The US Army is currently on track to increase 65,000 people to a total of 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the current conflicts. There is a corresponding increase in the US Marine Corps, from 194,000 to 221,000, for a total increase of 92,000 to 768,000 ground troops.
A larger US military was first proposed by the presumptive Secretary of State, Senator Clinton along with Senator Graham in May, 2004 and has subsequently been endorsed by Senator Obama. In 2004 Clinton said, “I don’t think we have any alternatives.” In July 2005 Clinton co-introduced with Graham legislation to increase the size of the regular United States Army by 80,000 soldiers.
This 92,000 increase is apparently not enough.
According to an Army spokesman, the Pentagon actually needs not 547,000 but 580,000 soldiers, a 33,000 additional increase, “to meet current demand and get the dwell time.
The demand for soldiers extends beyond the war zones, as commanders in other regions request troops, Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said. “It’s a real challenge. It’s not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea,” Ford said, referring to the U.S. Central Command, Northern Command, African Command and Pacific Command.
The New York Times, a chief promoter of the Iraq and Afghanistan imperialism, also weighed in on this matter recently in its editorial “A Military for a Dangerous New World [sic]”.
The United States and its NATO allies must be able to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — and keep pursuing Al Qaeda forces around the world. Pentagon planners must weigh the potential threats posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an erratic North Korea, a rising China, an assertive Russia and a raft of unstable countries like Somalia and nuclear-armed Pakistan. And they must have sufficient troops, ships and planes to reassure allies in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
We believe the military needs the 65,000 additional Army troops and the 27,000 additional marines that Congress [read: Senators Clinton, Graham and Obama] finally pushed President Bush into seeking. That buildup is projected to take at least two years; by the end the United States will have 759,000 [actually 768,000] active-duty ground troops.
That sounds like a lot, especially with the prospect of significant withdrawals from Iraq. But it would still be about 200,000 fewer ground forces than the United States had 20 years ago, during the final stages of the cold war. Less than a third of that expanded ground force would be available for deployment at any given moment.
The NY Times doesn’t come right out and say it, but it looks like it wants another hundred thousand warriors, beyond what is programmed, to a total of nearly a million.
The United States is not threatened by any other military force in the world and it needs two hundred thousand MORE soldiers and Marines? As many ground troops as there are people in Detroit or San Jose?
What is the cost of this un-needed buildup in the middle of the current financial crisis? The current buildup of the Army and the Marine Corps will cost more than $100 billion over the next six years.
Let’s look at the places where the US has ground troops, and supposedly needs more.
First, a continuing consideration is increasing ‘dwell time,’ which is the amount of time a soldier or unit remains at home station between deployments. Army Chief of Staff George Casey stated plans for the future looked at extending dwell times for both active-duty Army and Army National Guard units, since the current operational tempo was a strain on Soldiers and their families. [Currently soldiers are one year in a combat zone and one year away, Marines are seven months in each.] “While this is the most resilient, professional, combat seasoned force I have been associated with in 38 years of my own service, we’re stretched. We can’t continue at this rate and still sustain the all volunteer force. We don’t have enough time at home to prepare for other things,” he said.
Another consideration is ‘stop loss,’ the forced retention of a soldier beyond his or her enlistment. According to General Casey, ending the Army’s reliance on stop loss to maintain troop levels in war zones won’t officially end for nearly two more years.
Now the foreign deployments.
It looks like there will be US ground forces in Iraq for some time.
Here’s SecDef Gates, Dec 14, 2008, destroying the Iraq SOFA, which Bush (w/o the Senate) negotiated with Iraq and which calls for ALL US forces to be out of Iraq in three years:
“We’re going to have to be out of the cities, out of populated areas by the 30th of June. That represents a really significant change of mission. And it calls for us to have all of our combat units out by the end of 2011. . . And the president-elect, as everybody knows, has talked about 16 months, but he’s also talked about the drawdowns being responsible, and he’s also talked about wanting to listen and hear from commanders on the ground. . . . And I think the president-elect means exactly what he says. He wants to do it in a responsible way, a way that is safe for our soldiers and with the advice of our commanders.”
All “combat units” out in three years? The SOFA calls for all US forces to be out then, but obviously Gates has his own plans. And apparently in Iraq there will be some of what the NY Times calls “sleight-of-hand responses to military and political problems”.
Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else.
There will soon be a doubling of US forces in this graveyard of imperialism.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he expected the military to meet the ground commander’s request with as many as 30,000 more troops.
SecDef Gates, Dec 11: I do believe that there will be a requirement for a sustained commitment here [Afghanistan] for some protracted period of time. How many years that is and how many troops that is, I think nobody knows at this point.
Even though the Pentagon, after fifty years, has decided that North Korea is no longer a military threat, the nearly 30,000 US forces will not only be retained in South Korea, an hour from Shanghai, but the Army undersecretary says the ground commander wants more. Additionally, the existing US military empire in the Land of the Morning Calm will bulk up.
In June, while on a foreign trip, SecDef Robert Gates said that Korea is not a combat zone and therefore he supported extending the tours of thousands of troops stationed there to three years and allowing their spouses and children to live with them during their assignments.
The Pentagon, after this little-covered decision, has begun an $8.2 billion construction project, with some financial aid from the South Korea government, building high-rises full of single-soldier barracks, bachelor officers’ quarters and family apartments. “It’s the right thing to do,” said 8th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Fil. “This alliance is strong and enduring. It will last through the 21st century and beyond. It is time to make this permanent instead of doing it one year at a time.”
The Army plans to build thirty-six 12-to-15-story apartment buildings that will house almost 3,000 families. The sizes will vary, but the apartments will be larger than the standard in the States or Europe. The model has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and almost 2,000 square feet, with space for a living area, dining area and a den. Three of the towers have already been completed, are surrounded by playgrounds and are within walking distance of the post elementary school.
Camp Humphreys has a “Splish ‘N Splash” water park. It will gain a 40,000 square-foot education center and a new food, beverage and entertainment complex. Both the child-development center and the school at Humphreys are rapidly expanding and offer the newest facilities in Korea. Right now, Humphreys’ elementary school can accommodate 255 students; soon it will be able to accommodate about 350, and new schools are planned. The new child development center is only partially full now and can accommodate about 300 children.
The retention and tour length extension of US troops in Korea directly affects dwell time and stop loss, obviously. These are troops that are not available to replace those worn out in combat.
While the ‘cold war’ has ended there are still about 40,000 U.S. Army troops assigned in Germany, although some are on duty elsewhere. Why does the US still have troops in Germany? With the largest military in the world it’s cheaper to house them in foreign countries and demand that those countries pick up part of the tab, plus the commute time to combat zones is reduced.
AFRICOM “inherits a small but meaningful U.S. military presence already existing in numerous African nations, to include Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, as well as Defense Department personnel assigned to U.S. Embassies and diplomatic missions to coordinate Defense Department programs supporting U.S. diplomacy.”
This newest military adventure, currently headquartered in Germany, is a ‘combatant command’ without any combat troops. Now General William Ward would certainly love to have some live combat soldiers in his parades, so there is a definite need there.
OTHER FOREIGN ASSIGNMENTS
The US also has ground troops in Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Philippines, Bahrain, Honduras, and in the Sinai.
The US now has a ‘combatant command’ on its own soil! USNORTHCOM “anticipates and conducts Homeland Defense and Civil Support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests.”
Northcom has a 4,700 brigade of combat troops assigned to it. These highly-trained troops, with expertise in all aspects of combat, will be assigned to clean up after a natural disaster, we’re told. Does that make sense to anyone? No, and it’s certainly not why this brigade received training in the use of Tasers, is it.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said [the brigade commander], describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.
At least one senator, Patrick Leahy, is concerned that the Pentagon, for the first time ever, has dedicated an Army force specifically to NorthCom, which is in charge of securing not some foreign region but the United States of America.
So there it is, at least most of it. The US will maintain combat forces in Iraq, except perhaps under other names, and at least double its forces in Afghanistan, it will still need additional troops because of the military forces in Germany and Korea, and other places, and it also needs to increase the forces in Korea, Africa, and the US, and still more to engage in other military adventures yet undefined in what they say is a “dangerous world.”
Well, yes, it is dangerous, and we know why, don’t we. Nearly six hundred thousand ground troops, or more, many of them combat warriors, at a time when the US faces no military threats except the ones that the deep thinkers in Washington can concoct in order to use all these troops. That’s dangerous, as has been proven. Iran China, Pakistan and Russia, anyone?
What do you think?
NOTE: This will be a three part series. The next article deals with warrior recruitment, and because JWN strives to be fair and balanced, the last will cover counter-recruitment.
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who several years ago founded the Smedley Butler Society because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.