25 August 2011

Save the Infantry! Looking Ahead at Budget Cuts

An impassioned plea that we "Don’t Forget the Infantry" from Jim Lacey at National Review Online

Even as American soldiers and marines remain locked in mortal combat, debates rage over how deeply to cut the military. Cuts ranging from $400 billion to $1 trillion over five to ten years are on the table. As none of these discussions appear grounded in any determination of what our strategic needs might be in an uncertain future, I may be wasting my words in pointing out that this appears to be a particularly bad time to think about reducing our military capabilities. Rather, I wish to rail against the one thing that almost always happens when the country undertakes an ill-thought-out reduction of its military might: the senseless elimination of land forces.
After the Soviet Union’s demise, the U.S. Army’s 18 combat divisions were cut to ten. And before 9/11 Secretary Rumsfeld was proposing to cut that force to eight. Let’s put that in perspective. The combat troops within a division (infantry, artillery, armor) are only a fraction of the division’s total strength; the rest serve in crucial logistics and other support roles. If one took all the “trigger pullers” in the nation’s ten Army and two Marine divisions, there would be barely enough to fill half a college football stadium. This lack of manpower was so detrimental to our war efforts that during the peak of the fighting in Iraq serious consideration was given to adding two more combat divisions to the Army. It never happened. And now that our commitment in Iraq is winding down, the Army is once again bracing itself for the possibility of losing two of its ten divisions.

Now, as much as I like his article and the excellent points it makes, I do have to quibble with one thing: post Cold-War, when we consolidated from 18 combat divisions to 10, one of the changes we made was that every division was given a full complement of 3 line brigades. During the 80s, many of those 18 divisions had 'roundout' brigades from the National Guard. Those relationships were punted after Gulf I and the drawdown when we closed VII Corps. Several of the active duty separate brigades (like the 197th at Ft Benning) were tied into existing divisions to replace their associated National Guard units.
Additionally, no one has ever really answered this question: where were we supposed to put VII Corps if we brought them home? Seriously. You're talking about 2 infantry divisions, 2 artillery brigades, plus an ACR, and MI, MP, AVN, SIG, and ADA brigades. That's a lot of stuff to park somewhere at a time when most bases were pretty strained for capacity and the Russians had just rolled over and called "Uncle!"

By: Brant

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