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End Strength

July 22, 2003

How big an Army? To do what? For how long? At what costs? Why now? Why not earlier? What to do?
The issue of end strength has been addressed by the press, the pundits and the think tanks, left to right, high to low; by the Senate, the House and, of course, the opposing party. The objective is to have enough soldiers to execute Army mission(s) at the right time and the right place, have enough in the total to have both tactical and operational flexibility and to have adequate depth in numbers to support leader development, required force structure manning and the requisite balance needed across the ranks.

Everyone who has held senior service and defense positions or has been in one of the big four defense committees in Congress knows and understands this requirement for adequately trained and equipped manpower. It is a verity—right-sized numbers (end strength) to man the correct structure for the missions to be accomplished—but it has not always been crystal clear how much is adequate.

Historically, the Army has had some examples of inadequate numbers, unmanned units and unreadiness in training and leadership. General E. C. “Shy” Myer’s “Hollow Army” of the early ’70s is a popular example. No one ever gets it right, as many outside forces and events have placed the Army—at times—in an unbalanced, undermanned state. In the draft-era Army, it was easier to enlist additional younger soldiers to meet grade requirements for pending or existing crises that would require expansion, as the then regulars could lead and train the new small units being built. That is not possible today, and even if I were an advocate of returning to conscription, I doubt it would happen.

I and our association have been advocates for an end-strength increase of some 30,000-40,000 across two administrations and two Congresses (107th and 108th). We strongly support this, along with a requisite increase in full-time manning of reserve component formations to give those first-to-go units that needed readiness and preparation. Today, we have not changed our position on this valid requirement that we have seen in deployments from the Balkans to Baghdad.

It is not a time for recriminations of who did and did not do what to allow the unbalance and strain to the forces to occur. It is time for a studied approach that will first increase end strength for the active component by some 40,000 over the next two to three years. Army recruiting in today’s marketplace can succeed. Second, we must continue to use existing reserve component units in deployments as we have in SFOR and IFOR in the Balkans. Third, it is practical, using existing policies and procedures, to balance the needed rotational expectations of the deployed forces.

There are indications that responsible people in the Pentagon are addressing both short-term and long-term policy adjustments and resource needs to meet strength requirements. Then, with up-front bipartisan support, Congress in a bipartisan manner should express no hesitation in providing additional funding for needed end-strength increases with requisite operational costs. We should not allow prewar jitters to prejudice us as we address the need for trained and ready forces to fight and win today’s ongoing wars—the need for more end strength with the requisite resources to develop and maintain the force appropriately.

AUSA has addressed the issue of Army end strength many times in recent years. Here are links to some examples:

ARMY Magazine
Transformation” by GEN Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret. (Front & Center, August 2003)

Let’s Start with 50K” by GEN Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret. (Front & Center, March 2003)

Expending the Force III” by GEN Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret. (Front & Center, January 2003)

Expending the Force II” by GEN Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret. (Front & Center, December 2002)

Expending the Force” by GEN Frederick J. Kroesen, USA Ret. (Front & Center, November 2002)

“It’s Time for a True Appraisal of the Real Base Force Requirement” (February 1998)

Fall Will Be Busyby Walt Pollard, Assistant Director, Government Affairs
(September 2002)

Voice of Congress: Army Needs More Troops” by Rep. Jim R. Ryan, R-Kan., Member, House Armed Services Committee (June 2002)

Voice of Congess: Meeting New Demands” by Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn., Member, House Armed Services and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees (April 2002)

Editorial: “Looking at the Numbers” (April 2002)

View from the Hill: Where Do We Go from Here?” by Bill Loper, Director, Government Affairs (February 2002)

Stroup: Increase Budget, Pay and End Strength” (August 2000)

Editorial: “AUSA at 50, Where We Stand” (July 2000)

AUSA Applauds Decision to Defer RC Cuts” (February 2000)

ILW Publications
The U.S. Army: Too Small for the Tasks at Hand (Defense Report 92-1, April 2002) PDF

The U.S. Army at the Dawn of the 21st Century: Overcommitted and Underresourced (Defense Report 01-1, January 2001) PDF

Resolution 03-07, Readiness: Resourcing the Army, points 4, 5 and 6 (2003)

"Spread Too Thin" by Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., President, AUSA (Letter to the Editor, Army Times, September 30, 2002, posted with permission)