for the defense of others while they spend little in their own defense? With that in mind, does the nation need an "expeditionary" Army or Air Force or should they “defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities”? Should the Navy/Marine Corps be designed to beat down resolute enemies, or focus on punitive expeditions which secure freedom of navigation, or should they just keep enemies away from our borders? Should we ever again build a nation that is not our own?

Once we figure out what the nation wants and needs it’s military to do, and stop being completely deluded, then we can determine, based on core competencies, who will be responsible for what.

Then the Service Chiefs need to stop being irrational, ALL of them. Every single one of the Service Chiefs is acting like a CEO whose company is at risk of folding because of competition; begging for money to keep them afloat, and requesting tariffs to keep out the competition. Defense of the nation is supposed to be a team effort! The Service Chiefs responsibility is not to maintain a jobs program for their cronies; it is to ensure that they meet the needs of the defense of the nation as outlined by civilian leadership.

Then we can get to the conference described by the author.

This of course is just a dream…congress would never tolerate this, neither would the contractors…and the Service Chiefs will never stop acting like hegemons whose importance is based on how many people work for them and the legacies they create as they move into the private sector.

Whew, what a rant…


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 9:26pm

As your former pupil I cannot agree more with your analysis and proposal. I would point to how the Marine Corps approached this issue. Through organizational alignment at the O-5, O-6, and GO level, combined with clear commander's guidance the Force Structure Review Board (much like you propose) developed a Marine Corps sized to COCOM requirements. The Army's challenge, as the force resets (mostly to CONUS), is determining its troop-to-task. As we move away from numbered plans setting the force requirements, we move towards contingency/TSC focused model. And this has not been a traditional Army mission (outside a few separate brigades). The Army will really have to look hard at its equipment requirements. Without being forward stationed, the Army is just too heavy to respond to rapid emergencies. This leaves our recent models of long build-up/RSOI, big footprints as the only viable option....unfortunately I don't believe this model will work in the Post OIF/OEF world.


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 7:24pm

One last comment. In a resource constrained environment this is not a conversation we should be having alone. All the other branches need to be in on this. We are not the only service that can put hot steel on target. Who can/should do what? How do we divide up the mission? The level of overlap and redundancy we have now is unsustainable. We need to clarify capabilities and responsibilities. We also need to determine who has special responsibilities because of the nature of their organization.


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:39pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

Agreed. I am completely confused by the CSA's remarks on the Guard. Admittedly, he may be technically correct. I am not about to suggest that the average maneuver RC unit is equal to the average AC unit at any given time, but I certainly don't think the gulf is as big as many in the AC think.


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 5:04pm

In reply to by Sparapet

The Army is doing a horrible job of arguing why they need 490,000 Soldiers, but they are doing even worse starting a food fight with the Guard. It’s just plain dumb. First, the Guard has substantial political clout. Second, it is not a rational argument. To say that the Guard and Reserve cannot generate the Soldiers the Army needs when the Reserve Forces have been providing those Solders for the last ten years makes people look at you funny. Third, the argument that “the Guard is not as well trained as the Active Duty” is self defeating, especially if you are trying to get a bigger piece of the funding pie for the Active Component. Does that mean we need to restructure their training program? Perhaps we need to put more funding into Guard training. It was not the best way to go.

I honestly don’t know what the Army brass was thinking. I get the impression that after twelve years of war where Congress was throwing money at them, the Generals were simply expecting Congress to “trust” them. There needs to be a serious conversation about this, but I really don’t expect the Army to be leading it.


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 4:21pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

The Army is failing quite miserably at making its case. The numbers currently thrown around are not based on mission assessments as much as on meeting the targeted reduction in budget. It's almost like bazaar bargaining rather than a rational debate on strategic needs versus economic capacity.

The active Army could certainly drop to 390,000, but that would mean an institutional dependence and better integration with the Reserve Component, for as you point out, any deployment beyond a year long rotation (a strange historical thing we do) would demand that the Reserve is alerted, mostly trained, and being mobilized during that first year. Considering that "guaranteeing the Army will be home by Christmas" doesn't ever actually work out, any major expedition would require Reserve Component integration into the planning...which means readiness, which means the Guard and Reserve are an operational reserve, which means it trains more. Etc etc etc etc etc

It's doable. In fact, I think it is preferred, as transferring the pain of military operations to the civilian population through the reserve is a healthy thing. But that means stronger protections for the reservists in their careers. ESGR would have to be strengthened. Employers would have to sacrifice by accommodating military adventurism. So I am actually quite for a 390,000 man Army.


Tue, 01/14/2014 - 3:15pm

I am guessing that the Army really does not want to do this. “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense” (“Priorities”) lists ten Primary Missions of the U.S. Armed Forces, but “[t]he overall capacity of U.S. forces, however, will be based on requirements that the following subset of missions demand: counter terrorism and irregular warfare; deter and defeat aggression; maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent; and defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities.” Of those four, the only one that requires a large Army contingent is “deter and defeat aggression”. Under that heading the capabilities are defined loosely as a “win one, hold one” requirement. “As a nation with important interests in multiple regions, our forces must be capable of deterring and defeating aggression by an opportunistic in one region even when our forces are committed to a large-scale operation elsewhere” This does not mean that Soldiers on the ground will be required to deter or defeat the opportunistic aggressor. “Even when the U.S. forces are committed to large scale operations in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.” Arguably, imposing unacceptable costs could be effected without large scale maneuver elements on the ground.

So, the Active Duty Army needs to be able to fight one major regional war while assisting in deterring or defeating an opportunistic aggressor. The size of a force I have seen several places for fighting one major regional war is five divisions, roughly 90,000 troops. With support, we can bring it to 210,000 for one year or less. Why one year or less? In part, because any war that will last longer than that will certainly require additional reserve units and in part because the language of the “Priorities” indicates that operations for “an extended period” will include mobilized forces. What do we need for the opportunistic aggressor? Well, we haven’t committed the Marines yet. But let’s give the operation another division with support, say 60,000 Soldiers. Let’s include force generations, training, non-deploying logistics, and other Soldiers numbering, of, let’s say, 100,000. Add a SOF force of, say 20,000, and you get a REQUIRED force of 390,000 Soldiers without ever touching the Guard or Reserve. Our floor should never drop below that.

Now, that is just a SWAG, but at least I can argue where my numbers come from. Currently, the Army does not appear to be making any argument of the type. Probably because it won’t support an end strength of 490,000. I think they need to start looking at coming up with a better way to defend what they want. But I don’t think that the Army will seriously look at what they really need to support our defense priorities because it will be ugly for them. At least not until they are down to 420,000 and the vultures are still circling.