Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post writes about the challenges the Army faces as they prepare to cut spending while they’re still fighting a war and this administration prepares to balance the budget on the back of our national security. While SMA Raymond Chandler is focused on the important issues, like tattoos and uniformity, the generals have an untenable wishlist;
“I want an Army that is capable of many missions at many speeds, many sizes, under many different conditions,” Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, said in a speech this month.
In recent months, the Army has announced a new plan to focus individual combat brigades and divisions on specific regions of the world, such as Asia, Africa or Europe. Soldiers in these units will receive special cultural and language training and could be dispatched on training missions to work with developing armies.
Some Army officers, however, worry that Odierno’s pronouncements and the regional plans are too vague. “What bugs me is being stuck in an institution that doesn’t know where it is going,” said one senior Army officer at the Pentagon.
While I agree that it would certainly be nice to have units dedicated to certain parts of the world, a six-year-old can understand that troop cuts and slashed spending make that a dream. We spent the eighties preparing to fight the Soviets in the Fulda Gap, but we ended up fighting the Iraqis in the waddies of Al Busayyah. Mostly, our training focused on basic soldiering, and that’s what won the day. The war turned out to be a very long Table VIII exercise at Grafenwoer without the trees.
In the nineties, the Army tried to focus on “meals on wheels” training, to conform to that president’s vision of what the military should be used for, that resulted in depleted war-fighting skills, and depleted war-fighting stocks. I remember reading that MP units in Fort Hood couldn’t accomplish their semi-annual weapons qualification because there was no ammo. That’s indicative of a military that lost it’s focus. When the Army had to convert to door-kickers, they discovered that handing out MREs to civilians wasn’t good preparation for the MOUT operations in Iraq.
An internal Army survey conducted in December 2011 found that only 26 percent of Army leaders believed that the Army was “headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years,” down from 38 percent in 2006.
That will deplete the Army’s greatest resource and the greatest benefit of a decade at war – combat-experienced leaders. Many of our Vietnam veterans were gone by the time we went to Desert Storm and the ones who were left were an embarrassment to the profession. Retention should be the main goal of senior leadership, but the Pentagon’s plans to erode the reasons soldiers continue to soldier won’t help them maintain the level of expertise they need to face our next challenge.
But, yeah, let’s throw people out for their tattoos and worry that everyone is the same uniform, because that doesn’t demoralize the force at all. In the article, some leaders are pleased that they don’t have to deal with substance abuse among the ranks like they did after Vietnam, but they seem bound and determined to create a substance abuse problem, because they know how to deal with that.
I left the military, along with a bunch of my peers, because it was obvious to me that the Clinton Administration was engaged in dismantling the Army that we’d spent our young lives rebuilding since the Vietnam War. And the chance that will happen again is the greatest threat to our military and our national security.
If I was going to focus on an area of the world where we’re most likely to fight the next war, I’d make the obvious choice. Iran has been at war against us for the last thirty years, but apparently we’re too naive to recognize that simple and obvious fact. A rational argument could be made that we should have done to Iran what we did to Iraq instead.
Just because the politicians never learn from the past lessons of the post-war periods and plan on savings from national security expenditures, doesn’t mean that the military has to learn those tough lessons all over again. And those tough lessons are always paid for by the next group of military members who pay the price with their blood.