Army adapts to spending cuts in the middle of a war

| November 23, 2012

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.

Category: Big Army

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Out of the Army in seven days and leaving 14 years at the door (a little bit of “E” with plenty of “O”). I can’t say that I am sad that I am leaving, or happy that its over. Just feel numb. The best years of my life were consumed by deployments, or the preparation for deployments. As a middle management “O”, my generation (to include the wonderful and courageous nco’s I served alongside) spent over a decade trying to evolve this thing into something better than what we were handed. When our generals were taking 6 years to come up with doctrine, we were recording the way ahead in our storm-safe notebooks.
    The silly ass generation from the ’90s is who we have leading us know. The same generation that was raised on grab-ass in pursuit of the “one-block”. During my initial counseling with my first company commander (pre-war), he informed me that when I was a CO, I would judged on reenlistment, accountability of equipment…garrison with a capital G. Tactical ability was a distant seventh. Those guys are the LTC/COLs, and the guys that raised them are the GEN’s now. Guys who are good in the field? Yeah, thanks for playing, we got this from here. (Frankly, I will never understand why field/combat studs are not “fitted” to garrison. Combat rewards efficiency and focus, things current garrison life is sorely lacking). Hell, of all the stud senior ncos out there, we get stuck with this Chandler chick to raise the next generation of ncos? Count me out. Oh, and let him know I will be rocking an unshaven face this weekend, come and get me sweetie.
    As I am clearing, little rosy cheeked Joes are in-processing post fresh from IET. I was stuck on an elevator with a couple days ago, and all I could think of is the Army they are coming into is no longer I place I want to be. Just wanted to look them in the eye and say, “sorry guys, we failed you.”

  2. Firehand says:

    Son is currently in Army, mentioned a while back that the command level in his unit was bitching about lousy retention rates and “Why aren’t we keeping more of them in?” Had they truly asked that question they’d have gotten answers, but they wouldn’t have liked them. Because it’s exactly the crap they’re doing that’s driving people out.

    As you mentioned, they’re getting rid of troops for flat idiotic reasons just to reduce the number of troops, then wondering why more and more people refuse to re-up…

  3. Arms says:

    Right now there are a lot more reasons to hit the door, than to re-up. Its really sad because most of the high speed joes are the first ones to leave because they know theres more oppertunity out there.

  4. Let me think for a minute…Oh yeah, in 1974 I went through 11Charlie Grunt school in Ft Polk, LA. They trained us to fight in Nam, then sent us to West Germany.
    Then years later, we were still training to fight the “cold war” when terrorist tactics were the game of the day.
    in 2003 we went to Ft Polk, LA ( I had hoped to never go back there) and trained for Bosnia…I mean a hot and humid swamp is just like the cold mountains of Bosnia right?
    A year later we trained in Ft Lewis, WA for Iraq because the wet woods were just like the hot and dry desert of Iraq.

    For over 235 years the Army has always been a little off base on the training…why change now?

  5. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    My nephew is finishing his 2nd tour and is getting out. He was planning a career but says thing are getting crazier by the day. He said there are SFCs getting out and they’re over 1/2 way to retirement!

  6. Firehand says:

    I’ll propose two more factors:
    One: they don’t like the idea of staying in under Obama(multiple reasons), and
    Second: After Benghazi, there’s real concern that they’ll be in some nasty ass-end of the world with the barbarians trying to come through the wire, and that whether they get support or not will depend on whether Obama & Co. think there’ll be fewer political problems from giving support or letting them be overrun.

  7. RunPatRun says:

    Also decided to get out during the Clinton drawdown, which was epically mismanaged. One point though, I recall lots of rotations to the Mojave Desert in the 80’s, granted it was still CALFEXes and huge Armor Ops, but definitely hot sand and rocks, and very uncomfortable in MOPP gear.

  8. Beretverde says:

    My nephew is called an “all star” and “fast tracker” in “Division” (OERs). He is bailing and will get out in January.

  9. Anonymous says:

    the do more with less mentality is whats killing us. the trivial nuisances about tattoos in the war zone, and barring people from reenlisting with tattoos and other menial things is also getting rid of highly qualified people. prior service options for any branch are almost a joke:
    1. AF prior service program is almost a joke in itself(does it even exist?)
    2. Navy is not taking any prior to active duty, with very very selective with their Reserve(p.s. if you have any VA – kiss your chances good bye)
    3. Army is barely taking anyone back to active, with little to no options(go back to primary MOS or special forces, in my case back to Artillery for another 4, or try for special forces and most likely fail and possibly get kicked for breach of contract or go into the Infantry for 4 years – no thanks guys). Army Reserve is getting pretty stringent now also.

    making it ridiculous for guys who can serve or can serve for another couple of years is also getting rid of qualified and experienced individuals, even with the USMC, there are Marines coming in and serving their minimum of 4, with no deployment experience. Once all that experience is gone, it is almost impossible to get it back.

    No wonder people are getting out left and right, when worrying about tattoos(p.s. Taliban dont give a shit if you have them or not) trivial bs, and constant blue falcon each other is overriding the ranks. even qualified and experienced people who want to go reserve and serve again can’t because the rules are to stringent right now.

    and the politicians and main stream America not having enough fight in themselves to conquer and destroy, lets see what happens when our country gets attacked again and we have barely any Armed Forces to defend(or attack) and no experience fighting a war.

  10. SGT Ted says:

    This is just a return to the CAPSTONE model of the 80s and early 90s.

    Side note: Ever notice the slide into stupidity for the Senior NCOs ranks matches the requirement that they have a college degree in order to compete for promotions?

  11. Alex says:

    I started active duty in 1985 a retired 24 years latter, and what I think of when I see good guys bailing from the Army is my Girlfriend who works in Juarez Mexico for the Police Internal Affairs when asked why she dosn’t come over to the U.S. to escape the violence, she replied “if all the good people run away then the asshole win”

  12. Hondo says:

    If you think retention is bad now, guys – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Two words: sequestration and (economic) recovery. If either actually happens, of course.