Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Our Under-Funded, Under-Manned Military

This year’s election cycle put the military right in the middle of the political debate. Since nothing seems to be off limits in the political realm anymore, that’s to be expected.

The line designating that which was off limits for political-military relationships has always been a little undefined, a little fuzzy. But it seems that at some undesignated point in the not so distant past, the line disappeared altogether.

I feel compelled, for the sake of fairness, to acknowledge I myself am not innocent with regard to making distinct differences between military and political debate. But then again, I am now out of the service and in a position to pass along my sentiments as they pertain to my sincere regard for so many still in harms way with whom I have shared so much.

In this year’s political cycle, the biggest use of the military was to claim that it’s “broken.” Specifically, the claim was that our military has been broken by that part of the war on terror we’re fighting in Iraq. So we need to pull out of Iraq for the good of the military.

I often wonder, probably because I don’t think much of the average politician, whether they say those things for political posturing or out of sincere concern for the military. Only God knows their true intentions. I’ll just say that I’m skeptical of them.

Claims of the military being broken, for those reasons, for those purposes, misses the big picture and the biggest concern for our national security.

The war in Iraq and the rest of the war on terror should serve as a wake-up call to our nation that our overall plan for the military is broken. The military is not broken because of Iraq. Iraq has simply made unmistakably clear the fact our military lacks the manpower and funding for sustained combat.

With over 2 million active and reserve military personnel, how is that we can’t sustain 140,000 including support troops, in combat on that one front?

This fact makes the possibility of large-scale fighting on two fronts completely impossible. It also shows that our nation is completely unprepared to fight any country or alliance of any military significance.

Right now the liberals reading this are cheering and spewing forth Bush bashes.

But the fact is, the down-sizing of the military started under George H. W. Bush and went full speed ahead under Bill Clinton, who obviously took the military down too far. No surprise knowing the Clintonian contempt for the military.

The events of 9/11 then committed the Pentagon to fighting the war on terror while neglecting the fact we had become incapable of performing sustained combat operations under the previous administration. Regardless of what Donald Rumsfeld might have claimed over the years about changes to our military capabilities, technologies, and restructuring, it’s obvious we simply don’t have the personnel or assets to sustain combat on one front, let alone two. He didn’t start with the assets to do so, but he didn’t fix the problem either.

I understand our commitments to the corners of the earth by all services and the impact it has on war fighting capabilities. The commitments for joint exercises with other nations, Marine Expeditionary Units, air alert contingency units, peace-keeping missions, etc, etc, etc. all take troops from what has become the major front in Iraq as well as continuing operations in Afghanistan. But those together are what, 160,000 personnel now?

Given all of those commitments, weren’t we still supposed to be able to fight wars on two major fronts, or at least one?

Iraq has shown us that sustained combat with just 140,000 of our 2 million troops has forced us to rob Peter to pay Paul while deploying the same units over and over to the point of exhaustion for the troops and their families.

This proves our military is under-manned, under-funded, and maybe even incorrectly structured. If it doesn’t prove this, do we then have to consider two other possibilities? That either the deployment plans and use of military funding is completely, grotesquely inept or that the military is not broken at all, but is being used at an unprecedented level for domestic political gamesmanship.

The commitments and mission capabilities required of each service does not seem to have also left enough Marines, soldiers, and in some cases airmen or sailors to fight wars. So I believe it’s a case of being under-manned and under-funded. Recent declarations by the heads of some services would support this. General Conway’s comments after assuming duties as Commandant of the Marine Corps come to mind as the most recent example.

But instead of using this predicament as political fodder, after all the elections are over now, those in Washington need to act to correct this situation on a long term basis. Immediate pull out of Iraq would not fix the problem. It would only put a political band-aid on it. The fact would remain, as Iraq has proven, that we are not able to sustain combat operations given the current size and composition of the military.

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