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650,000 MAN ARMY ?

Colonel Austin Bay’s op-ed “The bottom line is, U.S. needs a 650,000-troop Army” in The Houston Chronicle ( hat tip to Rob Thornton at SWC):

“Let’s return to 1990, just before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The U.S. Army had around 750,000 soldiers on active duty; the U.S. Marine Corps had 197,000 Marines. That same year, the U.S. population broke 250 million. Today, the U.S. population is slightly over 300 million.

That “old future” occurred during the final phases of the Cold War. Department of Defense budgeteers had already begun paring Cold War force structure. Though the Soviet Union hadn’t officially dissolved, cost-cutters identified Cold War air wings and armored divisions as expensive legacies.

Desert Storm briefly delayed the planned decline in strength. Based on “the near-term future” the Defense and Congress envisioned, the United States didn’t need Cold War troop levels. However, by 1995, peacekeeping commitments began stressing the personnel system. Then, the United States entered the Balkans, and hasn’t quite left yet.

The Army asked for a 30,000 troop “plus up” in the fiscal year 1997 budget request to meet those personnel requirements. It was denied.The Clinton administration began using the reserves as an operational force rather than as a strategic, war-winning reserve.The Bush administration continued to do this after 9/11, nudging Army end strength from around 480,000 in 2001 to approximately 515,000 today.

While that’s arguably close to the 30,000 “missing” since 1996, it’s a far cry from the forces on hand on Aug. 2, 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s tanks were on the move. It’s also proved to be inadequate to support Iraq, Afghanistan, peacekeeping operations and emergency contingencies”

Read the rest here. I recall when we had 300,000 soldiers in West Germany alone. It wasn’t all that long ago.

I’m inclined to agree that DoD and USG resources can be much better allocated to permit a significant increase on boots on the ground; the tasks assigned to the new boots though, is the critical variable. Not the boots themselves.

The spear needs more “point” and far less “butt”.

5 Responses to “”

  1. Fabius Maximus Says:

    With a larger military imagine how many more and larger states we can bomb and/or invade!

    Folks build tools that they intend to use. Increasing the size of our military — already by far the most expensive on the planet — says much about how some Americans see the world.

    Given our poor record at using force since WWII, perhaps entrusting our defense to a larger DoD — in its present form — is not the smartest or most likely to succeed path.

  2. mark Says:

    Hi FM

    From my perspective it is actually a counterintuitive proposition: We need additional troops not do more things poorly but to do a fewer number of things well. Or at least correctly.

    The size of the military does not correlate with how well statesmen exercise its use. There are well-chosen and poorly chosen conflicts but a military that lacks the ability to execute will fail at either.

  3. Adrian Says:

    When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    Or maybe it’s, When you have a hammer, you want a bigger hammer?

    With 300 million people we are forced to lower our standards to fill the billets we have already. Where is the sudden burst of patriotism going to come from? This expansion seems unrealistic.

  4. Andrew Says:

    It depends what you want those 650,000 to do. If you want them ready to fight the high-tech conventional war against China, patrol the streets of Mosul and the countrysides of Afghanistan, train African forces, conduct worldwide clandestine anti-terrorist ops, provide humanitarian relief, and respond to any other global contingency that may arise, then you could argue for that number. I wouldn’t oppose it out of hand.

    But I tend to agree with fabius; we need to do better with what we have now before we look to grow. Perfect example: the recent authorizations for growth in end-strength are for brigade combat teams structured, equipped, and trained just like the ones that are barely treading water in Iraq right now!

    Why not make a more concerted effort to match our current force to the missions we want them to accomplish before we simply throw more mismatched forces at an increasingly varied and complex set of missions.

    Perhaps this lack of direction is because we cannot seem to settle on what purpose we want our forces to serve. Maybe just adding quantity is is the lowest common denominator solution to a question that everyone seeks to avoid (primarily by saying we will do it all).

  5. dinosaur con Says:

    If a demo gets elected in 08 the military budget will be reduced to a trickle. it’s the only way they can “balance the budget” and ladle out the pork as a dem is destined to do.

    high ranking officers will resign in disgust. life will go on

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