Magazine article Army

Dismissing Army's Manning Problem Won't Solve It

Magazine article Army

Dismissing Army's Manning Problem Won't Solve It

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago in this space, I commented on a recent critique of the Army's performance in Iraq by a senior British officer who had served there. Among his criticisms, roundly disputed by some U.S. officers, was the observation that Americans are reluctant to accept evidence tending to invalidate preconceived views, even when responsible for developing it.

That pattern ironically was on public display this week when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flatly rejected the conclusions of two recent studies of Army manning, one commissioned by his own department.

Both warn that current overseas commitments and their associated deployment pressures threaten the continued health of the U.S. Army. The study commissioned by the Pentagon goes even further, concluding that without a significant increase in manpower, "the Army simply cannot sustain the force levels needed to break the back of the [Iraqi] insurgent movement."

Rejecting that view, Rumsfeld declared that those conducting such studies were ill-informed. "I just can't imagine someone looking at the United States armed forces today and suggesting that they're close to breaking," he insisted at a news conference Wednesday, adding sourly, "the people writing these things don't have any more insight than the other people around here do."

Asked why he bothered to commission studies by people he claims don't know what they're talking about, Rumsfeld replied without blushing that "It's a useful thing to invite people to make comments and critiques and to opine on this and to opine on that." Just what use it might be to a defense department notoriously contemptuous of opposing views whatever their source, Rumsfeld declined to specify.

Meanwhile, still another recent Pentagon-directed study has fared no better. Commissioned by Rumsfeld's Program Analysis and Evaluation directorate and performed by his own Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), the study contends that the Army's current approach to reorganizing its combat forces into self-contained brigade-size formations threatens to diminish rather than enhance the Army's actual fighting capability.

In order to expand the number of deployable brigades without increasing the Army's end strength, each brigade is being organized with only two infantry or armor battalions rather than the three commonly considered necessary for successful combat operations. According to the IDA study, that decision implies the effective elimination of 40 maneuver battalions.

"The essence of land power is resident in the maneuver battalions that occupy terrain, control populations and fight battles, not in headquarters and enablers," the study comments. …

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