Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Larger (Operational) Army

General Pace notes:

With regard to the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, before I would go to the country and say we need to make the Army bigger, the first thing I owe the country is to ensure that we have done, with the Army size that we have, all that we should do to increase combat power, and General Schoomaker and Secretary Harvey and the Army are working that very hard. They have taken, without changing the size of the Army -- they are taking the active Army from 33 brigades of about 3,500 individuals up to 42 brigades of about 4,500 individuals. So you've got nine more units that are about a thousand man each bigger than the units used to have. By taking the institutional Army, the things that are being done that are not combat and reducing the numbers of soldiers who are applied to those missions and changing some of those to civilian jobs. That's the first step you need to take.

Then you need to look to the future and ask yourself how much force will the nation need two or three years from now, because if you say to me tomorrow, "Pete, I want you to build another division," the answer is, "Okay, sir; it will be about two years from the time you say `go' until we can build that division," because you need to recruit and you need to have the officers and the NCOs and all the people that make a division whole, to recruit it and train it and get it in the field. And then you need to look down the road and say by the time you get it built, will you need it?

Comes the time when I personally believe that we need to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps, I will make those recommendations to the secretary of Defense and to the president. Those recommendations are military advice, and I should keep my military advice inside the military advice chain. But I can tell you that that is what the chiefs and I are routinely scrubbing, which is the size of the force, the capacity of the force, the resilience of the force and the potential size needed in the future, and, based on that analysis, making recommendations to the secretary about the changes that are already ongoing and are they going to be sufficient, or might more changes be needed.

As someone who has long thought we need a larger Army, I came around a while ago to supporting the Pentagon's approach until this avenue exhausts its potential and we have to consider end strength.

I don't know why critics who say we aren't growing the Army don't recognize that by taking an authorized Army slot and replacing a soldier with a civilian you get the equivalent of one more soldier without raising end strength. Critics, including myself at one time, called for two more divisions to be added to the active component. This would have--in the old organization--meant six more brigades. Even under the new organization we'd be talking eight new brigades.

So I got the increase I wanted. And I do worry whether Congress will fund more combat brigades in the long run. So let's see how far we can go with the Pentagon's plan to free up slots in the current end strength for combat troops.