The October AUSA Annual Meeting offered, as always, an opportunity to hear some direct observations and expressions of concern by today’s Army leaders. I was particularly interested in subjects that bore relevance to the concerns I wrote about in the recent past ("What to Hope For," ARMY, September 2002, and "Expending the Force," ARMY, November 2002).
In furtherance of those concerns I noted the following: Every senior leader spoke of his pride, confidence and conviction that today’s Army is without peer in today’s world and that it has the vision, the understanding and the promise of technology that can sustain its dominance for the foreseeable future. But none of what I heard relieved me of the concerns expressed earlier.
Many speakers noted that "today" we have more than 180,000 soldiers deployed in more than 80 countries around the world. Given that this deployment has become "normal" in the last few years it is apparent that a prima facie case for an endstrength of 540,000 already exists. No speaker advanced that number, indeed none expressed publicly a need for a specific endstrength increase even though citing the difficulties of maintaining today’s operational tempo and personnel tempo. One speaker, in answer to a question, did acknowledge that today’s requirements are being sustained by the resources of five divisions and that if we apply the standard "one deployed, one training to go and one recovering," we ought to have 15 divisions in the active force. But sustainment of our current commitments into the indefinite future was not a subject addressed in any presentation of which I am aware.
No speaker, either, addressed the looming demands of military operations against Iraq. I would not presume to predict what these might be, but I can observe that they are over and above the bulk of the 180,000 already committed. Only by calculating (hoping?) that an Iraqi campaign will be completed in days, or at most a very few weeks, can we contemplate accomplishing the task with forces in being.
Once again, I have complete confidence in today’s Army against any adversary. But when we begin to expend it we must have the force development and force management measures in being to assure sustainment of its prowess.
There is, in addition, the moral responsibility of providing those committed to combat with the best training, leadership and resource commitment that we can afford. Maj. Gen. Guy Meloy’s article, "General Ridgway’s Personnel Management Policy" (ARMY, November 2002), is a splendid advocacy of the value of a pretrained organization and a stable chain of command on its combat effectiveness. Not all divisions were able to adopt the Ridgway policies, but their effect is even apparent today if one attends an 82nd Airborne reunion of its World War II veterans. We have units in the field today that have every promise of being as good as or better than those earlier formations, but sustaining that excellence demands advance attention.
The 82nd Division trained for almost two years before it was committed to the Sicily invasion and then it fought until the end of World War II with most of the leaders and most of the soldiers it began with in 1941. Contrasting that experience with any Vietnam War division provides an immediate revelation of force management requirements and the benefits of longer-term planning and preparation. Somehow we have to convince the Defense Department and Congress that our long-term interests demand some short-term commitments. The first of these is an adequate endstrength increase followed by the time to train individual soldiers in the squads, platoons, sections and A teams in which they will go to war. We are, after all, on our own timetable. The Gulf War, not World War II or Korea, should be the model for preparing to do this job, and sustaining the effort for the long term should have a high priority.
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.