National Guard — May 2013
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Last Word
Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig

Saving the Million-Man Army

THIS DANGEROUS WORLD demands that the United States maintain a robust land force, but our fiscal problems make it imperative to reduce the cost of this force.

Our current dilemma reminds me of that time nearly a decade ago when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “You go to war with the army you have.”

A protracted war using a large number of soldiers had not fit into his vision of future armed conflict. Unfortunately, the enemy had a vote.

A large land force was finally equipped and committed in 2007. It achieved decisive results.

The current defense guidance is that the United States will no longer conduct longterm stability operations. This is an amazing statement given our experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, Vietnam and Korea the last 60 years.

In addition, we are now “pivoting” to the Pacific Rim and are told we need to maintain only a large Air Force and Navy to defend that area. You might recall that this was our plan in 1999.

Of course, there are plenty of new studies proposing ways to accomplish this reduction in “expensive” land forces.

One last year from the Stimson Center, “A New U.S. Defense Strategy for a New Era: Military Superiority, Agility, and Efficiency,” recommends we focus on maintaining space, air and naval forces.

We should “strongly resist being drawn into protracted land wars restricting our combat deployments of ground forces to well-defined and limited objectives,” the report says.

And a February report, “National Defense in a Time of Change” from the Hamilton Project, is even more specific. It recommends strengthening the Air Force and Navy, while reducing the Marine Corps by about 20,000 troops and the Army’s active component by 200,000.

This rather risky idea is partially mitigated by increasing the Army Guard and Reserve by 100,000 soldiers. In all, that would leave our Total Army with 945,000 soldiers.

Both reports reflect a great deal of wishful thinking. The world remains a dangerous place. Just look at the current news concerning North Korea, Syria and Iran.

A large land force is an absolute necessity to protect our nation from current threats and those that may be just beyond the horizon.

The Army chief of staff has recommended the force stabilize at a total end-strength of 1,045,000 soldiers—490,000 in the active component and 555,000 in the reserve components. Any further reductions should be proportional, reducing all components and capabilities by the same percentage.

But why settle for a smaller Total Army when there is another way?

The recent report of the Reserve Forces Policy Board on personnel costs provides the basis for a better way forward. We can maintain the million-man Army at a lower cost by simply adjusting the AC/RC mix.

The basic arithmetic is simple. According to the report, cutting 100,000 troops from the active component would save $21.8 billion. Increasing the reserve components by 100,000 would cost $6.1 billion. The final savings would be $15.7 billion annually with no loss in Total Army end-strength.

This would be a paradigm cultural shift for Army senior leaders who have spent their adult lives in a force with a large active component.

But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has challenged all of us to open our minds.

“The size and shape of the force needs to be constantly reassessed to include the balance between active and reserve,” he said last month, adding, “We must challenge all past assumptions.”

The skilled and courageous soldiers of the Army Guard and Reserve components have clearly demonstrated their competence and effectiveness over 11 years of war. We can keep the Army of an adequate size to deal with any contingency and save money in the process.

What are we waiting for?

The author is the Pennsylvania adjutant general.

A large land force is an absolute necessity to protect us from current threats and those that may be just beyond the horizon.
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