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Friday, October 21, 2005
American Army Overextended?

(1) Troop Strength
Our nation's army is horribly over-deployed. This stretching of a national resources has led, as we know, to the slower than preferred response of the Department of Homeland Security to Katrina, and to increasingly shorter times between deployments. A Rand analysis piece by Lynn Davis and J. Michael Polich comments on this worrisome issue. Lynn Davis, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, was U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs from 1993 to 1997. She recently visited the University of Chicago to give us a briefing on this very thing. For those interested in the research brief, go here. Defense analyst Michael Polich is a senior behavioral scientist at RAND. They warn us that:

Today, the bulk of the active-duty army is either in Iraq, returning from Iraq, or preparing to go to Iraq. The formerly part-time soldiers in the National Guard now account for about 40 percent of the brigades deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. And since the war began in Iraq two years ago, the length of a standard mobilization for reserve units going there has risen well above the one-year goal that was originally intended.

These events have placed a growing strain on the U.S. Army as it seeks to train its soldiers and to maintain a pool of units ready to respond rapidly to new contingencies. This situation confronts the nation with urgent questions about the proper size of the army’s active and reserve forces, about the optimum number and types of combat units needed to sustain high levels of overseas deployments while maintaining readiness for other missions, and about the effects on soldiers and units stretched thin by the repeated, rapid rotations.

(2) Equipment
Besides the thinning of troop strength, the United States' military, especially the reserve forces, also finds itself short on equipment. Seemingly an ominous implication of Secretary of Defense's Rumsfield's retort to a querying soldier at an Army Q-and-A a few months back, we have the army that we have and not the one that we want. The army seems to get the equipment that it has and not the equipment that it needs or wants.

Every time I read or hear about the campaign in Iraq I get the sneaky suspicion that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The New York Times offers:

Guard units in the United States have, on average, only 34 percent of their authorized equipment and are especially short of trucks, helicopters, night-vision goggles, radios and other communications equipment, said the report, which was released at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.

In addition to 64,000 pieces of equipment left in Iraq for other units when Guard units rotated back the United States, 101,000 pieces have been transferred to deploying units to ensure they are fully equipped for combat, the report said.

Guard officials believe the response to Hurricane Katrina "was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters and night-vision goggles were deployed to Iraq," the report said.

This seems bad for any "global war on terror" American wanted to fight.