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Fixing the force before it is too late
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The lead paragraph in Ann Scott Tyson's piece about the military asking for increased troop levels:
The Army and Marine Corps are planning to ask incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Congress to approve permanent increases in personnel, as senior officials in both services assert that the nation's global military strategy has outstripped their resources.
That emphasized phrase is a very important point which we'll get too later. But suffice it to say, Iraq and Afghanistan have put us in a position where the end-strength of the Army and Marines Corps we presently have isn't adequate to the job outlined in that "global military strategy".
Senior Pentagon officials stress that the U.S. military has ample air and naval power that could respond immediately to possible contingencies in North Korea, Iran or the Taiwan Strait.

"If you had to go fight another war someplace that somebody sprung upon us, you would keep the people who are currently employed doing what they're doing, and you would use the vast part of the U.S. armed forces that is at home station, to include the enormous strength of our Air Force and our Navy, against the new threat," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.
But ample ground forces could not. The good news is, given the nature of two of the three conflicts mentioned, air and naval power might be all that would be necessary. In the case of Korea, the ROK army, supported by our air and naval power, would probably be more than able to offset the numerically superior but technologically inferior NoKo army.

As to Taiwan, for China to take and hold the island, it must control the Taiwan Strait, something, at least presently they can't do. Obviously that too would require mostly naval and air power support from the US to defeat.

Iran is not as clean a situation, obviously. Air and naval power most likely would not be sufficient to turn back an Iranian incursion or attack alone. And, of course, those three situations aren't the only places where American interests may become threatened.

So what are they asking for? Army:
The Army, which has 507,000 active-duty soldiers, wants Congress to fund a permanent "end strength," or manpower, of at least 512,000 soldiers, the Army officials said. The Army wants the additional soldiers to be paid for not through wartime supplemental spending bills but in the defense budget, which now covers only 482,000 soldiers.
The point here is the 25,000 extra active-duty soldiers we now have are temporary at the moment (paid for through wartime supplemental spending) and should Iraq stop tomorrow, the Army would be required, by law, to return to its authorized end strength of 482,000. Instead, the Army wants the present end strength to be authorized by Congress and increased by 5,000 more to 512,000.

Marine Corps:
The Marine Corps, with 180,000 active-duty Marines, seeks to grow by several thousand, including the likely addition of three new infantry battalions. "We need to be bigger. The question is how big do we need to be and how do we get there," a senior Marine Corps official said.
Given this I'm not sure what they are asking for in terms of a new end-strength, but 3 infantry battalions is essentially an additional Marine regiment.

Now all of that is a completely different problem that deploying more troops to Iraq. That, obviously, entails sending the present force. And, if this article is to be believed, that force has some significant problems:
At least two-thirds of Army units in the United States today are rated as not ready to deploy — lacking in manpower, training and, most critically, equipment — according to senior U.S. officials and the Iraq Study Group report. The two ground services estimate that they will need $18 billion a year to repair, replace and upgrade destroyed and worn-out equipment.
A critical thing to understand is no unit remains static. The US military has an extremely high turn over ratio in its units for a variety of reasons. People serve out their enlistments and leave, new recruits are assigned, people are promoted into new positions or transferred to new units.

So training is a constant and ongoing process. And it takes time. A lot of time. Of course, it is through training that you form the unit integrity and cohesiveness necessary to fight well in combat. Shortages of manpower and equipment obviously impact that ability. But nothing is more critical than having the time necessary to do the training necessary. When those three combine against a unit, it is almost impossible to keep the level of professionalism and proficiency displayed by our units in combat.

We learned that lesson in Viet Nam where, instead of rotating units in country, we used a replacement system. That decision vastly degraded our capabilities even though the experience of the NCO corps and those who were late in their tours was sufficient to see us through. Your first "unit training" was your first fire fight. That's no way to run an army.

Training and deploying as a unit is far superior even with deficits in manpower, equipment and training time. And that is one reason these serious problems have mostly remained in the background during this war. But they're beginning to have a more serious impact now.

Because of that, the need for an increased end-strength and the vast size of our "global military strategy", the Army is taking the unprecedented step of requesting more participation by the National Guard and Reserves than is allowed by law:
In addition, the Army will press hard for "full access" to the 346,000-strong Army National Guard and the 196,000-strong Army Reserves by asking Gates to take the politically sensitive step of easing the Pentagon restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists, according to two senior Army officials.
This isn't going to fly among the vast majority of citizen-soldiers. That's not the part they signed up for or to which they agreed. If the "global military strategy" cannot support two simultaneous deployments of combat troops without requiring "full access" to these two components then the "global military strategy" needs to be rethought, or the end-strength of the services be expanded to accomplish it.

I'd suggest that perhaps both need to be done. I agree with the move to increase the end-strength of the active Army and Marine Corps. Additionally, and I hope incoming SecDef Robert Gates will at least begin such a process, the entire global military strategy needs to be reviewed and, where necessary, modified to better enable the services to accomplish it with their active components.

If not, this will only get worse:
The depletion of returning units is so severe that the Marines refer to this phase as the "post-deployment death spiral." Army officials describe it as a process of breaking apart units and rebuilding them "just in time" to deploy again.

Training time for active-duty Army and Marine combat units is only half what it should be because they are spending about the same amount of time in war zones as at home — in contrast to the desired ratio of spending twice as much time at home as on deployment. And the training tends to focus on counterinsurgency skills for Iraq and Afghanistan, causing an erosion in conventional land-warfare capabilities, which could be required for North Korea or Iran, officials say.
We've been through this before. We understand how it effects unit readiness. We know what is necessary to fix this sort of problem. Right now we have artillery men walking infantry combat patrols. That is not what we train our cannon-cockers to do. Everyday they're walking patrol is one more day their proficiency at delivering steel on target is degraded.

It is vitally important that the incoming SecDef and the next Congress address this immediately and do what is necessary to stop and reverse the force degradation now under way, increase the active duty end strength of the Army and Marine Corps and resist using the National Guard and Reserves outside their more traditional role.
 
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Right now we have artillery men walking infantry combat patrols. That is not what we train our cannon-cockers to do. Everyday they’re walking patrol is one more day their proficiency at delivering steel on target is degraded.
Or we just recognize that we need warm bodies to patrol and that TODAY the 13-series have become de facto 11-series. That TOMORROW or several TOMORROW’s down the road that they will again be the classic 13-series. The other idea is to INCREASE the 11-series/31-series and simply not produce as many 13-series...in short RIF Redlegs. Now that doesn’t seem wise, so it’s better to take 13-series and have them act like 11/31-series for a period of time. Because we’re NOT going to have Field Artillery Brigades sitting around on Kasernes and posts essentially fulfilling NO useful role, whilst there’s a war on in Iraq.

Bottom Line: Divison/Corps have the option of creating Artillery Batteries/Battalions to support very large numbers of infantry OR we can take the current force and make temporary Infantrymen out of the Artillery Brigades. But we needn’t create artillery units they will not deploy to Iraq, where we need the troops.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Divison/Corps have the option of creating Artillery Batteries/Battalions to support very large numbers of infantry OR we can take the current force and make temporary Infantrymen out of the Artillery Brigades. But we needn’t create artillery units they will not deploy to Iraq, where we need the troops.
Well I understand the point about warm bodies, but what I’m pointing out is every day a 13 spends being an 11B is a day away from his primary MOS and the proficiency it requires through training.

Division/Cops have no options whatsoever about ’creating’ anything. They have the units assigned and those units have TO&E slots to be filled by personnel with the proper primary MOS.

Where Division/Corps have some say in is utilization of the units and their personnel (such as giving them infantry duties vs. artillery duties). I think that’s what you were driving at.

Regardless, artillerymen require proficiency training to remain on top of their game. Misutilization, although required by manpower shortages (or actually through lack of enough infantry units), degrades the ability of artillerymen to operate proficiently in their primary MOS.

When they come back to the states it is a matter of then again training them up in their PMOS. But, as the article points out, instead we do a lot of more training on how to fight an insurgency instead of artillery training because the former is more urgent than the latter in the war being fought. The unit, getting ready for the next deployment, trains on the critical tasks of the war (and their probable role) rather than the critical tasks of their PMOS. That leads to further degredation of their proficiency in their PMOS. And, of course, that eventually leads to a long-term degredation of ability and experience as these people move up in the ranks with more experience being infantrymen than artillerymen.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
As always, I think your argument is a good one McQ, but OTOH, I’ve been asking the same question for a long time: how long do we allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good?

My husband is arty. How many arty BNs sat useless in this war when they could have been deployed? What in the hell is the use of saying "every Marine a rifleman" if it isn’t true? Isn’t that supposed to be the strength of the Marine Corps - that every Marine IS, IN FACT A RIFLEMAN AT NEED?

No, we don’t want to break the MOSs, but you know what? My husband has a weird career pattern. He was out of arty for a long time and many people said that would kill his career. It should have by rights. He came back in as a field grade officer with very little time in his MOS and was made a BN FDO and ended up being rated #1 of 18, all with far more experience than he had. The first thing he did was a CAX and he was working for Jim Mattis who is far from a lenient task master. People adjust.

Now the *Army* on the other hand... I can see your concern there. Heh...

*running away*
 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/
Well I understand your point McQ...I’m just saying that it is the calculated risk we run that we won’t need them as 13-series, but we will use them as de facto 11/31 series. Certainly, the units being readied for deployment TO Iraq will mostly train for a COIN role, to include the artillery. Sadly (Well not really sadly, I just say that as verbiage because I don’t believe in the SysOp Arm-concept), we just lack the force structure to allow the 1 year in Iraq and 2 years in CONUS or the like that the US Army DESIRES. I don’t think we’re going to see that Force Structure, so let us hope:
1) The situation in Iraq stabilizes so that the OVERALL deployment level will fall to such a level as to allow the more optimum deployment cycle; and
2) The US Army isn’t called on to fight a major conventional campaign at the Corps-level for several years.

In short, continue to expect 13-series AND OTHERS to continue to spend a lot of their careers as Infantry/MP’s, until Iraq ends or winds down significantly (for MK and Glasnost I do have a definition of victory in Iraq, it’s in a MUCH earlier thread).
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well I understand your point McQ...I’m just saying that it is the calculated risk we run that we won’t need them as 13-series, but we will use them as de facto 11/31 series.
Obviously that is the risk, and it’s a good one as long as a conventional enemy doesn’t suddenly pop up.

The second part of that argument, though, is this hurts the long-term proficiencies of those holding PMOSs that are misutilized. When you do need and artilleryman, the one you get has been an infantryman more than he’s been an artilleryman. And the more this misutilization goes on, the more it spreads up the chain of command.

Which brings us to you two points:
1) The situation in Iraq stabilizes so that the OVERALL deployment level will fall to such a level as to allow the more optimum deployment cycle; and

2) The US Army isn’t called on to fight a major conventional campaign at the Corps-level for several years.
On both I obviously agree, but again, the problem remains that if 1 doesn’t happen, 2 becomes more and more of a problem with each passing year as the lack of PMOS training passes on up the chain of command (especially in the enlisted ranks).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
No, we don’t want to break the MOSs, but you know what? My husband has a weird career pattern. He was out of arty for a long time and many people said that would kill his career. It should have by rights. He came back in as a field grade officer with very little time in his MOS and was made a BN FDO and ended up being rated #1 of 18, all with far more experience than he had. The first thing he did was a CAX and he was working for Jim Mattis who is far from a lenient task master. People adjust.
When I was a 2LT I had the opportunity to be both a weapons platoon leader and a rifle platoon leader.

My 11Cs (81mm mortar) could pull patrol duty if they needed too, but the longer they did that the less proficient they were with the mortar. It takes an incredible amount of training to have proficient 11Cs as well as train the FDC. Unlike me and your husband, they are the hands-on guys. I never had to refer and realign aiming stakes or set up a mortar within a minute and have a round in the air personally, but they did. That’s not something anyone does the first time, or in my experience, even after months of practicing. And training like that is perishable. Crews change. NCO leadership changes. It’s a constant and ongoing proces (btw, my mortar section won best 81 section in the 82nd Abn Div, so they were damn good).

People do adapt, and, as I said, my 11Cs could adapt to life as riflemen. But if we needed them as 11Cs then what? And depending on the time they were away from being 11Cs and being 11Bs (infantry MOS), how much of their skill, knowledge and expertise has been eroded?

So if we’re talking years of misutilization, that PFC or SP4 11C, who for the most part has been an 11B is now an SFC (Platoon Sgt). What real experience does he bring his mortar section in that capacity? Probably not much. But he has the MOS and the grade.

Any bet, given his dearth of real experience in his PMOS, how proficient his mortar section will be? And, given that, as his PFCs and SP4s move up, what standards and expertice will they pass on in their PMOS?

Officers are paid to adapt. That’s because we have different paths and duties. But we give soldiers and NCOs a PMOS for a particular reason. And by utilizing them in those PMOSs and constantly training in them, we have the best military in the world.

While misutilization may work for the type of war we’re fighting in Iraq, the delayed effect of such misutilization would be seen in the first conventional dust-up we faced afterward.
Now the *Army* on the other hand... I can see your concern there. Heh...

*running away*
Tsk, tsk. Interservice rivalry, of all things.

Look, I like Marines.

Properly cooked.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
1) The situation in Iraq stabilizes so that the OVERALL deployment level will fall to such a level as to allow the more optimum deployment cycle; and
2) The US Army isn’t called on to fight a major conventional campaign at the Corps-level for several years.
The Iraq occupation is an aberration, not likely to be repeated in the next conflict so may need a unique response that does not compromise the overall effectiveness of the forces. Some short term hiring/contract hiring of infantry to meet this immediate demand, not an unsupported regiment.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Some short term hiring/contract hiring of infantry to meet this immediate demand, not an unsupported regiment.
Hiring? "Mercenaries" or do you just mean recruit more Infantry/Military Police? The thing about that is you end up at the end of Iraq with an UNBALANCED Force that you’re going to have to RIF, and then REBUILD. "Too many" 11/31’s proportionally, so we have to let some portion of 25,000 "excess" Infantry/MP’s go and then RECRUIT some portion of that as Armour, Artillery, Engineers, etc, to meet some notional idea of balance. I’m not sure that is a good personnel management idea, at the macro-level. Also I think Congress will ask, "Why did you create and train an additional 25,000 active troops, and then let a portion of them go, and then turn around and ask us replace them and RETRAIN a new lot." And them asking that might sink the idea of an end strength of 512,000.

If you mean some kind of libertarian idea of mercenaries, recruiting Falkenberg’s 42nd Codominium Marines/Falkenberg’s Mercenary Legion, well that is just Sci-Fi. The only mercenary unit AKIN to that is the Legion Etranger and it is NOT an efficient unit. It has serious deficiencies as a combat unit. Mercenaries simply do not perform well in the Real World.

McQ I think the Marines are looking not to create an ADDITIONAL Marine Regiment but to replace the 2,500 they "lost" to SOCom this year and/or flesh out the regiemnts of 3MarDiv, which I believe actually only has 6 line battalions.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"Right now we have artillery men walking infantry combat patrols. That is not what we train our cannon-cockers to do. Everyday they’re walking patrol is one more day their proficiency at delivering steel on target is degraded."

Now that you mention it, I seem to remember making this exact point myself some time ago after watching some artillerymen doing swat stuff on television. Some of us must be freakin’ geniuses; we have been talking about this for years while listening to generals and politicians telling us that everything is just dandy, there is no degradation of training, etc. Things must be getting really bad if they are now admitting to problems.



"It takes an incredible amount of training to have proficient 11Cs as well as train the FDC."

I don’t know. Most of the individual skills you mention are pretty well ingrained by the time you get out of AIT. It has been a couple of years, but I bet I could still plot a fire mission on my trusty plotting board or set up a mortar in a reasonable amount of time. Having served as both 11B and 11C, I must say that 11B skills are no easier to learn than 11C skills, and in some cases are more difficult, particularly those involving working as a unit. Some skills, radio procedure for example, would be the same. Of course my memory may be a bit faulty.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Most of the individual skills you mention are pretty well ingrained by the time you get out of AIT.
Not what I saw coming out of AIT. Not on a first rate mortar crew.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Perhaps you are right(but then again, you were airborne—What falls out of the sky?). Except for me, of course, who was born with a silver clevis locking pin in my mouth.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
If you mean some kind of libertarian idea of mercenaries, recruiting Falkenberg’s 42nd Codominium Marines/Falkenberg’s Mercenary Legion, well that is just Sci-Fi.
There are thousands of mercenaries employed on the taxpayer - Aegis, Blackwater, DynCorp, armourgroup.
[The Foreign Legion] has serious deficiencies as a combat unit. Mercenaries simply do not perform well in the Real World.
The requirement is not for combat troops, what you are assumed to lack are boots on the ground and intel. Hire more mercs if numbers are going to make the difference.

American force structure is very good at closing with the enemy and killing the enemy. It is not a good idea to degrade this.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
There are thousands of mercenaries employed on the taxpayer - Aegis, Blackwater, DynCorp, armourgroup.
Not so much as combat UNITS...
The requirement is not for combat troops, what you are assumed to lack are boots on the ground and intel. Hire more mercs if numbers are going to make the difference.

American force structure is very good at closing with the enemy and killing the enemy. It is not a good idea to degrade this.
What is happening on the ground, in Iraq, IS combat, just at a low level of intensity. Mercenaries have a POOR combat record, period. Read Machiavelli for starters, observe the UN Peacekeepers for another example...mercenaries are inefficient, the Legion Etranger has as much Hagiography as History. Read Porch’s The French Foreign Legion. For a host of reasons mercenaries just aren’t a good idea. "Mad Mike" Hoare’s lot in Africa got more press than accomplishments, IMO, and had a nasty human rights track record and in this case THAT track record is pretty vital to success.

The American Army is GOOD at doing what the Nation requires of it...defeating the Indians, Liberating Europe, or building dams on US rivers. There is no ONE thing or set of things it is good at....And if Iraq requires more Civil Action than fighting the Immum Gun, well that’s what’s required. We tailor the force to the mission, not vice versa.

I might add no one thinks that the British Army are poor at fighting though they spent 25 YEARS waging a LIC in Northern Ireland, in fact simultaneously with that burden, BAOR was listed as one of the premier combat units in NATO... I think much of this attitude is based on the fallacious belief that "We SUCK" but the British are good. So law enforcement, with restrictive ROE’s and concern for PR and collateral damage, in one place does NOT mean an inability to kill in another. To be fair, Northern Ireland actually DID hurt BAOR, in that rather than 4 companies per battalion the Brit’s fielded only THREE, the 4th being in Northern Ireland, and the "Troubles" drew down Army funds that could have gone to other uses. Nonetheless, BAOR was well-respected and does provide an example of an Army being trained and operating in two very different environments, successfully. Finally much of this, "Army stretched thin" is an attempt by the Army to INCREASE it’s size and share of the budget, in a Post-Iraq political environment. Consider this the Army’s vresion of "The Bomber Gap."
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Because of that, the need for an increased end-strength and the vast size of our "global military strategy", the Army is taking the unprecedented step of requesting more participation by the National Guard and Reserves than is allowed by law:
In addition, the Army will press hard for "full access" to the 346,000-strong Army National Guard and the 196,000-strong Army Reserves by asking Gates to take the politically sensitive step of easing the Pentagon restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists, according to two senior Army officials.
This isn’t going to fly among the vast majority of citizen-soldiers. That’s not the part they signed up for or to which they agreed. If the "global military strategy" cannot support two simultaneous deployments of combat troops without requiring "full access" to these two components then the "global military strategy" needs to be rethought, or the end-strength of the services be expanded to accomplish it.
Bingo! The Pentagon has been bragging about retention and recruitment goals being met in the regular forces, but you don’t hear much about the reserves and the Guard. They’re losing bodies at a prodigious rate.

Giving the generals "full access" to them would accelerate those already critical losses. There are few Guard units (who bear the brunt of the "reserve component" callup for combat duty) left at full combat status, and the likelyhood of them getting there is close to zero.
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
Bud from what I recall the Reserve Component is NOT losing troops at a prodigious rate.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
bud, the best source of recruits for the Guard / Reserve has always been active duty soldiers who spent a few years in the peacetime army and then got out but wanted to continue serving. What’s happening now is that with an actual war the services seem to have those people staying on active duty. Since the pool of people willing to fight for this country that the whole military draws on is a limited number, they’re essentially slicing the same size pie differently.

And before you ask the question, no, I didn’t serve. In 1979 when I graduated high school the armed forces didn’t have a very good reputation. By 1985 when I graduated college it was better. I probably wouldn’t have made it in, because my uncorrected eyesight is / was roughly 20/500, and now I’m too old and out-of shape.

 
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
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Written By: skeuht
URL: http://ya.com

 
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