Tags: 'Peacekeeping' | Saps | Military

'Peacekeeping' Saps Military

Thursday, 17 January 2002 12:00 AM

Ironically, the scope and number of simultaneous peacekeeping and other small-scale military operations undercut the readiness of our Armed Forces for its primary mission: to fight and win our nation's wars.

Our military is the most powerful on earth and it serves the richest nation in history. Serving means that the military does what the nation tells it to do; that is its charter. The problem is our military has gotten smaller while the number of things we have asked it to do has drastically increased.

What is the U.S security strategy today, and what should be the national military objectives to achieve it? These are not clearly defined, and until they are, the military capabilities necessary to accomplish them now and in the future cannot be properly assessed.

During Desert Storm the U.S. military had an active-duty strength of 2 million service members. Today it is 1.38 million, a 30 percent cut. The reserve components also are down, from 1.1 million to 860,000. Yet, the number of deployments has increased significantly. The Army alone reports its deployments up 300 percent.

The answer is not to stop peacekeeping, but to man and equip the nation's military at a level needed to meet its requirements.

Readiness is simple economics and a function of the "3 Rs:" requirements, resources and risks. What do you want done (requirements), how much do you have to do it (resources), and what consequences can you afford using resources at less than the optimal level (risk)?

Requirements cannot exceed resources. If we "stretch" resources, we increase risk and reduce readiness. Unlike in business, risk in military operations means Americans wounded and killed.

Today, unlike any time in our history, our military faces an array of threats across the full spectrum of conflict, from Major Theaters of War to peacekeeping, humanitarian support, and other small-scale contingencies.

Service members are called on to help at home with hurricane relief and fighting forest fires. They respond worldwide with humanitarian assistance by providing required airlift or constructing roads and schools. They perform duties with United Nations multi-national force observers. They are peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo. They maintain forward presence and reassure allies in Central and South America, Europe and the Pacific.

They keep the seas and skies safe for worldwide commerce. They watch over space and provide a nuclear deterrent. They perform counter-drug operations and are taking on increased demands of homeland defense. While accomplishing this and scores of other tasks, they must remain trained, equipped and ready to fight and win the nation's wars.

A large percentage of these "peacekeeping" missions fall to soldiers. On any given day the Army has about 140,000 soldiers deployed in operations, exercises or forward stationed in over 120 countries.

The Army's active strength is 480,000, down from 725,000 in 1991. Of this 480,000, the Army considers 293,000 available for deployment. Others are assigned as follows: 12,500 Special Operations Forces, about 63,000 in service schools or in transit between assignments, and 111,200 soldiers assigned to the "Institutional Army," which includes support for the Joint and DoD staffs, Army Recruiting, Reserve Officer Training Corps, District Engineers, Labs and Depots.

The impact of numerous smaller-scale contingencies is not clearly understood. Consider the approximate 5,000 soldiers involved in Bosnia.

The Army has been supporting this peacekeeping operation since 1995. To preserve readiness, units are rotated into and out of Bosnia every six months. However, for every unit executing, there are other providing logistical and administrative support in Tazar (400 soldiers), another group of 5,400 preparing for the next rotation, another group of 5,400 recovering (leave, schools and training) from the previous rotation, and about 3,700 soldiers taken from various other units to support the Bosnia Task Force. This latter group creates fragmented units of reduced readiness.

So, the deployment to 5,000 soldiers to ongoing peacekeeping missions like Bosnia impacts almost 20,000, or four for every one deployed.

For the Army to meet all of its requirements, it has had to call on the Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces at unprecedented numbers. More than 19,000 of these soldiers have been mobilized in support of continuing operations including Operation Enduring Freedom and peacekeeping in the Balkans. An additional 13,200 reserve component soldiers are providing security for airports and other critical facilities.

This places an enormous strain on employers who hold the jobs of these citizen soldiers until their military deployment is over. And it raises a question: Is the nation ready for this level of commitment from its Reservists and National Guard or is it time to increase the force structure of the Active component?

It is not surprising that a December 2000 U.S. General Accounting Office study concluded that the Army lacked about 26,000 soldiers for its requirements.

Readiness is measured in the near and long term by assessing four elements: personnel, training, availability of equipment and certain specific enablers pertinent to a unit's primary mission. Long-term readiness is also measured by such things as the condition of facilities and infrastructure on installations, and the amount of funding available to support upgrades and maintenance overhauls of major equipment.

The imbalance of requirements and resources over the last 10 years has forced the services to mortgage long-term readiness to accomplish near-term missions. The lack of an adequate installation infrastructure repair and upgrade program has reached critical proportions, and many service members and their families live and work in substandard facilities. This is a quality-of-life issue that affects re-enlistments and morale.

Additionally, most of the major war-fighting equipment is not being repaired or replaced at the programmed rate and exceeds or is approaching the end of its expected useful life. Air Force B-52 bombers, KC135 tankers and C-130 transports are more than 40 years old. 75 percent of the Army's combat systems are 10 to 20 years old. The older the equipment, the more its parts wear out, and the more it costs to repair and maintain.

This presents a "readiness" problem for the services. They can fund repair and upgrades of older (legacy) equipment that is required for today and tomorrow's operations (near-term readiness), or fund research, development and procurement of new equipment required for future battles (long-term readiness).

To address near- and long-term risks, services are attempting to do a little of both, but there simply is not enough money to do it right. So as equipment becomes obsolete faster than it is replaced, the "death spiral" continues.

The problem for the services is simply insufficient resources and financial support for what they are being asked to do. Each service chief testified before Congress this year as to his service's unfunded requirements.

In this fiscal year alone, their collective unfunded requirements approached $40 billion. Each year these requirements go unpaid, more equipment goes without proper maintenance, infrastructure decays and the costs to fix exponentially increase as does the risk to those who wear the uniform and those they serve.

Some argue that technology will mitigate the need for large numbers of soldiers. Though technology is a great enabler that can help set the conditions for success, it alone has never been able to finish a conflict or establish the peace. Vietnam, Desert One, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan bear this out.

Boots on the ground, eyeball to eyeball, are the final word and the only sure testimony of U.S. resolve. Just ask the Afghans and al-Qaeda. It takes ground forces and lots of them.

The world war on terrorism, its long-term duration, and the growing requirements for homeland defense will require prioritizing the services operational missions. Something will have to give. So, we have a choice. Pay and play, or decide where in the world we don't want to be.

In spite of the fact that daily worldwide overseas engagement by our military deters aggression, builds positive relationships, provides for stabilized markets, and permits our economy to engage those markets, maybe there are some things that we could stop doing.

But keep in mind the lessons of Sept. 11: terrorism breeds in areas of ignorance, want, and hopelessness – areas we ignore. We simply cannot afford not to be involved; yet we lack the resources to do it right.

The United States spends only about 3 cents of every one of its gross domestic product dollars on defense. Maybe we could increase this to 4 cents and fund a military that can meet the requirements of a world leader.

Throughout our history the choice has always come down to pay now in dollars or later in lives. It's time to "ante up" and, to paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt, ensure that our stick is big and that we have the will and wherewithal to use it.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Ironically, the scope and number of simultaneous peacekeeping and other small-scale military operations undercut the readiness of our Armed Forces for its primary mission: to fight and win our nation's wars. Our military is the most powerful on earth and it serves the...
Thursday, 17 January 2002 12:00 AM
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