Expending the Force
November 2002

By Gen. Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret.

The news, not extensively noted, that some of our National Guardsmen and Reservists are to be retained on active duty for a second year ought to be causing discomfort among more than the individuals concerned, their families and their employers. There ought to be some major concern among the force programmers and the personnel managers of all of the armed forces, although the Army has the greatest worry.

It appears to this interested observer that we are expending the force and doing little to ensure its viability in the years to come, years we have been assured it will take to win the war on terrorism. The quality of our effort, high and commendable during the first year and showing no signs of deterioration, can in the long run only be sustained by preparing now for the force we will need then. Barring the unlikely scenario of an all-out war and full mobilization, soldiers now fighting the war on terrorism, with a few exceptions, will not be available for fighting two years from now. Units and organizations of the reserve components, mobilized for the first year of war, will not be available for more of the same service off into the indefinite future. It might be prudent now to ask the managers who decreed the current second-year Reservists' extensions what they plan for the third year.

The force structure of the Army was designed to meet the two-war scenario of an earlier national strategy. Every unit had a mission to be performed when and if those two wars became a reality. The change to a somewhat more nebulous strategy has not affected the force planning that assigns units to fulfill the troop requirements of the worldwide combat commanders' war plans. Employing a unit of the reserve components on active duty to guard an airport for a year effectively forecloses on its availability for its intended mission, again, barring a full-mobilization scenario. Once such a unit completes a one-year tour, to say nothing of two years, it assuredly should not be subjected to a recall in less than three or four years, the time necessary to learn the effect of the active duty tour on the retention of personnel affected. Repetitive recalls are not normally the pattern contemplated by reservists who have already chosen not to be in active service.

The answer, of course, is to increase the size of the Army. On September 10, 2001, the Army was too small for the missions with which it was charged, a fact reported by both the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army in congressional testimony of that year. On September 11, Army mission requirements grew significantly; the Army did not. The mobilization of reserve components does not change the size of the Army. It instead begins the expending of it and establishes the need to begin planning for the replacement of that which is being used up.

If an Army unit is decimated in combat, we replenish it with soldiers who are trained, equipped and ready. If they come from the training base with those qualifications, the system is working properly, but they had to have been added to the force and trained and equipped before they were needed. When instead such replacements are reassigned from other units because the training base cannot supply them, we degrade the capability and readiness of the units from which those personnel are drawn.

Veterans of the Vietnam War will remember the impact of the latter policy. Within three years Army units in the United States and Europe had been shorn of their noncommissioned officers, had lost their combat effectiveness and were serving as staging posts for soldiers waiting to go to Vietnam or to get out if their terms of service expired in time.

World War II veterans may remember training their units for an expected overseas movement and being hit by "the levy" when one-third to one-half of their platoon strength shipped out as replacements along with one or two brother platoon leaders from their units. Morale, cohesion, esprit de corps and readiness plummeted as everyone addressed a new training cycle to absorb yet another batch of recruits.

Assuring the sustainment of combat capabilities means increasing the size of the Army so that it can rotate fully prepared units if possible, individual soldiers if necessary, into the war zone. It requires force development that assures the right kind of structure is activated and force management to employ it properly. Another item of recent news, also not widely noted, observes that 30,000 special operations forces personnel are not enough to carry on the current war. That fact is in itself a clarion call for a force development plan addressing the need, but one that also acknowledges the need for employing conventional forces through time. Commitment of brigades of the 10th Mountain (Light Infantry), 101st Airborne (Air Assault) and 82nd Airborne Divisions and the U.S. Marine Corps has already occurred, and a continuing rotation of these forces must be programmed.

Given a potential war with Iraq in addition to prosecuting the war on terror, the versatility and resiliency of the Army's force structure will again be tested. The infantry and Army aviation will bear the brunt of the war on terror. The armor and mechanized forces will carry the war to Iraq, and artillery fire support will be needed for both wars. Only a comprehensive, innovative force development and force management program can sustain both efforts over time.

Without such long-term preparation, we will see a return to the Vietnam deterioration, and we will exchange the outstanding battlefield superiority we now enjoy for an ever-decreasing effectiveness.
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GEN. FREDERICK J. KROESEN, USA Ret., is a former commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe and a senior fellow of AUSA's Institute of Land Warfare.
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Source:   http://www.ausa.org/www/armymag.nsf   See November 20 Issue of Army Magazine
Related item:  A MOAA update, Reserve Chief Warns of "Broken" Army Reserve Force
Related item:   Army Green Book article by General Helmly, Profound Change While Fighting the War
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