After six years of war in Afghanistan and four and more than four and a half years of war in Iraq, the U.S. military is under tremendous strain. President Bush’s “surge” policy in Iraq which was enacted one year ago, has added to this strain. The overextension of our armed forces has forced extended and repeated deployments, hurting the readiness of our fighting forces and taking a toll on the lives of our men and women in uniform. Extended deployments have hurt our military’s recruitment and retention efforts and have led to significant equipment degradation and shortages. The end result: our commanders are concerned that overextension of our forces has hurt America’s ability to respond to other threats, making us less safe. President Bush must work with Congress to redeploy our troops, refocus on the most serious threats facing our country and get our military forces back into balance.
Overextension of the military limits America’s ability to respond to other threats:
Prolonged Deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan Diminish Our Ability to Combat Terrorist Networks Around the Globe or Respond to An Attack On the Homeland. The U.S. military is so overextended it has no available reserve of ground troops to respond to potential crises in Pakistan, North Korea, or Darfur. The reduction of pre/positioned equipment stocks to meet equipment shortfalls in Iraq and Afghanistan severely limits our ability to deal with unforeseen contingencies around the world. Additionally, The Army’s rapid respond division, the 82nd Airborne, operated for much of 2007 with only one “ready brigade” designed to respond instantly to threats around the globe. [CRS Report, 6/15/07]
General Casey Fears Lack of Trained Forces for Missions Outside of Iraq. “‘The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply,’ the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, said last week. ‘Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don’t go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces’ for other missions.” [Associated Press, 8/20/07]
Admiral Fallon and Admiral Mullen Worried About Having Enough Forces to Confront Threats Outside Iraq and Afghanistan. “Admiral Fallon was said by some officers to believe that only by giving the Iraqi government a clearer sense that the American troop commitment was limited would the Iraqis take steps aimed at achieving reconciliation. He also worries about having enough forces in reserve to handle contingencies outside Iraq and in Afghanistan. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the current chief of naval operations, who takes over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs next month, has also raised concerns about force levels, though he also cautions against a withdrawal before the current strategy is allowed to work.” [New York Times, 9/14/07]
Shortage of F/15s Has Forced Some States to Rely on Their Neighbors. “…the California Air National Guard is standing watch for the entire West Coast, an area of more than 300,000 square miles that is home to more than 46 million people in California, Oregon, Washington, and slices of Arizona and Nevada. The California Air National Guard said this is first time in history that a single state’s fighter wing is providing coverage for an entire coast.” [Associated Press, 12/26/07]
Extended deployments threaten our soliders’ readiness and cannot be sustained:
The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and President Bush’s Troop Surge Have Forced the Military to Rely on Repeated Combat Tours for War-Weary Veterans. An Army survey revealed that soldiers are 50 percent more likely to suffer from a stress disorder if they serve more than one tour and the suicide rate among troops deployed to Iraq hit an all/time high in 2006 [Washington Post, 12/20/06]
General Casey Said Prolonged Deployments Were Detrimental to Soldiers, Their Families, and the Army As a Whole. “I’ve been doing this job now for eight months, and in the first four or five months my wife and I traveled all over…One of the things I did see was the cumulative effect of almost seven years of war on our soldiers, on our leaders, on our families and really on our institutions and our systems. A good example (of this) is Walter Reed, when you had five years worth of casualties coming into an arcane disability evaluation system, and it just backed up until it broke. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of those kinds of things happening all over the Army.” [Stars & Stripes, 12/17/07]
More than 420,000 Troops Have Deployed More Than Once and Stop/Loss Has Been Imposed On Over 50,000 Men and Women in Uniform. Army units are currently being deployed at an unprecedented rate since becoming an all/volunteer force and many brigades have not received the necessary “dwell time” indicated by Army doctrine. At least 10 Army brigades had their tours extended while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In December, 2007 Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army is “out of balance” and “The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply [Washington Post, 9/27/07].”
Returning Veterans Report Emotional and Physical Problems; Said Armed Forces Are Stretched Too Thin. VoteVets.org , a group headed by an Army reservist based near Pittsburgh, found that 63 percent of veterans of both conflicts describe the Army and Marine Corps as "overextended," while many soldiers also complained about encountering emotional and physical problems when they came back from active duty. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/5/06]
- Thirteen percent of participants said they were affected by military "stop/loss" policies that require some units to stay in the field for extended time periods.
- One in four veterans has had nightmares since returning to the United States.
- Thirty-two percent of National Guard or Reserve veterans said their families experienced "economic hardships" because of their overseas deployments. Many National Guard and Reserve veterans also said they should get full access to the medical benefits provided to active duty personnel. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/5/06]
Deterioration of the national guard deprives states of critical resources:
As a Result of the Shortage in Troops and Equipment, State Governments Do Not Have the Necessary Resources to Respond to National Disasters Such as Hurricane Katrina or the Recent Wildfires in California. The continued deployment of more than 130,000 U.S. troops, six years after the attacks on September 11, 2001 has led to the deterioration of the National Guard and Reserve and a growing equipment shortage in the 50 states. Almost nine out of every 10 National Guard units not in Iraq or Afghanistan have less than half the equipment needed to respond to a domestic crisis [Center for American Progress, 12/10/07].
General Blum Said National Guard’s Ability to Respond to Natural Disasters and Terrorist Attacks at Home Has Been Put At Risk By Being Under-Equipped. “We are now in a degraded state back here at home… The ability for the National Guard to respond to natural disasters and to perhaps terrorist weapons-of-mass-destruction events that may come to our homeland is at risk because we are significantly under-equipped.” [Detroit News, 3/31/07]
On Average, Non-Deployed Army National Guard Units Have Only Half of the Equipment They Need to Respond to Crises at Home. In recent testimony, General Blum stated that, “Nationwide, I can tell you that the National Guard prior to September 11th, 2001, had approximately 75 percent of the equipment that it was required to have against a validated requirement that was set by the Army and the Air Force to perform our federal combat missions abroad. At the beginning of this year, that number was down to as low as 40 percent. It today stands at 53 percent, if you’re talking about homeland defense/homeland security-essential equipment. If you’re talking about the full spectrum of equipment that we require, it’s only 49 percent. So roughly half of what we need is in our hands here at home. [General Blum, Testimony before the House Homeland Subcommittee on Management, 5/24/07]
Eighty-Eight Percent of Non-Deployed Army National Guard Units Are Rated as Not Ready. General Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, testified earlier this year that the readiness of National Guard forces is at a historic low. In testimony before the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, General Blum stated that “88 percent of the forces that are back here in the United States are very poorly equipped today in the Army National Guard. And in the Air National Guard, for the last three decades, they have never had a unit below C2 in equipment readiness.” Further, he testified, “Those units are needed here at home, and they’re leveraged every day.” [General Steven Blum, Testimony before the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, 1/31/07; Commission on the Nation Guard and Reserves, 3/07]
The military is struggling with recruitment and retention:
The Army May Be Losing its Best and Brightest Due to Protracted Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The retention rate at the five-year mark for the West Point class of 1999 was 71.9 percent in 2004, down from 78.1 percent for the previous year’s class. And for the class of 2000, the retention rate fell to 65.8 percent, meaning that last year the Army lost more than a third — 34. 2 percent — of that group of officers as they reached the end of their initial five-year commitment. That is the highest rate of loss over the past 16 years among West Point officers reaching the five-year mark.” [New York Times, 4/10/06]
Army Suffering Shortage of Young Officers Due to Extended Deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan – Forced to Offer Huge Bonuses to Try to Retain Them. “The Army is offering cash bonuses of up to $35,000 to retain young officers serving in key specialties — including military intelligence, infantry and aviation — in an unprecedented bid to forestall a critical shortage of officer ranks that have been hit hard by frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials said that lengthy and repeated war-zone tours — the top reason younger officers leave the service — plus the need for thousands of new officers as the Army moves forward with expansion plans have contributed to a projected shortfall of about 3,000 captains and majors for every year through 2013.” [Washington Post, 10/11/07]
Protracted war has caused equipment shortfalls:
U.S. Military Facing Serious Equipment Shortfalls Both in Theater and at Home. “Protracted conflicts also dramatically increase equipment operational usage rates, resulting in reduced useful life and increasing repair and replacement requirements. The Army and Marines have a number of equipment-related challenges to rectify which may require significant funding and management efforts. Both the Army and Marines are providing their units with additional equipment over and above their peacetimeauthorized levels, which is placing significant equipment demands on both services. [CRS Report, 6/15/07]
Overextension Requires Additional Equipment and Transportation Capabilities. “The Army maintains that its brigade combat teams (BCTs) are operating over a much wider geographical area than they were designed for and therefore require additional equipment to facilitate these dispersed operations. In addition, units such as the 10th Mountain Division, 101st Airborne, and 82nd Airborne, the Army’s light, largely footmobile infantry units, require extensive equipment augmentation — particularly vehicles — in order to operate over the large areas assigned to them.” [CRS Report, 6/15/07]
- Marine General Testified to Corps-Wide Degradation of Equipment Due to Use of Ground Equipment. “The increased ground equipment requirement, when coupled with high utilization rates, results in a Corps-wide degradation of equipment.” [Statement of General Michael W. Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps before the House Armed Services Committee Hearing on Army and Marine Corps Strategies for Ground Equipment and Rotor Craft, June 27, 2006]
General Barry McCaffrey Said Army and Marines Were Broken Due to Six Years of War. “Your Army, somewhat the Marine Corps, are broken. Our equipment is broken. Hundreds of our armored vehicles are lined up at depots. It has been grossly under-resourced. We are in a position of strategic peril. In my judgment, our manpower is inadequate. I’ve been saying 80,000 troops short in the Army, 25,000 in the Marine Corps. Our recruiting is faltering. There is unquestionably, on the bottom end, a decrease in the quality of the kids coming into the United States Army now. We’re encountering all sorts of problems we didn’t see some years ago. You must fix the Army and the Marine Corps or we will be incapable of responding to the next crisis.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, 1/18/07]
Army and Marines Estimate Cost of Reset Will Be Very Expensive. “[In 2006] the U.S. Army has estimated that over the next six years it will cost approximately $36.1 billion to reset and recapitalize the force. The Marine Corps estimates show that it would cost $11.7 billion to repair and replace their equipment over the next five years.” [Senator Jack Reed Press Release, 2/13/06]
The surge exacerbates the shortages in equipment and manpower:
The Surge is Making a Serious Problem Worse. “The unforecasted requirement to fully equip these ‘surge’ forces will likely cause additional strain on already depleted equipment stocks, with some suggesting that specialized items such as electronic jammers to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), M117 Armored Security Vehicles, and Mine Resistant Ambush-Proof (MRAP) vehicles might be in particularly short supply.” [CRS Report, 6/15/07]