Mil­i­tary readi­ness

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

In a long-over­due pol­icy re­ver­sal, De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates an­nounced Jan. 11 that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion would fi­nally be­gin in­creas­ing the sizes of the ac­tive-duty Army and Marine Corps on a per­ma­nent ba­sis. Al­to­gether, the mil­i­tary will per­ma­nently add 92,000 ac­tive-duty troops to the Army (65,000) and the Marine Corps (25,000). That is a good start.

The Army will rise to 547,000 sol­diers, and the Marine Corps will have an even­tual end-strength of 202,000 Marines. The Army’s pro­jected to­tal of 547,000 sol­diers com­pares to a postViet­nam/Cold War av­er­age of 777,000 sol­diers (1975-89) and a post-Cold War de­mo­bi­lized force that av­er­aged 485,000 sol­diers (1996-02). Dur­ing the same pe­ri­ods, ac­tive-duty Marines av­er­aged 194,000 (1975-89) and 174,000 (1996-02)

Com­pared to this year, when its end­strength will reach 512,000, the Army will add only 35,000 troops (or fewer than 7 per­cent). That is be­cause 30,000 (or nearly half) of the to­tal per­ma­nent in­crease of 65,000 in the Army will have al­ready been added by the end of this year. Pre­vi­ously, that in­cre­ment of 30,000 troops was clas­si­fied as a tem­po­rary in­crease. The new pol­icy makes that “tem­po­rary” in­crease per­ma­nent. Amaz­ingly, three years af­ter the war in Iraq be­gan and the Army’s de­ploy­men­treadi­ness sit­u­a­tion had al­ready reached a cri­sis, the 2006 Qua­dren­nial De­fense Re­view (QDR) ac­tu­ally pro­jected elim­i­nat­ing the 30,000 tem­po­rary troops by 2011, when then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld ex­pected the Army to re­turn to an end-strength of 482,000.

To­day’s force of 180,000 Marines in­cludes only 5,000 tem­po­rary troops, who will also be­come per­ma­nent. Hence, the even­tual per­ma­nent end­strength of the Marine Corps (202,000) will rep­re­sent a 22,000 (12 per­cent) in­crease over to­day’s to­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Gates’ timetable, the Army plans to add 7,000 sol­diers per year over five years, and the Marine Corps will in­crease by 5,000 Marines per year un­til it reaches 202,000. Even if Congress seeks to ac­cel­er­ate that timetable, it is cer­tain that the ad­di­tional forces still would not be avail­able in suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties soon enough to solve the Pen­tagon’s readi­ness cri­sis. There­fore, Mr. Gates an­nounced a sec­ond pol­icy shift. This in­volves the in­vol­un­tary mo­bi­liza­tion of the Army Na­tional Guard and the Army Re­serve. The new pol­icy will limit an in­vol­un­tary de­ploy­ment to one year, but it elim­i­nates, at least for now, the five-year pe­riod of de­mo­bi­liza­tion. That means that tens of thou­sands Guards­men and Re­servists who were mo­bi­lized as re­cently as two and three years ago can ex­pect to re­turn to Iraq and Afghanistan in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.