Saturday, July 3, 2004

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Rethinking the Guard and Reserves

Thom Shanker's story in the Sunday New York Times explores how post-9/11 commitments will require a rethink of the National Guard and National Reserves in defese planning:

The National Guard and Reserves must be fundamentally revamped if they are to carry the growing burden placed on them in support of the administration's military strategy, according to many commanders, Pentagon officials and respected national security experts.

With hundreds of thousands of these citizen-soldiers having deployed in the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and others engaged in missions related to the global campaign against terrorism overseas and here at home, these concerns have broad implications for the Bush administration's plans to protect the United States....

The current Guard and Reserve system was designed after the Vietnam War, a conflict in which neither President Lyndon B. Johnson nor President Richard M. Nixon called up reservists in significant numbers, fearing greater opposition to their policies. In frustration, Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, the Army chief, shaped a post-Vietnam mix of active and reserve forces to ensure that when America went to war with its new all-volunteer force, hometown America would have to go too.

Shanker does a good job of delineating the budgetary and training disparities:

Richard I. Stark, who is analyzing reserve affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy research institute, said that the Army traditionally kept about half of its capability in the Guard and Reserves, yet for years devoted only 8 percent of its budget to those units.

"That huge disparity will have to be revisited because we are using them with increasing frequency," Mr. Stark said....

Military commanders in Washington and in the combat zone frequently said in private that a number of reservists arrive for duty ill-prepared for the challenges they face in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular lacking specific combat skills required even of truck drivers in the war zone. They say the reservists also do not have something more intangible but equally important: a warrior ethos, which can hardly be inculcated by training one weekend a month and two weeks a year for service in the most violent places on earth, or in the rapid weeks of accelerated training before deployment....

[N]early two months traveling in Iraq this year disclosed many first-hand examples of the disparity between active-duty troops and their Guard and Reserve comrades.

During the huge troop rotation this spring, in which nearly a quarter-million American military personnel flowed in and out of Iraq, fresh ground forces stopped first at a series of deployment camps in northern Kuwait to acclimate to the hot temperatures and focus on live-fire combat skills.

Despite spring temperatures that already pushed toward 100 degrees, and the relative safety of camps in Kuwait, commanders of active-duty units like the First Infantry Division ordered their soldiers to wear heavy helmets and flak jackets at all times except inside their tents and mess halls or en route to the showers: all part of an effort to get the troops into the combat mind-set.

In contrast, many soldiers who identified themselves as reservists walked the hot and dusty bases in shorts, baseball caps and sandals.

Even inside the war zone of Iraq, the differences were visible.

Col. Dana J. H. Pittard, commander of the First Infantry's Third Brigade, gave voice to worries about the lackadaisical approach to security shown by some reservists not under his command. On a dangerous 34-hour convoy drive north from Kuwait to Camp Warhorse, near Baquba, an insurgents' stronghold, he marched up and down a mile-long row of vehicles belonging to a mix of units, scolding scores of reservists he spotted not wearing body armor.

Read the whole thing -- and be sure to check out Phil Carter's thoughts on the matter once he reads it.

UPDATE: Here's Phil's partial response. Be sure to read the whole thing, but I thought this was a compelling point:

I talked to several Pentagon policy officials and think-tankers last week about this argument, and I am starting to see its credibility. According to this line of thought, the emergency measures cited above are not so much signs of the force breaking, as they are signs of the force working exactly as intended. That is, we are a nation at war. Our military needs extra personnel now to fight this war, and probably for the next few years. Thus, it has called up reservists and used additional temporary measures to make ends meet. But when the crisis passes (assuming it does), the military reservists will be demobilized, and the military will contract. Yes, there is some hardship for the reservists who are called up. But, this argument continues, better to call up these reservists who accept the risk voluntarily, than to conscript mass numbers of citizens and compel them to kill or be killed in combat.

Moreover, Pentagon policymakers say (and I agree) that it would be tremendously inefficient and impractical to start a draft when the personnel needs are in the thousands or tens of thousands. A draft, which traces back to Napoleon's levee en masse, is used when you need to mobilize millions of young Americans for battle. If that cataclysmic day comes, then our Selective Service system stands ready (in mothballs) to swing into action. But until then, the Pentagon argument goes, it is far more efficient and effective to use reservists.

posted by Dan on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM


It is rather astonishing to see everyone "rethinking" this and "rethinking" that after we've already committed ourselves. One would have thought we should have listened to Shinseki or actually read the reports and analysis sitting on the shelf which would have revealed all this "new thinking" to us in the past when we actually could have done something about it. It's not like people weren't calling attention to this before the war with Iraq.

Instead we had a rush to a war of choice and the browbeating of anyone who dared question whether it was a wise choice or not. People who dared speak up regarding the insufficient troops - not to mention the mix of troops - were ridiculed and forced into early retirement.

I applaud the rethink, but it's a bit like suggesting we think about closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, isn't it?

posted by: Hal on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Since when has the US ever entered a war fully prepared in every respect ? Quite frankly, we've done pretty well this time around. What this country does better than just about anyone is adapt and learn VERY quickly. To say that our force structure and the active/reserve mix were unprepared for this war (or rather, it was prepared for a Desert Storm-type war, not a protracted Afghan/Iraqi deployment) is simply to say something that has been true throughout our history - we were unprepared and we're now adapting. It's happened before; it'll happen again.

posted by: fingerowner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

What all the "more troops" folks are ignoring is the fact that winning this war with fewer troops meant more troops were available to deal with the other two "Axis of Evil" members, if needed, and as a show of American supremacy.

Sometimes I think the "stupidity" that Bush supposedly suffers from seems to actually end up hampering his critics, many of whom are normally pretty sharp.

Personally, I hope the next several wars coming up soon are fought with even fewer American troops and with more of the "Afghanistan" model than the Iraq model. Less American casualties, and less hostility to an American occupation. Witness the difference in attitude between the Kurdish areas (where the Pesh Merga provided the troops) and the rest of Iraq.

posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

“What this country does better than just about anyone is adapt and learn VERY quickly.”

Fingerowner’s insightful post deserves more than a few minutes of your time. I will go one step further: democracies perhaps inherently wait until the last minute to get themselves together regarding military preparedness. This seems to be the norm---and not the exception. Just look at America’s silliness during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the other Axis powers. World War II was very avoidable. Regretfully, though, the America First movement dominated our nation politics in the mid 1930s. I remain convinced that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have saved Western Civilization. The Republican Party's members did enormous damage. They fought FDR every step of the way. Ironically, it is the dishonest pacifism of the Democrat Party which today threatens our security.

posted by: David Thomson on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

There is something else I must add to my previous post. I have just returned from visiting Roger L. Simon's blog. This particular posting jumped out at me. I must have been living under a rock for I previously was unaware that Michael Moore blames Israel for much of our current troubles:

As he was quoted by David Brooks in the NYT on June 26:

Before a delighted Cambridge crowd, Moore reflected on the tragedy of human existence: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." In Liverpool, he paused to contemplate the epicenters of evil in the modern world: "It's all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton."

History is repeating itself. The Jews were often blamed before WWII of trying to get the Western powers to oppose the Axis dictators. Today the same holds true concerning our fight to death against Islamic nihilism.

posted by: David Thomson on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

The Regular Army has been misusing the Reserves and National Guard so as to minimize change to itself.

And the Bush Administration has been doing the same thing for a different reason - to move the budgetary impact of an avoidable major expansion of active duty ground forces from before the election to after the election.

This can't last and won't.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

The error is in thinking a conscripted army will end up being more professional than NG and reserve units, when chances are it will be the opposite. If it aint broke dont fix it. We seem to have forgotten that our active military's critical duty is to kick the crap out of other armies. Right now we have an incrediably finely honed machine, probably the most remarkable fighting force in history. You cant go tinkering around with a race cars engine and expect it to remain in tip top condition, and these suggestions are tantamount to swapping out an engine. Here's a wild idea, if there are problems with the reserve and guard readiness, how about addressing reserve and guard readiness? The answer is because that would require political courage, which nobody at the moment seems to have. Someone described this war as being the one where absolutely no expense or resource is spared, so long as it in no way affects the average non-military American. Thats a sad commentary.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

It is amusing to see people complaining about the quality of reserves who entered Baghdad just a few weeks after leaving Kuwait.

posted by: buck smith on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

It's not clear to me that Rumsfeld truly understands this problem. Bob Novak reported that, as late as May 2003, Rumsfeld wanted to cut the Army by 2 divisions.

This was at the same time that he was planning to attack Syria, according to UPI.

posted by: Carl on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

One of my commentaries of my website is that I believe if we continue with the war policies, we will need some sort of Selective Service. One way of Selective Service is to provide health insurance to all that join the National Guard and report for weekend drills. This will ascertain a better healthy and fit Guard. I believe Senator Clinton and Senator Graham (SC) have introduced a bill similar to my suggestion. Another, is to give amnesty to the ilegal inmigrants to join the guard.

posted by: Alicia on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

The issue with a draft is not whether it will produce a more professional military--obviously it won't and the days of mass wars are probably over. But the question is whether a draft creates some sense of connection between the general populace and the policymakers. Clearly, an administration is going to be more reluctant to send draftees to war than volunteers. Now, this might be good or bad depending on the situation but it would presumably create more political accountability.

posted by: MWS on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]


I'm fine with the idea of a draft as long as only as only those who publicly advocate the draft are eligible.

Seriously, the draft is slavery, and murder to boot.

posted by: Matthew Cromer on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

To follow up on Fingerowner's comment, there was an excellent book a few years ago, called "America's First Battles." It was a review of the first battles of each of America's wars, from Kasserine Pass to First Bull Run to LZ X-ray and Albany, etc.

As Fingerowner and others have noted, it generally has not gone all that well, and often because of a combination of rapid expansion (i.e., less well-trained troops) and poor peacetime training.

What is striking about Gulf War I and II is that the first battle was often the only battle (in the normal/conventional part of the war) and that it went our way.

What is also worth noting here is that it is now Guardsmen and Reservists who are fighting an insurgency, one of the nastiest, toughest types of wars out there, and they're doing it, not only w/o massive friendly casualties, but also w/o huge numbers of atrocities (reports on Abu Ghreib notwithstanding).

For a citizen army, which is what a Guard/Reserve force at least as much as a conscript army, this is extraordinary.

Something, perhaps, to think about?

posted by: Dean on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

I rather like the contribution the Guard and Reserve are making here in Afghanistan - we have logistical and other specialty units here, and they work out just fine, thank you. What gets quite exaggerated is how any reserve combat arms force is going to look less capable than an active one - it is simply a matter of how much you can train. Warrior ethos, ha! It is an old calumny that doesn't hold up over time...

posted by: Major John on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Having gone both the active duty and Reserve (Navy) routes, part of the problem with the latter has been the traditionally low expectations of the former. The military commanders' laments about the lack of a "warrior ethos" in reservists are like a once-a- year golfer complaining about his game. The fault ain't in the ball.

posted by: Pappy on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Theo whole line of argument that the US rushed to war with too few troops fails to accept the dangers of delay. Had the US waited for greater numbers to be deployed then the time table would have slipped into summer - far more dangerous time. Also, UN and "world" (read French, German, Russian, Chinese etc... entrenched interests in favor of Saddam and Iran as a market not as a risk - he would not attack them - they were vendors!)sentiment was growing for the old "do nothing - business as usual" UN approach to everything. (Note: mass has been going on in the Sudan for years, far greater than anything in the Balkans, yet nothing from the UN.)

The result of delay would most likely have been a continuation of "containment" and increasing resources for Saddam and his -thirsty sons until he lashed out again like in Kuwait with further high casualties and no impact on his core war-making ability. Also, further support for ists and of course the continued brutality to the citizens of Iraq.

Face it: the unspoken result of delay or demand for more troops before attacking Iraq really means not attacking Iraq at all. The result of "containment" would have been more support for , growth of Saddam's power and an eventual lash out by Saddam or his sons and further corruption of the UN and international process.

posted by: Stan on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

"Now, this might be good or bad depending on the situation but it would presumably create more political accountability. "

Yes but it isnt the primary role of our military to create political accountability. It is to defeat our enemies as efficiantly as possible.
The inevitable conclusion to that line of reasoning is that when we do go to war with a volunteer force, more soldiers will end up dying.. and worse we may end up losing the war. The law of unintended consequences, we could end up with less wars but more dead US soldiers.
Restricting our troops to one clip of ammunition a peice might restrain our government from going to war as well, but is that a good idea?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

"go to war with a volunteer force"

with a conscripted force rather.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

I would maintain that a "thoroughly prepared" military would be less effective. Each time America has gone to war unprepared, it has prevailed. (Possible exception of VietNam, although that involved a peacetime draft and could be considered a "prepared-for" situation.) This has required quickly ramping up and adapting to meet the circumstances it faces. If it had been prepared with a large standing army, thoroughly trained, it would have been prepared for the wrong war: either the last one fought, or the one imagined by the planners who guided the preparation. A reduced military between wars allows for expansion and preparation when the nature of the threat is better understood.

posted by: raf on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]


I have been working with the active component for well over 24 years. While my exposure to the reserve components was limited to the two week AT training period, a two year stint as an advisor and observing training of NG Bdes at the National Training Center I have developed some opinions on the readiness of the reserve component.
No, they are not as combat capable as the active component. Yes, they do contain some very effective leaders and personnel. Unfortunately, the lack of an effective NCO corps - which enforces discipline when it is uncomfortable (such as the example of wearing flak vests and helmets in the post) will result in unnecessary casualties. Growing the junior leaders and instilling the climate of discipline and instituting an effective change of command takes more than 30+ days a year.
The active component is working hard to provide a significant train-up period for the activated reserve units. They will do all that can be done in training time allotted, but will not fix all the problems nor cure every ill associated with a reserve unit. The guard (to maintain it credibility following Gulf War I) argued that a Bde could be ready to deploy within 90 days of activation if only given the money to do so. The money, manpower, training expertise were provided by the federal govt. The reserves have taken the "king's coins" and are now being asked to serve. It is time for the units to 'put up or shut up'. What will happen to the reserve components in the future depends to a great extent on how well they perform in the following year(s).
Adding two more divisions to the rolls - as recently proposed in congress - will move towards addressing the lack of active component maneuver units, if congress provides additional funds for personnel and training. However, it will still take 2 to 5 years for the new units to be manned, equiped and ready. By that date, we may not even need the increased force structure! Will we then go through yet another reduction in force to sustain the programs funding the states' miltia? The federal govt may soon face the need to either retain the current reserve status or move the manpower and funds back into the active component and leave the guard to the states.


posted by: Mike on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I am sick and tired of hearing the BS phrase "rush to war"

posted by: Lord Whorfin on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

The RA loves to have a whipping boy. Airborne picks on Light Infantry. Light Infantry picks on Mech. Mech rags on the "poges" in Transpo and Quartermaster. Everyone dogs the Reserve and Guard.

The mental picture of the RA brigade commander hazing the reservists brings a smile to my face. I was once like him.

Only a few American commanders have understood how to use the militia in combat like Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens.

Reserve and Guard units are last in getting paid on time, getting repair parts, getting the latest equipment, and getting new equipment training. For an RA officer or NCO to get assigned as a Reserve advisor or trainer is considered to be the kiss of death; most of the ones I knew ended up getting passed over to LTC. Is it any wonder why Reserve and Guard units perform worse than RA units?

In all of my time reading military journals and literature, I've never found any evidence that the Army as an institution has studied the problem in an honest, introspective fashion.

When I was in various military schools, I was taught that the worst leadership technique possible was to "blame the commander." In other words, if the next higher commander makes an unpopular decision, one never says, "I don't think this is a good idea, but COL Bagogas ordered us to do it, so..."

I would argue that the second worst leadership technique is "blame the REMF," i.e. setting up support and Reserve troops as a strawman whipping boy so as to instill a false sense of pride and elitism in your own troops. The Army won't fix its problem with its own CSS troops and with the Guard and Reserve until it understands this. The Marines do undertand this. Every Marine is a Marine regardless of his position or duty status. That's why they were able to fight a USMC Reserve regiment across Iraq in the front lines with minimal casualties while Army Colonels spend their spare time yelling at reservists.

posted by: 11A5S on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]


I seriously disagree with your assessment of a prepared military. Prepare for the next war is what professionals do. They have the time / experience and means to study the past and evaluate the effects on recent developments. Amatures do not have the luxury of doing much more than studying the past.

Yes, we have prevailed mostly in the past - but the cost in men and material - not to mention territory and prestige - were enormous. One of a previous Army Chief of Staff motto was 'No more Task Force Smiths' a task force committed to the Korean theater with ineffective ammunition, low training levels and inadequate logistical support. No American Soldier will ever be sacrificed again on my watch just to save a few dollars.

The US did not quickly 'ramp up' during the Civil War, WW I nor WW II. It took us years to put those regts and divisions in the field. In the mean time the active components were holding on by their fingernails on various islands in the pacific due to inadequate manning and equipment.

As many difficulties as the reserve components face, they are light years ahead of a 'ramping' force you seem to desire.


posted by: Mike on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

The debate about US force structure is really a debate about three related questions:

1) What are the strategic goals of the War on Terror?
2) What type and size of forces are necessary to achieve those goals?
3) What is the US population willing to do to achieve total victory?

A little historical context is useful. In World War II, our strategic goal was the unconditional surrender or complete destruction of the three Axis Powers. To achieve this goal, we mobilized over 14 million troops or about 10 percent of our population in the early 1940s. To achieve total victory, virtually every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 35 served in the military or the Merchant Marine and millions of women joined the work force. We also paid high taxes across all income categories. And we waged the war absolutely ruthlessly, and matched every savagery of our enemies with equal or greater savagery of our own.

If we're serious about winning the War on Terror, which is really the War on militant Islam and its state supporters, we're going to have to put a lot more people in uniform. Conquering and occupying Iran and North Korea could easily require another one to two million troops. Meanwhile, Syria and Lebanon provide havens and support to tens of thousands of jihadis, Saudi Arabia provides large amounts of money and recruits, and Pakistan is one assassination away from Islamic fundamentalist rule.

I don't know what this translates to in terms of required force structure. However, it's clear that the 1.5 million active-duty force is not big enough to achieve total victory. A couple of final points for context:

1) The 1.5 million men and women on active duty represent only 1/2 of 1 percent of the current US population of approximately 300 million. Doubling the active duty force to 3 million would only represent 1 percent of the US population.
2) Military forces need to be allowed to pace themselves in sustained war-fighting operations to avoid burn-out and loss of combat effectiveness. This translates to the need for a force structure that supports a ratio of 1/3 of units in combat, 1/3 of units in rest and refit, and 1/3 of units in training/preparation for combat.

Best regards,

posted by: James Jones on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

As a 27-veteran of the Army Reserve, I offer few observations:

1) The "system" was built around a central premise which is no longer applicable: a 5-year major war [ala WWI and WWII], once per generation. The reserve divisions for WWII were mobilized [6-9 months to accomplish], trained for up to 2 years and then sent overseas. They performed as well as the Regular Army, because by then there was no difference in training and equipment. Then it was assumed that it would be 15-20 years before we would call them again – and we would take 1-3 years to train them up. This is not happening any more!

2) The deliberate restructuring of the reserve forces after Viet Nam created an Armed Forces that COULD NOT BE COMMITTED to any serious [more than 1 division/air wing] conflict without calling up the Reserve Components [RC]. Over 80% of all logistics support and the bulk of the military Police force were shifted to the RC. The majority of the units that man Civil Affairs Brigades [an absolutely vital part of the forces in Iraq] are RC troops and some a in low density units: they are in short supply.

3) Rumsfeld was right in that we have plenty of bodies - in the wrong places.
We are already converting superfluous units [mostly Corps Artillery and Air defense units rendered useless in an age of total air supremacy and precision air strikes] to MPs. Big chunks of the RC and Active force structure [e.g. the redundant numbered Army and Corps HQs - semi-mobile villages that generate PowerPoint slides by the gigabyte!] are utterly OBE and need to be disbanded. Patton, Rommel and Guderian ran whole armored corps from the backs of single half-tracks – but we require 900 men and women to do what 90 men did in WWII.. The War on Terror is forcing changes that were resisted stoutly for a generation!

4) Not the old "Warrior Ethos" saw again! This is a code word for "training to be miserable" used by Regular Army idiots who think that wearing a helmet to the latrine turns you into Rambo. They wear body armor everywhere and sharpen their bayonets every day, but forget to check their GPS batteries and commo links before rolling out the gate! That being said, none of MY troopies [even the devastatingly pretty Hollywood starlet in the Civil Affairs section!] EVER had rifles that were not clean or protective masks that did not fit [that comes from being a Sergeant before becoming a Major]. The lesson of the 507th Maint [PFC Jessica Lynch’s sorry-ass outfit] has not been lost among the conscientious leaders of the RC.

6) We always got along somewhat irregularly with our comrades in the Regular Army. I walked into 1st Corps HQ one frosty [yet calm] Korean morning and had some wag proclaim that the "average PT score just dropped" [an allusion to the lower standards of physical fitness that some RC troops display]. I fixed him with a frosty glare and quipped: "That's OK lads, the average IQ just increased to compensate". Then I proceeded to teach the G4 staff how to perform simple arithmetic with this fantastic new invention called an Excel Spreadsheet. It clearly showed that we would run out of Class V [ammo] in 96 hours at the present consumption rate. They pointed out that the exercise would be over in 72 hours, so not to worry!

7) Take any Regular Army grousing about the RC with a grain of salt. The Guard units that went to the Gulf [including the Boys from San Berdoo - Go 185th!] hit the ground running, sucked it up and adjusted to the country, the climate and the mission. After 90 days they looked and performed [and smelled!!] just like Regulars.

posted by: OldFan on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

With James on this one. Ramp up the forces - this war is serious.

posted by: John Bigboote on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

James has the right idea, we just havent had the debate over exactly what this war needs to entail and what that means to the average American. It borders on the obscene that we have asked so very much of our military and their families while asking absolutely nothing of the average American. If the point of a draft would be to make this war real for real Americans, how about we start by a simple war tax, or something of the kind? How about the president going on national televosion and asking every American to donate to Spirit of America or the like? How about calling on American industry to start cranking out materials to help rebuild Iraq, as clearly we have struggled to do?
There is a good point here, the American mindset simply isnt in a war frame, and thats a bad thing. The president is much to blame for not framing things that way. We should have done this a year ago, everything that is done now smacks of the dreaded 'mission creep', but regardless better now than a year from now. Its a kick in the face to our military not to take this war as deadly serious as the rhetoric implies. We see that 2% (or whatever) of the Iraq rebuilding money has been spent and what does that tell you? How many soldiers will be wounded or killed because of that tardiness? Worse yet, the defense offered up is that of 'standard red tape', and that this sluggishness was expected. What the hell kind of answer is that? How would George Patton have responded to a bureacrat telling him his request to get a bridge fixed would take 6 months to get approved? At this point this is a war of red tape vs religious lunatics. Ultimately the president has the sheers.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Discussing the lack of preparedness and seriousness of the reserves and guards is obviously important, in so much as we are at war and intend to win it and should debate the best way how. But be wary of 'analysts' - such as commentator Hal - who pose, as so many left wing Democrats do, as thoughtful and concerned observers of our military. They are not. They were against the liberation of Iraq and most were against the liberation of Afghanistan. They do not believe there are Islamofascists out to kill and destroy us and our institutions, nor do they believe that the UN is corrupt. They do not believe the tax cuts rescued the economy, and they are convinced (at heart) of a Cheney/Haliburton/neocon cabal. When such people pose to analyze our military, it is in the context of an ideological fraud. Fraudulent concern for optimal military efficiency, when the real concern is eliminating the current administration. The purported honest critiques of military force structure are merely veiled attacks on Bush, and thus their value to the actual military force structure debate is suspect.

posted by: Sergio on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Good discussion here regarding Army force structure - but should Kerry win in November it will have as much utility as discussing how many Roman Legions are necessary to defeat the Visigoths...

posted by: Tim on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Simple idea, not mine: DOUBLE THE PAY of the troops.

posted by: Alex on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

Going to Iraq with little training or even a basic understanding of what my "mission" was, I nonetheless struggled daily to adapt, improvise, and overcome. By the end of my tour, I was able to go into a village like Abu Hassan and, yes, take off my Interceptor and Kevlar. With all due respect to AD Hooah Brigade Commanders (whose aggressive and hard-chargin' screaming eagles tear-a## down Tampa looking for Hajis to mow down) ordinary Iraqis just seem to get along better with reservists who have real jobs back home and aren't living out some West Point fantasy.

posted by: Eric on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

We have our force structured bass ackward. The National Guard is under Governor's control and set up for domestic emergencies, i.e. floods, hurricanes, etc. They do not know how to fight. Whereas the Reserves are under Federal control by the Army, AF, Navy and Marines. The Reserve's are more in line with what is expected from professional soldiers. While in Bosnia, I was under a Nat'l Guard Battalion in which the Btn Commander's Command Sgt. Major was his boss in the civilian world. Needless to say, the Btn Cmd had to approve everything through the Cmd Sgt Major. The Reserve's should be the "round-out" units that backfill the regular Army. Currently, the Nat'l Guard fulfills that roll. My brother trained a LA Guard armor "round-out" unit for Desert Storm. He said, after 3-4 months of training at Ft. Hood, TX, they couldn't qualify on the tank tables (couldn't hit targets with their Bradley's). One night some of the enlisted hijacked a bus and took it into Killeen to party. The Reserve and Guard rolls were reversed under the Clinton administration. Clinton aligned the Reserves with the FEMA regional districts which really dicked things up. No longer were the ARCOMS responsible for their troops (a peace dividend I'm certain). Giving the Guards the High profile combat missions (one they cannot perform) was a big payoff to the Governors.

posted by: Ted on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

After I left active duty I was a company commander in the USAR for almost three years. This was the early '70s. My observation then was that the reserve and guard structure had been nearly ruined by Johnson's (and then Nixon's) policy of war on the cheap -- not mobilizing the reserves and depending on a draft. The reserves became a haven for many who wanted to avoid military service. In fact, the most severe punishment we could offer to get people to attend meetings was to send them to active duty. It was quite a challenge (not impossible)to achieve anything like real readiness with troops who actively resisted training. The current system of volunteer active forces and reserves which WILL be activated is, I think, far superior to that. I agree with the above post that assignment to a reserve advisor posting can be a kiss of death for an RA officer. I knew a medal of honor winner who actually volunteered for such a post with us because he believed Washington when they proclaimed renewed emphasis on Reserve readiness. He was non-selected for Major out of the early consideration zone. The entanglement of full-time civilian employees and part-time officers also undermined any real authority for commanders. It might have been better to have full-time active commanders and key NCOs, if the stigma could have been removed.

In spite of all this, some of the highest motivated officers and NCOs I knew were Reservists. It takes a lot of effort to excel in a reserve component, in addition to doing your day job.

posted by: raf on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

There is nothing amateurish about building up forces early in a war. Real professionals are required. This does not mean that the full force structure must be present before every conflict. It would not have been a great advantage if we had had a large military prior to WW2. The force we would have had would not have been aircraft carrier centered, nor would it have had large mobile armored units. It is easy to imagine how much better it COULD have been if we had prepared in advance, but "in advance" would have been in accordance with plans developed decades earlier, in preparation for something which sould only coincidentally been what happened. To expect/believe that the military bureaucracy is omnicompetent is unrealistic.

Our advantage has always been in material and technology. To maintain superiority, we have to overcome the entrenched bureaucratic structure that always develops in large organizations. (Look at what it took to get good torpedoes in WW2, or what it is taking now to get agreement to restructure for lighter and less-conventional forces.) I think the demobilization between the WWs ultimately was in our favor. Yes, it was difficult and dangerous. Yes, it required heroic sacrifices. But it would have anyway, and the existance of a very large force structure would have inhibited development along the lines which were required.

Will there be time in future conflicts to do this again? Certainly it will be more difficult. To me, though, the answer is more likely to be in shortening the cycle for reinventing force structures and developing/deploying advanced technologies than in building a large force structure around our best guess for what will be required in 20 years.

posted by: raf on 07.03.04 at 05:47 PM [permalink]

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