Growing the Army
Kroesen, Frederick J., Army
Requirements for a larger Army transcend those of the immediate present. Solving the problems of the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is and will be the job of the existing forces and only if the problem persists will Army expansion begin to play a role. If the commitment does persist, however, thinking that today's soldiers, most of whom are returning to a combat theater for the second, third or fourth time, will in another three years be returning for their fifth or sixth tour, combines wishful thinking with disastrous force management. The most pressing need to grow the Army is the possibility that the Iraq and Afghan campaigns will continue.
Aside from that primary requirement, growing the Army is equally important for the long-term health of our military establishment and for the nation's ability to satisfy its national military strategy. We are sustaining our current war capabilities by expending our materiel assets and overtaxing our manpower. We are either ignoring our strategic requirement for coping with another major contingency or we are overestimating the capabilities of the other services to handle such a crisis. We have depreciated if not endangered our future by reducing the resources available for the training and education of our leadership and for the research and development of new equipment and technology. We are contracting for services once provided by Army structure and expertise.
A number of forces have been at work for the past 25 years to cause the current conditions. The desire for the "peace dividend due the American people" at the end of the Cold War resulted in drastic reductions in the military forces, especially the Army, which were in fact deletions of capabilities. The first Persian Gulf War, fought before force reductions, provides a comparison of the troop basis available then and now. The loss of 300,000 active Army soldiers was a precursor and commitment to the policy of "doing more with less" and the price we are now paying for such a policy.
The tiresome, age-old contention that technology replaces manpower on the battlefield is always a reason to reduce the size of the Army. Such thinking cost us two more divisions in the downsizing of the early 1990s, when the secretary of Defense assured one and all that the remaining 10 divisions were to be fully equipped, modernized and manned with highly qualified technicians. It inhibited any thought of increasing manpower in 2001 and 2003, when our current wars commenced. …