20 August 2003
U.S. Military Needs More People, Senator Argues
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison op-ed in The Washington
(This column by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas,
who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military
Construction and vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference,
was published in the Washington Times August 20 and is in the public
domain. No republication restrictions.)
Stretched Too Thin
By Kay Bailey Hutchison
"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it,
pulverize it and wipe it clean of life -- but if you desire to
defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do
this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your
young men into the mud."
Those words, written nearly 40 years ago by my good friend T.R.
Fehrenbach in the definitive work on the Korean War, "This Kind
of War: A Study in Unpreparedness" -- still ring true today. Our
recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq reinforce those very
lessons. We prosecuted a very successful war, but if we are going
to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi and Afghan people while
preserving the peace elsewhere, we will need young men and women
with their boots on the ground. I am increasingly concerned we
don't have enough soldiers and Marines to do all the jobs that
must be done.
Shortly before he retired, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki advised
that postwar Iraq might require several hundred thousand soldiers
and Marines to keep the peace. Gen. Shinseki commanded peacekeeping
operations in both Bosnia and Kosovo, and he knows what it takes
to get the job done right. But if we were to place several hundred
thousand troops in Iraq, the unfortunate truth is that the Army
may be stretched too thin elsewhere. Indeed, the man nominated
to take his place, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, is another who apparently
doesn't shy from offering his frank opinion. He recently said, "Intuitively,
I think we need more people. It's as simple as that."
When the first Gulf War ended, the Department of Defense cashed
in a peace dividend from the end of the Cold War when it lowered
the strength of the U.S. Army active forces from 750,000 to 535,000
troops. That cut was necessary, but then they cut more and in doing
so, reduced the Army's active strength to 491,000 -- too low for
our current requirements.
Today, in addition to the 491,000 active-duty Army soldiers, there
are 550,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard. In order
to keep 370,000 of our soldiers deployed to more than 100 countries,
we have called to active duty an unprecedented 136,000 members
of the Reserve and National Guard.
There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence of the toll this overuse
is taking on our troops. Recently, I talked to family members of
some reserve units who have seen their loved ones deployed again
and again. They are proud of their service but made it clear that,
when their tour of duty is over, they will be hanging up their
boots and leaving the Reserve. This is not an isolated view. Many
senior members of our military have candidly expressed concerns
that we are asking our Reserves to deploy too often. They believe
it may hurt our efforts to recruit new reservists and retain the
ones we have.
The Army recently announced a sound plan to replace units in Iraq
with a mix of active-duty and reserve forces. When our units in
Kosovo, Bosnia and the Sinai Peninsula complete their six-month
rotations, they will be replaced with National Guard units. There
is no question they can do the job. But should they? This rotation
plan only serves as a tacit admission that we need more force structure.
Our guard members and reservists signed up to defend our nation
in times of national emergency and stand ready to do just that.
They never expected to augment the day-to-day missions of active-duty
In the months ahead, the Pentagon promises numerous studies to
examine the impact of answering the calls worldwide. But these
studies are addressing the symptoms and not the illness.
We must not balance the tempo of how and when we use Reserve units
on the backs of active-duty units, and vice versa. We need more
troops or fewer missions. Before we lose too many trained and qualified
reservists, I hope we address the critical issue: Do we have enough
Army and Marine active-duty members for the post-September 11 era
of national security? My view is: We do not.