Army at Crossroads, Facing Budget Cuts and Uncertainty About Future Role

Army at Crossroads, Facing Budget Cuts and Uncertainty About Future Role by Greg Jaffe, Washington Post.

For much of this year, Sgt. Maj. Raymond F. Chandler III, the Army’s top enlisted soldier, has traveled to bases around the world with a simple message: “We’ve allowed ourselves to get out of control.” His solution has been a raft of new regulations governing tattoos, the length of soldiers’ sideburns and the color of the backpacks they are allowed to carry while in uniform. The tighter standards are intended to improve discipline in a force that is recovering from an exhausting decade of war.

But some of his fellow troops viewed the new regulations as one piece of a larger, more worrisome trend in the Army as it confronts an uncertain future. Instead of embracing change, some officers worry that the service is reverting to a more comfortable, rigid and predictable past...

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I can remember back in 1986 as a newly minted SGT that the reason we used these rules -- the uniformity and attention to detail involved in all the minutiae -- was to simulate the pressure of combat. It was to keep us honed to a high level of readiness. Well, the Soldiers out there have displayed that high level of readiness. In addition they have gained an understanding of the long periods of boredom that are punctuated by moments of heated conflict. Expecting them to maintain that simulated pressure will not garner the same affect as it does on raw recruits.

I am sure that many will leave the military in part because of the renewed interest in this type of artificial pressure ... and the article is right; it heralds a return to the past -- to what was comfortable in the Garrison Army. That may not be all bad, but it does indicate a lack of acceptance of change on the part of Army leaders.

Interesting article by Jaffe but poorly framed. He discusses issues like discipline/standards, the budget and the strategic direction of the Army in one article as if they are all related. They are in that they all contribute to mission accomplishment but not so as they directly impact each other. I especially reject his conclusion that the Army failed in Iraq. The Army was not responsible for negotiating a residual force that could have dealt with an AQ resurgence or provided the Iraqi gov’t a physical symbol of our support as it weighed how to deal with its Iranian neighbor.

I don’t see why a return to pre 911 discipline, appearance and general standards is a negative. Granted some weak leaders hide behind enforcing those issues but that’s not an excuse for not doing them. There is a benefit to the force.

The budget? The Army has little power except to make the case for what it needs and be a conscientious steward of those funds.

The writer confuses AirSea Battle with strategy. It isn’t. It’s strategic positioning to protect one’s budget. It largely repackages things we already do in light of the decision to pivot on the Pacific. The Army IS making its own transition as it centers itself to address more than COIN type threats. This will be difficult because conventional skills have been a bill payer for the immediate needs of the Army.

Greg Jaffe makes the mistake we see many journalists do as they weave disparate threads into a tapestry that serves their bias which is all too often an anti-military one. I just read s story by Tom Ricks who recently wrote “The Generals”. At the risk of totally derailing Dave Dilegge’s intent at posting Jaffe’s story here is Rick’s which I hope gets its own thread here on SWJ. http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/11/21/a_worrisome_report_on_th...

This sounds all very familiar to me. It bears all the signs of an army transitioning to peacetime status. Not necessarily a bad thing. Our Army needs to look forward, not backward. (But, then, it always did.) Nice to find myself in agreement with 74% of our comrades in uniform about the direction the Army has taken. I am concerned that we will throw out what we have learned in the past eleven years out with the bathwater. As much as my heart of hearts lies with Big Army, we need to make a safe and secure place for the softer elements of national power, and the Army's role in that domain.