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US Military: Under Strain, at Risk
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, January 27, 2006

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has chaired a study on the state of the US military, the product of which is entitled: "The US Military: Under Strain and at Risk." [pdf] Among other things, they concluded that the current strain on the military, "if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force."

If ad hominem is your thing, you'll be happy to know the study was done by Democrats.

Meanwhile, one item in particular demands attention. While it's true that, as McQ has noted previously, reenlistment rates are generally strong — and the report acknowledges this — digging a bit deeper reveals a looming problem.
A year from now, the combination of fewer than needed recruits and fewer than needed reenlistments in the junior grades could result in a significant “hollowing” and imbalance in the Army, both active and reserve. Based on DoD’s monthly manpower report by grade, the Army already has a deficit of some 18,000 personnel in its junior enlisted grades (E1-E4). Even if it meets its recruiting and retention goals, the Army is projected to be short some 30,000 soldiers (not including stop loss) by the end of FY2006.
It's all well and good if the military is getting strong retention at the clerical, grunt or senior levels. That, however, will not solve a serious shortage of JGs.
 
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Military? Looks like the report is completly focused on Army problems, given a quick read of their "facts" in the beginning of the study.
That, however, will not solve a serious shortage of JGs.
Well that’s true, but they are the sole focus of recruting. Anything in there that that tells us how they arrived at the 30,000 figure? Or the 18,000 figure?

Hard to square that with a reported 7,000 shortfall last year. Maybe those are "military wide" estimates although they seem to be pointing, again, only to the Army.

The numbers don’t make much sense at first blush.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Another thought. I wonder if the 30K comes from the attempt to create 30,000 new slots in the army. As I remember it they were going to recruit 10,000 a year for 3 years to reach that goal and with the 7,000 shortfall last year, they only were able to recruit 3,000 toward that goal.

Is this like "spending cuts"? You know, we budgeted for 30K but only got 3K so we’re 17K short?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Well that’s true, but they are the sole focus of recruting. Anything in there that that tells us how they arrived at the 30,000 figure? Or the 18,000 figure?
The DoD’s monthly manpower report by grade.
Hard to square that with a reported 7,000 shortfall last year.
Composition. 7,000 was the aggregate shortfall. Presumably, JG shortfall can be larger, but partially made up by greater recruitment/retention in other areas.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Presumably, JG shortfall can be larger, but partially made up by greater recruitment/retention in other areas.
It was the aggregate shortfall for the Army. If we define "JG" as E-1 - E-4, it would be almost exclusively a recruiting problem.

And that fell short by 7,000. However, if we include the 10,000 that was over and above the requirement to maintain the force (i.e was the 1/3 we were trying to recruit to build new units), they were actually over what they needed for maintenance.

 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Jon, why would taking the honest stand and transparent move of identifying that the study was done by democrats be ad hominen?
I also found this sentence in your comment to be somewhat disconceting. "Presumably, JG shortfall can be larger... This shouldn’t be a guessing game even if they are democrats.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
It was the aggregate shortfall for the Army. If we define "JG" as E-1 - E-4, it would be almost exclusively a recruiting problem.
The aggregate shortfall for the Army was 6,627 in FY 2005. The shortfall specifically among E-1 to E-4 was ~18,000.

The additional 10,000 recruits a year are in the aggregate and not restricted to the JGs. Unless you’re suggesting that every (or almost every) one of those additional 10,000 recruits is assumed to be a JG, I don’t think it affects the 18,000 shortfall figure substantially.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, why would taking the honest stand and transparent move of identifying that the study was done by democrats be ad hominen?

Mere identification is not ad hominem. Addressing the source, rather than the facts, is ad hominem.
I also found this sentence in your comment to be somewhat disconceting. "Presumably, JG shortfall can be larger... This shouldn’t be a guessing game even if they are democrats.
"Presumably" was my tactful way of introducing the concept of compositional changes.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Unfortunately, while McQ referred to retention rates in his previous article, the link he gave as support referred only to recruitment rates. Just FYI.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Not true, Platypus. From the article:
In addition, DoD reports that all services met or exceeded their overall retention (reenlistment) goals for December and are projected to meet their retention goals for fiscal year 2006.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
The proper term is not JG. The term for Junior Echelon Enlisted Personnel is JEEP.

A JG is a navy or coast guard officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade, equivalent to a 1st Lieutenant in the other services.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
The aggregate shortfall for the Army was 6,627 in FY 2005. The shortfall specifically among E-1 to E-4 was ~18,000.

The additional 10,000 recruits a year are in the aggregate and not restricted to the JGs. Unless you’re suggesting that every (or almost every) one of those additional 10,000 recruits is assumed to be a JG, I don’t think it affects the 18,000 shortfall figure substantially.
So, if I read this correctly, we’re short in slots we’d never filled before (i.e. the 30,000 new slots we were hoping to fill in order to stand-up new units).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
A JG is a navy or coast guard officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade, equivalent to a 1st Lieutenant in the other services.
Yeah, we’re just using it as a local shorthand so we don’t have to type "junior grade" in every comment.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
So, if I read this correctly, we’re short in slots we’d never filled before (i.e. the 30,000 new slots we were hoping to fill in order to stand-up new units).
Leaving aside the non-fungibility of recruited/retained soldiers, yeah. (i.e., if we gain 1 Cat IV clerk and lose one Spec Op soldier, we’ve stayed at the same level, but lost effectiveness)

But even with remarkably high retention in some areas — not necessarily the areas we need — we’re losing ground. And with soldiers reaching their 3rd tour — often cited as the breaking point — in a short period, there’s quite a lot of merit to the question of how long this will last, and what effect it will have on the army.

Maybe 85% of them will be brought home soon and we’ll never find out. Or maybe not. In the meantime, and especially as the military is trying to do two things at once — transformation and fighting two ongoing conflicts — I think the Krepinevich analysis bears some serious consideration. That additional 30,000 figure was added in order to fill specific roles. If we don’t get that, we’ll strip our current units of important role-players, and — soldiers not being fungible — that can create problems. It’s one thing to have only 8 grunts when you need 10. It’s another thing entirely to have a shortage of a specific role-player.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Yeah, we’re just using it as a local shorthand so we don’t have to type "junior grade" in every comment.
Actually, I didn’t know the difference at all. Now that I do, I’m filled with apathy. But I’m willing to use McQ’s rationale to cover my tracks!
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Leaving aside the non-fungibility of recruited/retained soldiers, yeah. (i.e., if we gain 1 Cat IV clerk and lose one Spec Op soldier, we’ve stayed at the same level, but lost effectiveness)
I certainly understand the point about losing experience, and, as you say, that is a real problem and will be a growing problem.

But I find the 30,000 figure to be disingenuous at best.

If the concern is about the present force, a "study" which claims figures based on phantom units which have never existed doesn’t much impress me.
But I’m willing to use McQ’s rationale to cover my tracks!
Precisely! ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
In light of the dual transformation and military conflicts, I’m not sure that this is analogous to simply expanding a football team from 45-55 guys and then complaining about being 10 men short. Since the last 10 guys probably won’t play on a football team, it wouldn’t matter. But if that 10-man shortfall means you’ve got your nose tackle playing quarterback with the 3rd squad, then you’ve got a problem.

And eventually — not all at once — that problem reaches a tipping point. The increased incidence of divorce, the long tours going back to the deep-bench, and the difficulty of the mission, I think it’s axiomatic that we’re gradually wearing out. The only remaining questions are 1) whether we’ll be out before we break, and 2) what long term effect this will have on the military, and especially on the transformation.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
In light of the dual transformation and military conflicts, I’m not sure that this is analogous to simply expanding a football team from 45-55 guys and then complaining about being 10 men short. Since the last 10 guys probably won’t play on a football team, it wouldn’t matter. But if that 10-man shortfall means you’ve got your nose tackle playing quarterback with the 3rd squad, then you’ve got a problem.
Jon, I’m not disputing that, as I mentioned.

That isn’t my beef with this supposed study. It is with the use of fictitious losses or shortfalls to bolster a "hollow army" argument.
And eventually — not all at once — that problem reaches a tipping point. The increased incidence of divorce, the long tours going back to the deep-bench, and the difficulty of the mission, I think it’s axiomatic that we’re gradually wearing out. The only remaining questions are 1) whether we’ll be out before we break, and 2) what long term effect this will have on the military, and especially on the transformation.
Yes, I acknowledged that yesterday (or was it the day before?) in my post about Krepinevich’s study.

He says precisely that. But he also says, or at least infers, that our job is to break the back of the insurgency, and then concludes we are stretched too thin and may break before we can accomplish that. I noted that if that were our mission I’d agree ... but since it’s not, I don’t agree, at least not at this point.

Again, my beef is with the numbers this study uses and I can’t help but believe there’s a political reason behind it (i.e. trying to bolster the Murtha argument that the Army is "broken, worn out and living hand to mouth"). It’s not. That’s not to say we can’t see it break in the future, but that’s not the point.

The numbers used in the study are a fiction and seriously damage the veracity of any conclusion it might reach.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Those looking to study the state of the Army would do well to assess the promotion rates as well. The Army has recently made promotion to E5 automatic except when the commander specifically notes a Soldier should not be promoted, and the selection rate to O4 and O5 last year were over 95% and 85% respectively. Those numbers suggest that, while the Army is hardly worn-out or broken, it has more significant problems than recruiting/retention numbers.
 
Written By: Andrew
URL: http://andrewolmsted.com
Got a link for the E5 automatic promotion? Because I don’t believe it. Not for a second.
However, the promotion to O4 and O5 was exactly what you said; however, that was because a bunch of company-grade officers got out back in ’98 or so when the economy was hot. All services bumped up officer recruitment, and the high promotion rate is expected to drop back to normal levels within a few years (about the time I’m up for O4, drat!)
This is just much ado about nothing. There have been other times of recruiting shortfalls, and the military services just offer a little bigger signing bonus and the numbers go back up. It’s market forces at work, no?
And since this report focused on the Army, I’d assume the recruitment news was positive in the other services. This is really nothing.
As far as specific skill sets, the Army often allows people to retrain and move around to specialties with "shortages".
Top all this off with the Iraqis increasingly handling security themselves (anyone notice the Iraqi locality where the tribes did an internal program, arresting any foreign terrorists and the people who harbored them. They netted more than 200), allowing increasing numbers of U.S. troops to return home.
Rather than "hollowed out" or "stretched thin", our military is "blooded". "Seasoned".
That may come in handy if we need to do something about Iran.
Or if China gets too uppity.
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://chieflymusing.com/

 
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