Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Our Army will never be broken 
Don't miss this scathing exchange between military writer Joe Gallagher (the same Joe Gallagher who co-wrote We Were Soldiers Once, and Young, and Pentagon chief flack Larry Di Rita.

Di Rita is trying to argue that the Army is stronger now than it was in 2000, and that the Army of 2001 could not have withstood the kind of indefinite troop rotation that it is enduring now.

Here's Gallagher's response:

Neither can the army of 2004, 2005, or 2006. it is grinding up the equipment and the troops inexorably.
recruiting can barely, or hardly, or not, bring in the 80,000 a year needed to maintain a steady state in the active army enlisted ranks….and that is WITH the high retention rates in the brigades.

and neither figure addresses the hemorraging of captains and majors who are voting with their feet in order to maintain some semblance of a family life and a future without war in it. and what do we do about a year when average 93 percent of majors are selected for Lt Col in all MOSs….and 100 plus percent in critical MOSs.
the army is scraping the barrel.

then there is the matter of 14 pc Cat IV recruits admitted in Oct 05 and 19pc in Nov….against an annual ceiling of 4 percent???

the returning divisions, which leave all their equipment behind in iraq, come home and almost immediately lose 2,000 to 3,000 stop-loss personnel. then tradoc goes in and cherry picks the best NCOs for DI and schoolhouse jobs. leaving a division with about 65 percent of authorized strength, no equipment to train on, sitting around for eight or nine months painting rocks. if they are lucky 90 days before re-deploying the army begins to refill them with green kids straight out of AIT or advanced armor training. if they are even luckier they have time to get in a rotation to JROTC or NTC and get some realistic training for those new arrivals. if not so lucky they just take them off to combat and let em sink or swim.
this is not healthy. this is not an army on the way up but one on the way to a disaster.

we need more and smarter soldiers. not more Cat IVs.
so far it is the willingness of these young men and women to serve, and to deploy multiple times, and to work grueling and dangerous 18 hour days 7 days a week that is the glue holding things together.

all the cheap fixes have been used; all the one-time-only gains so beloved of legislators trying to balance a budget and get out of town.

the question is what sort of an army are your bosses going to leave behind as their legacy in 2009? one that is trained, ready and well equipped to fight the hundred-year war with islam that seems to have begun with a vengeance on your watch? or will they leave town and head into a golden retirement as that army collapses for lack of manpower, lack of money to repair and replace all the equipment chewed up by iraq and afghanistan, lack of money to apply to fixing those problems because billions were squandered on weapons systems that are a ridiculous legacy of a Cold War era long gone (viz. the f/22, the osprey, the navy’s gold plated destroyers and aircraft carriers and, yes, nuclear submarines whose seeming future purpose is to replace rubber zodiac boats as the favorite landing craft of Spec Ops teams, at a cost of billions)

meanwhile the pentagon, at the direction of your boss, marches rapidly ahead with deployment of an anti-missile system whose rockets have yet to actually get out of the launch tubes. at a cost of yet more multiple billions.

you say i blame your boss for things 3 or 4 levels below him that he can’t possibly be controlling and quote accusations from present and former flag officers who he has never eyeballed personally.

well the above items are things that he directly controls, or should; things he came into office vowing he was going to fix or change drastically. and in the latest QDR, his last, he made none of the hard choices about wasted money on high dollar weapons systems that make no sense in the real world today. the same QDR quite correctly identifies an urgent need for MORE psyops and civil affairs and military police and far more troops who have foreign language training appropriate to where we fight. and we budget a paltry 191 million, i say MILLION, bucks to do all that. not even the cost of the periscopes on those oh-so-necessary submarines, or the instruments on one of those f22s.

DiRita is wholly unequal to the debate. No wonder the Pentagon couldn't get good press if everyone in the whole building raffled off its first born!

A couple of points both DiRita and Gallagher miss:

1.) Despite the war, retention rates among company and junior field-grade officers in the Army today are on par with or even better than those of the Clinton Administration - and this is even with today's strong economy luring officers out of uniform.

2.) The term "wholly inappropriate to today's battlefield" is silly. Rumsfeld must direct the military's transformation into a force that is capable of fighting not only the war for Iraq, but also, simultaneously, develop a force that can fight and win the wars that may shape up a decade from now. When China moves to threaten U.S. hegemony in the South China Sea - as Japan did in 1941 - we're going to need that sea power and those modern air superiority fighters. You cannot develop the Platonic Ideal of an Iraq fighting force while ignoring emerging threats that are as yet still on the drawing board.

3.) Hey, Gallagher... Let's see you motor a Zodiac boat all the way to the Horn of Africa from Coronado. What do you think DELIVERS those Navy SEALS in their Zodiac boats. Oh, yeah. That's right. Submarines.

4.) Yes, the Army is undergoing personel strains. And yes, we are taking some of our BEST NCOs, pulling them out of the units, and putting them on NCO Academy duties (Not a bad place for them, if they can create more NCOs like them), and on recruiting duty. Again, not a bad idea. Like attracts like. Great recruiters will attract great recruits. Dumpy recruiters will attract weak recruits.

But what Gallagher misses - and what DiRita is too inarticulate to express - is this: For all Gallagher's statistics about retention rates, our 50th percentile NCO or junior officer today is better than our 80th percentile soldier in 2001.

He (and she!) is more experienced, has better leadership skills, has seen more combat (DUH!), knows more about logistics, planning, inspecting, rehearsing, and executing than almost anyone in the Army just a few years ago. This is true in the active and reserve components alike.

I've got Specialist E-4s that are sharper, and more knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of combat operations than my E-7s and lieutenants a few years ago.

You cannot ignore this human element. And retention rates, as Gallagher himself concedes, indicates that we're keeping them.

These E-4s are tomorrow's NCOs. Some of them will go on to become tomorrow's platoon leaders and company commanders, just a few years hence.

Gallagher, you're right about spare parts. You have some points about funding and priorities. But you know as well as I do - as long as we have soldiers like we have now, our Army will never be broken.


Splash, out


Not to play editor or anything here, but it's Joe Galloway, not Gallagher.
"2.) The term "wholly inappropriate to today's battlefield" is silly. Rumsfeld must direct the military's transformation into a force that is capable of fighting not only the war for Iraq, but also, simultaneously, develop a force that can fight and win the wars that may shape up a decade from now. When China moves to threaten U.S. hegemony in the South China Sea - as Japan did in 1941 - we're going to need that sea power and those modern air superiority fighters. You cannot develop the Platonic Ideal of an Iraq fighting force while ignoring emerging threats that are as yet still on the drawing board."

The most frustrating part I saw was that Galloway wanted it both ways. He attacked the planners for preparing for the worst case scenario, i.e. war with China, and then attacked them for not preparing for potential wars with Russia and North Korea, saying "you can't predict who you will fight."

Personally, I'd say the opposite of Galloway - the younger generations within South Korean and Germany are a lost cause insofar as they currently view the world. The only way to put them out of their complacency is to force them to deal with reality,r ather than shielding them from it. Germany should have dealt with the Balkans, rather than simply calling for help and asking us to do it, and South Korea should be standing down the North Koreans, rather than pretending they are the kind Confuscian elder brother holding in line the mean Americans. Downsizing our presence in both was perhaps the most foresighted decision made by the administration.
The military was totally ineffective in 2000. They had been gutted of men and equipment by the Slick Willie administration. Today's army (and all other military forces) are the best that has ever been even with the small numbers that were left from the massive destruction during the 90's. Folks the stats are out there. All you have to do is research a little and compare numbers. When we launched the attack on Osama, where was all the equipment that should have been left by the massive manpower cuts? No where to be found. Someone sold or gave it away, i support the sold under the table idea since several bankrupt people in the white house came out multi-millionaires. We couldn't field a small force due to the cuts in procurement of equipment, including small arms ammo. The ammo plants (two in my area) had to fire up 24-7 to play catchup and supply two divisions with ammo. Are the democrats proud of the fact that the U.S. was so weakened by Slick that an invasion by Castro would have been successful if the civilian population wouldn't take up the fight. Sad but true.

Dude, you have a whole world perspective don't you? The Pentagon could use a straight shooter like you, but that would suck most of the life out of you, as well. I know. I was there. If you ever want to fall asleep without having accomplished something useful, it will probably happen there.

But you are absolutely correct about what Galloway misses and exhibits scant logical thought process about. Iran, China and Russia are the reasons we need battle groups, submarines and F-22s. The Chinese have a huge military and any Taiwan conflict will be all about the US Navy. Ditto N Korea, Ditto Iran. The only threat to the Straits of Hormuz and the entire world's oil supply is a few Kilo SSs and Silkworm missiles. Those can be eliminated by Navy Battle Groups and submarines ONLY.

N Korea and China can only be kept in check by Navy Battle Groups while you guys do your thing in Iraq and Iran (should that ever be necessary) There is no need to ignore everything else at the requirements to do well in Iraq. It isn't easy to keep all those plates spinning. But the alternative is for all of them to come crashing down at once. What a world that would look like, eh?

If it was easy to do this, it would be the Girl Scouts. Not the US military. We can't win every set. But we sure as hell better win every match.

I have a sinking feeling that we really need a half dozen more divisions. Galloway is probably right about the hundred years war thing... that, or Iran or Riyadh will in face be stupid enough to help AQ or some analogue to buy a nuke, Manhattan will disappear, and then so too will Riyadh, and Tehran, and Damascus, and with them the Islamacist threat, at least outside the Gulf region. But as long as we're presuming some measure of sanity in the Arab and Persian world (by no means a safe presumption) we have to plan for a long slog. The Op Tempo is brutal for the reg'lars, and Op Tempo is, in fact, one thing that drives good soldiers out. After spending nearly 600 days TDY or deployed my last two years in, in the mid-90's, I punched out. My to-be-wife deserved better. Not that deployment was bad or I wanted to goldbrick, but it was getting ridiculous when I started to lose leave days because I was TDY or deployed and literally was not in my normal base long enough to sign out on leave. All the over-180 day premiums they paid for TDY (and eventually the mission essential justifications that put an end to premium pay for this soldier) couldn't compensate for the complete absence of stability. Granted the mission wasn't as important - Bosnia, some Blue Hat deployments - but the home dynamic was similar and the point I arrived at mentally was probably similar. If you are trying to build a small, monastic fighting order like the Foreign Legion, you can maintain that Op Tempo for a long time, but it is probably a lot to ask over the course of a military career. It's also worth remembering that a lot of legionnnaires spend 3 or 4 years deployed, then punch out after 5 as a corporal or lance corporal, having seen enough for one (adventurous) life. Overburdening the regulars with deployments (not to mention the Guard and Reservists, who have lives outside the military) is a bad mistake. If the 50th percentile NCO or Lt is so good, then surely we must resent losing any of them to this attrition. Wouldn't it be a good time to rebuild the Reagan Army, annd count on a force of that size to be around on a more or less permanent basis?
Great post! This sort of analysis is why I keep coming back.
People forget Joe Galloway has never been a fan of OIF, but has always been a friend to soldiers. His judgement is clearly off when it comes to the man in the loop, but not so far wrong when it comes to equipment issues. See my post http://rofasix.blogspot.com/2006/04/tired-weapon-systems-in-wot.html
Some general thoughts:

1) I wonder how our budget deficit and the fact that home munitions plants are no longer the mainstay of our supply chain have affected supplying and maintaining our forces?

2) I think we need a few more divisions. Six? I don't know, but definitely a different mix of soldiers and MOS. Barnett has been saying this for some time and pushing it. The military seems to be doing stop gap measures by turning artillery men into convoy security or infantry or psyops or intel or whatever is necessary in the AO. So, I wonder what kind of training is available to soldiers and particularly officers that have to do this kind of inter company MOS changing either pre-deployment or are we doing catch up once we are there? I read from Michael Yon's place Kilcullen's recommendations to officers about to deploy regarding establishing those in their company who have these capabilities early on so they are not caught behind the eight ball once in theater.

3) So, we don't have a draft and recruiting is just stable enough to meet our usual demands. Where are we getting these six divisions? I think back to the late 80's and early 90s, with all of these divisions and the fact that pay was not as great then as now and wonder why we can't get more and better soldiers. War time? I think that in war time, no matter who says what, you do end up expanding your base line for recruiting whether there is a draft or not. I think it's funny that is the discussion, anyway. Even if you overlook Vietnam, in WWII, I'm quite certain that our draft boards were not as concerned about someone's high school diploma as we are today.

Yes, it makes a nice back drop to the "better, smarter army", but it doesn't really do anything for putting boots on the ground, walking in villages where the residence would rather shoot you than talk to you. You don't need some one with an associates or bachelors (heck, even a high school diploma)degree to do know how to form a perimeter, point and shoot. NCOs it would be nice and certainly officers as much as possible, but I am truly amazed that we imagine a diploma or degree makes a better figthing man in the trenches.

I think: Sgt York - sixth grade education. Auty Murphy. I'm sure there are hundreds that could be listed. I'm just saying that, while you might not want to expand your base to include the mentally retarded, psychologically damaged or old and lame, ignoring or refusing to enlist certain parts of the population because they haven't read tolstoy doesn't seem very smart either.

4) I doubt we're going to get these divisions. First, because transformation army seems more like they just want to transform what they have instead of setting up one or two divisions in the "as we would like it to be" and then working on the rest. Second, all the people talking about budgets and deficits and passing the bills on the hill still act like it is 1992 and we have a huge "peace dividend". We may have increased military spending, but I really question whether we have determined "war time" spending?

Are we refusing to go there in order to try and spread the cost out over decades? If we are, how credible do we see these other threats?

In some respects, I really understand where Mr. Galloway is coming from. Are we preparing for tomorrow's fight at the expense of today's war? If we do that, are we insuring future victory or current defeat?

But, I agree with Jason, this cannot be an "either/or" situation. Foreign policy and threat matrixes do not allow us to pick one. Now, the question for all armies in history is how do you do it all and still survive to actually perform mission?

I don't think I have the right answer. The first thing seems to be that we are missing the right attitude politically and spiritually in government and the public. When I say "spiritually" I'm not talking religious holy war, but I am talking about the kind of fortitude that it takes to fight these kinds of war. I think we still have too many people who think the fall of the USSR really was "the end of history" and everything after that is BS we can just ignore.
PS..I don't want to get into a "women in combat" discussion, but, with the need for additional language, civil affairs and psyops troops, I think the military is going to have to go into full swing recruiting more women (we are 51% of the population).

Not to mention, I believe that women would make better psyops troops. Not to pander to stereotypes, but if you need "subtle" or "confusion", I think women would be much better at it than men. No offense, but I've seen some of the "propaganda" that's being used there and here.

And, hey, speaking of Pentagon spokes people, I thought Victoria Clarke was way better than De Rita.
PSYOP (and CA) have been combat inroads for women for 11 years (or more), largely because the 2 MOS's have been hard to fill. The psyop ASVAB requirements are(were?) higher than those of an officer, plus there's the DLAB and jump school if you're active duty. While it's 'policy' that women don't 'technically' serve on a TPT, that was out the window in the first year of Bosnia ('96) in practice, and I imagine more and more-so ever since. Necessity is quietly bringing women into more face-to-face combatant roles over time - non-linear battlefields and low intensity conflict tend to have that effect.

That said, women can't use their 'subtlety' in cultures that view them as less than full members of society.
I think your argument that the officer retention numbers aren't as bad as the later Clinton years has some merit to it.

However, I don't know if that is the best benchmark. We are seeing the results now of that "exodus," which has resulted in a 100% primary zone promotion rate to O-4 for active duty Army officers who don't have derogatory information in their file (i.e. DUI or some other misconduct, a do not promote check box on an OER, etc.). Additionally, the O-4 board has been moved up an entire year so that there can be enough "O-4"s to meet the needs of the Army.

Based on this, in another 5 years or so, the Army will once again be short on field grades and will have to revert to promoting faster.

What kind of impact will this truly have? I don't know, and I don't have the data that tells me whether its the ACOM guys, the BCOM guys, or the COM guys that are beating feet, so I can't purport to make this out to be a bad thing for officer quality or a non-issue. Nonetheless, the current "exodus" may not be as innocuous since the benchmark of the Clinton years hasn't played out.
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