14 June 2013

What Happens in the Next Drawdown?

For the past 30 years, the focus has been to avoid hollowing out the Army in the next drawdown. Will that happen again?

During the post-Vietnam War drawdown of the 1970s, cuts in defense spending and difficulty recruiting a quality all-volunteer military infamously led to a “hollow” force by decade’s end. That force botched the 1980 Desert One attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran, lost 241 Marines to a terrorist bombing in Beirut, in 1983, and stumbled badly as a joint force in the invasion of Grenada that same year. The cycle arguably repeated itself during the post-Cold War 1990s, when a decadelong “procurement holiday” resulted in a dangerously aging military arsenal and troops who were manifestly unprepared for the insurgencies they confronted in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The problem for military leaders now is that the drawdown from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan comes not at the best of times but arguably at the worst. Consider the simple fact that readiness problems that took many years to carve out the force in the late 1970s are already affecting today’s military. And more than a year still remains before the last of the 63,000 U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan are scheduled to come home.

“I have testified to Congress that I came into a ‘hollow Army’ in the 1970s that had significant discipline problems, no money to train, and low standards,” said Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, speaking recently with reporters. “While I really don’t want to leave a hollow Army, that’s the road we’re headed down if we continue to have this budget impasse.” As a result of the sequester triggered in March by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Army has already canceled six rotations at its premier training centers, limited 80 percent of its forces to rudimentary home-base training at only the squad level or below, reduced flying hours, and planned to furlough civilian workers who help maintain installations. If the sequester budget caps are kept in place in fiscal 2014, Odierno predicts they will create a readiness hole that will take the Army three to four years to climb out of. “The problem I have,” he said, “is that when the Army is not prepared and ready, we historically have paid the cost in lives lost.”

By: Brant

No comments: