Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is the Army Getting So Small It Will Break?

The Army is shrinking. Will it shrink enough to break it?

The U.S. Army could be cut down from 450,000 to 420,000 active duty soldiers should sequestration – automatic spending cuts across the board in order to reduce federal expenditure – continue with the result that the army would not be able to meet its current deployments.

“The Army’s near breaking point if you go that low, I think. Already we see the fact that people are demanding the Army do many missions — from West Africa and the Ebola crisis to now resurgent problems in Iraq, Syria. Russia of course posing a threat,” Carson said. “So the demand on the Army is not slackening at all, and at the same time, their numbers are falling.”

We've announced that at 450,000--which I think is 30,000 smaller than pre-9/11--we'll go to 30 active combat brigades plus 2 battalion task forces. That's a reduction from the pre-9/11 32 brigades.

Which puzzles me since my back-of-the-envelope calculations indicated to me that we could maintain 32 brigades at 450,000.

Remember, during the Iraq War we freed up 40,000 slots by eliminating Cold War-era units no longer needed and by moving some military jobs to civilian jobs in order to expand the number of brigades (and we made them smaller).

But even the pre-9/11 Army had a force structure that required 40,000 more troops to fully man, if memory serves me. Since 9/11 we've mobilized reservists in significant numbers that could fill out that shortage. Perhaps we can't count on that any more.

Now that I think about it, it's been a long time since I've gotten email updates on National Guard and Reservists on active duty. I wonder why?

I even thought we could handle 32 brigades at 420,000. Although I admitted that counted on the smaller brigades we had at the time based on two battalions. We're going back to three-battalion brigades as they were pre-9/11.

Going to 420,000 has to cut more brigades if they are larger, it seems, which would make it hard to wage wars--especially if it is a tough ground fight requiring troop rotations.

But I don't understand how that level would "break" the Army. We don't have 15-20 (?) brigades fighting overseas as we did at the height of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mind you, I think it is unwise to drop to perhaps 24 combat brigades, no matter how good they are.

Remember, we established our own 10-year rule 6 years ago. That holiday from history is ending all around us right now. Do we have 4 more years?

Good grief, we can bust out my defense of the 32-brigade Army that I penned in 2007.

Anyway, remember that one day we will go to war with the Army we have and not the Army we wished we had at the time. Because right now we are defining what we wish to have in that future.

UPDATE: While I'm skeptical that our Army will "break," there is no doubt it could be too small.