January 2, 2005
The Army We Need
The nation mourns the men and women in uniform who are killed or wounded in
Twenty-five years ago,
Their fortitude has allowed the Pentagon to sustain a situation that everyone recognizes cannot go on indefinitely, even though no end to the Iraqi conflict is yet in sight. The extended unplanned deployment of American forces is taking a heavy cumulative toll, especially on the Army and Army National Guard. It is undermining readiness and morale, and limiting
The Pentagon is beginning to resemble a desperate farmer who feeds his starving family the seed corn meant for sowing next year's crop. To keep enough boots on the ground now, it is sacrificing the ability to retain the leaders of tomorrow. As overdeployment has become chronic, promising young officers are opting not to re-enlist. When new crops of young people graduate from school, they will be less willing to combine their civilian careers with service in the Army National Guard; recruitment is already down almost 30 percent. The Regular Army is hurting too. Despite enlistment bonuses, it has had to speed up its reporting schedules, sending new recruits straight into basic training.
This growing crisis is not due to a lack of preparedness on the part of military brass, but to the ideology on which preparedness was based. Before
Now, more than half of the Regular Army's fighting forces have either served in
None of this should lead Americans to worry that the
Many potential enemies overseas doubt that the public would have the appetite for that kind of sacrifice. As a result,
Listing all the dangers is much easier than coming up with solutions. But there are some obvious short-term answers. Barring any unexpected breakthroughs in
Most of the additional money required for this could come from elsewhere in the military budget. The Pentagon is taking a big step in the right direction by proposing sharp cuts in the unneeded F-22 stealth fighter program. As the military raises recruitment targets for the Army and Marines, it can reduce recruitment for the Air Force and Navy, which have more active-duty members than they now need.