WT - Army's Recruiting Difficulties
July 16, 2005
Army's recruiting difficulties
Columnist Jack Kelly and retired Army Lt. Col.
James Carafano, whom Mr. Kelly quotes, in his Commentary column ("Army recruiting turns up," July 9) do readers of The Washington Times a disservice by putting a happy face on what appears to be a looming disaster.
Mr. Kelly believes the Army needs to be larger by two divisions "to most effectively prosecute the war on terror" and that even maintaining the current size of the Army will be difficult until the economy turns south.
The draft, according to Mr. Kelly, is out. (As a former draftee, I am unconvinced that draftees are so inferior to the National Guard troops or reservists as to put their use beyond the pale.)
Politically, the draft is out. No congressman seriously wants conscription, and the generals are happy with a volunteer force of motivated professional troops who, for the most part, want to be in uniform and getting the mission accomplished.
It could be done, a draft could be devised that would provide good troops, but the political will is not there.
More recruiters and a higher enlistment bonus (of up to $40,000) are the sum total of his solution.
This is a market solution, as has been typical of the volunteer army era mindset. If it's all about economics and education benefits promised (and sometimes delivered), then the budgeteers can wrap their puny whithered minds around it.
This is one area where the current administration has been sorrowfully deficient, in appealing to Americans for their service.
Enlarging the Army, however necessary, may be just a slightly bigger pipe dream than maintaining the Army at its current, inadequate, size.
The Army consists of the Regular Army, Reserves and National Guard — and more than a third to almost half of our soldiers deployed in Iraq are National Guardsmen or reservists.
The problem of recruitment needs to encompass all three components.
It appears the problem is both far greater and more immediate than Mr. Kelly suggests.
Though the Regular Army made its recruiting goal for June, it fell short in February, March, April and May by about 7,800, according to Mr. Kelly.
Yet: "Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. Army so thin that its ability to retain and recruit soldiers is threatened, according to an Army-sponsored report ... [T]he report says long-term options for improving the situation include relying more on the Army National Guard or expanding the number of Army combat brigades"("Army stretched thin, report says," Nation, Thursday).
The "expanding the number of Army combat brigades" is a strategy which is the very heart and soul of stretching the Army thinner. This isn't about increasing the number of trigger pullers and combat crews, it's about increasing the number of deployable groups of trigger pullers and combat crews, while at the same time downgrading and degrading their equipment, from M1 Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to Strykers and Humvees.
Rely more on the National Guard?
Mr. Kelly failed to mention that the Army National Guard "missed its recruiting goal for at least the ninth straight month in June and is nearly 19,000 soldiers below its authorized strength ... and has missed its recruiting target for at least 17 of the past 18 months." ("Army National Guard Misses Recruiting Goal," The Washington Post, Tuesday).
A major factor in the decrease in recruiting numbers for the guard is two-fold. First, the best recruiter for any military unit, whether active, guard or reserve, is a serving member of the unit. If a unit is deployed, then all its best recruiters aren't out there recruiting, even passively. Let's leave alone the negative recruiting value created by seeing those "best recruiters" come home in a box.
Second, a major pool of reserve and guard recruits is from personnel leaving active duty who still desire to maintain their connection with the service, for whatever reason. If they're stop-lossed and not able to leave active duty, then they're not available as recruits for the national guard. If they're perfectly well aware that joining the guard means an automatic additional couple overseas tours as the Army is "relying more on the Army National Guard," then why bother leaving active duty?
Add to that the recent statement by the chief of the Army Reserve, Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, that the Reserve was "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force" ("General Says Army Reserve Is Becoming 'Broken' Force," The Washington Post, Jan. 6).
One expects our military leaders to be courageous, straightforward, realistic and blunt.
Maj. Gen. John Libby, Maine adjutant general, was just that when he said: "We're building very quickly toward a crisis if in the next two or three rotations we still have 135,000 troops on the ground in Iraq" ("Part-Time Forces on Active Duty Decline Steeply," New York Times, Monday).
It helps neither our troops in the field nor our overall chances of success in Iraq and Afghanistan to put happy faces over the real problem of insufficient troops.
Sending too few troops to accomplish the job may engender greater heroism on the part of the troops, but the mission itself is put in jeopardy.
Pretending we have enough troops is not what wins a war, most especially the war in Iraq.
As a nation, we need to adjust either the size of the Army to its mission or the scope of the mission to the size of the Army.
ROBERT A. SCHADLER
Center for First Principles