The State of the Army

Schoomaker20b_1 "The Army, meanwhile, is considering ways it can speed up the creation of two additional combat brigades _ a move intended to expand the pool of active-duty combat brigades in order to relieve some of the strain on the Army from large-scale deployments to Iraq.

Under the plan being developed, the new brigades could be formed next year and be ready to be sent to Iraq in 2008, defense officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans were not final.

The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, told a commission Thursday that he wants to increase the half-million-member force beyond the 30,000 troops authorized in recent years. And he warned that the Army "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves.

Though Schoomaker didn’t give an exact number, he said it would take significant time, saying 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers could be added per year. Schoomaker has said it costs roughly $1.2 billion to increase the Army by 10,000 soldiers.

Officials also need greater authority to tap into the National Guard and Reserve, long ago set up as a strategic reserve but now needed as an integral part of the nation’s deployed forces, Schoomaker told a commission studying possible changes in those two forces.

"Over the last five years, the sustained strategic demand … is placing a strain on the Army’s all-volunteer force," Schoomaker said during a Capitol Hill hearing. "At this pace … we will break the active component" unless reserves can be called up more to help, he said."  Baldor


The Grand Master has spoken.  General Peter Schoomaker has bluntly told the people’s Congress that the people’s army, entrusted to him as Army Chief of Staff is a ship headed for the rocks.

The Regular Army (active force) is going to break, split wide open from stress and grief and family loneliness.  There are not enough units to rotate in and out of the war in any way that human flesh can bear indefinitely.  We have to have more brigades of regular soldiers to carry the burden.  Rumsfeld’s snotty remark about going to war withe army you have rather than the one you would prefer is now revealed as more than boorish.  It is the description of approaching disaster, a disaster which will take decades to repair in the fabric of the Army to say nothing of the wreckage of our place in the world.

What about the reserve components, the National Guard and Army Reserve?  Schoomaker reminded the Congress that present Defense policy does not allow a reservist to serve on active duty for more than two years in a four year period.  This means that units must be sent back overseas without many of their key personnel, men and women who are comrades, and without whom the unit is not the same place to live and fight.  Instead individuals are brought in from all over the country to fill the places of friends. 

Combat units are like tribal groups.  The bonds that make good units into more than the sum of their parts are severely damaged by the introduction of strangers on the eve of battle.  In time, such newcomers hopefully become part of the "family" but a high price may be paid while this is happening.

I hope Mr Rumsfeld enjoys his retirement.  pl

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9 Responses to The State of the Army

  1. John Howley says:

    More from today’s WaPo (sorry about the long quote but it’s right on the money):
    As a result, out of the total of 522,000 Army National Guard and reserve members, only about 90,000 are still available to be mobilized, according to Army data. “We’re out of Schlitz,” declared an Army chart depicting the shortage as a depleted barrel, saying this leaves “future missions in jeopardy.”
    Compounding the problem, the Pentagon has restricted repeated involuntary call-ups, leading to deeper and deeper holes in Army Guard and reserve units. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers have been mobilized for Iraq and Afghanistan. So when a unit is called to deploy, the only soldiers who can go are volunteers and new soldiers. The remainder are often drawn from dozens of units across the United States.
    The result is systematically “broken” and “non-cohesive” units, said another Army chart titled “OSD-mandated Volunteer Policy Stresses the Force,” referring to the office of the secretary of defense.
    For example, Army Reserve units now must take an average of 62 percent of their soldiers for deployments from other units, compared with 6 percent in 2002 and 39 percent in 2003, according to the Army data. In one transportation company, only seven of 170 soldiers were eligible to deploy. The other 163 came from 65 other units in 49 locations, said the commission chairman, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold L. Punaro, who quoted a Marine Reserve officer as calling the policy “evil.”
    “Military necessity dictates that we deploy organized, trained, equipped cohesive units — and you don’t do that by pick-up teams,” said Schoomaker, a decorated veteran of the Army’s Delta Force who served in the ill-fated Desert One rescue mission in Iran in 1980.

  2. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. this has been being bruited about in the mainstream press for at least 2, if not more years. why is it just now that it is being made plain? and how does this fit with the Whitehouse ‘new strategy’–yet to be unveiled.

  3. Instead individuals are brought in from all over the country to fill the places of friends.
    I believe that the Army has been doing that for years already. When I was at my unit they were in a constant state of being undermanned, when they were not preparing for deployment, with soldiers being counted 2 and 3 times in positions that a truely combat ready unit would need to have “different” individuals serving in. (I think we discussed this at BooTrib a year or so ago?) They would ship in soldiers from other units to fill out the rosters before we deployed.
    The other real problem? The NG/Reserves are already even more broken than the regular Army. They are in no real position to supplement the needs of the regular Army.

  4. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    This post MUST (I’m not ordering you around:-) be submitted to the WaPo and the NYT as an OpEd piece. Please!
    You know what you’re talking about.

  5. semper fubar says:

    Maybe it’s about time Americans rethought how important it is to staff 700+/- military bases in 130 countries around the world. What are we doing there? What is our purpose?
    Why do we need hundreds of throusands of military people scattered out all over the globe? How much is this costing us, the taxpayers, and what benefit are WE, the ordinary Americans, really deriving from it? What else could we be doing with all that effort and manpower and money?
    So, break the Army? Maybe it’s about time. Maybe that’s the only way to save ourselves.

  6. ked says:

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that US ground combat forces are in this mess! How could this possibly be? It must have been completely unforeseen over the past ten years (when I first heard about systemic, unaddressed optempo problems & the impact on readiness, cohesiveness, sanity, etc).
    So, we are engaged all over the world w/ an Army no larger than half the size that the missions & national strategy (well, if you can call it that – how ’bout “policy-makers behavior modalities”?) calls for… Schoomaker either just woke up OR Rummy was one heck of a scary boss (make HIM the ME spl envoy in recognition of his skills!).
    Yeah, manpower is soooo expensive, unlike giant gee-whiz (& failed / failing) weapons systems dev programs (FCS, Land Warrior, JTRS, etc, etc – not to mention the cold war style USAF & USN fleets).
    Hi-tech toys useless to the guys getting blown up every day, great for Tier 1 contractors, though… Does stupidity belong right up there w/ fraud, waste & abuse?
    I can’t quite recall… just what constitutes (sorry for the pun) high crimes and misdemeanors, anyway?

  7. chimneyswift says:

    A story comes to mind.
    In 2003, when the invasion part of this war was going pretty full-swing, I was sitting with an friend “watching the war” on CNN. My friend is a Gulf War I vet and very much a pro-troops kind of guy. We’re watching and talking and doing math on what we know of troop levels in Germany and Korea and still in the States, and he says to me very simply, “You know what bothers me? What if this is all we got?”
    I had no answer for him then, but what occurs to me now is a point I would like to see made from time to time:
    This is the problem with wars of choice. If there is no need to fight, there will be no support from the population in terms of new volunteers. There was never a good reason for this war and so now we’re grinding down the very human resources the Armed Forces are made of.
    What did Rumsfeld say? People are fungible? Fung this, Rummy.

  8. Dan Tompkins says:

    Gen. Schoomaker is getting some unjust heat for a seeming contradiction between his statement this week and earlier denials that the army is “broken,” e.g. to Joe Galloway in Aug ’06. Reserve Chief Gen Helmly had introduced the latest “broken” thread in Jan ’05 (! two years ago) about his own branch, and Galloway had picked up on it.
    I think that the attacks on Gen. Schoomaker, by people I generally like, are misplaced. He has spoken openly about deployment challenges, e.g. in a presser on 2/2/06 with Gen Helmly. His language has been less confrontational but the implication that he’s become straightforward only with his boss out the door seems to ignore the data.
    In any case, good post, Colonel. Thanks.
    Dan Tompkins

  9. Sam says:

    As to unit’s being tribal groups – anyone other than me remember the FNG syndrom from VN?

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