How a Massive Threat to Our Army May be Coming from Washington

How a Massive Threat to Our Army May be Coming from Washington by Robert H. Scales, Washington Post

… In the early ’70s, I was the same age as my Korean-era dad. I had just left Vietnam only to face another broken Army. My barracks were at war. I carried a pistol to protect myself from my own soldiers. Many of the soldiers were on hard drugs. The barracks were racial battlegrounds pitting black against white. Again, the Army had broken because the sergeants were gone. By 1971, most were either dead, wounded or had voted with their feet to get away from such a devastated institution.

I visited Baghdad in 2007 as a guest of Gen. David Petraeus. Before the trip I had written a column forecasting another broken Army, but it was clear from what Petraeus showed me that the Army was holding on and fighting well in the dangerous streets of Baghdad. Such a small and overcommitted force should have broken after so many serial deployments to that hateful place. But Petraeus said that his Army was different. It held together because junior leaders were still dedicated to the fight. To this day, I don’t know how they did it.

Sadly, the Army that stayed cohesive in Iraq and Afghanistan even after losing 5,000 dead is now being broken again by an ungrateful, ahistorical and strategically tone-deaf leadership in Washington.

The Obama administration just announced a 40,000 reduction in the Army’s ranks. But the numbers don’t begin to tell the tale. Soldiers stay in the Army because they love to go into the field and train; Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently said that the Army will not have enough money for most soldiers to train above the squad level this year. Soldiers need to fight with new weapons; in the past four years, the Army has canceled 20 major programs, postponed 125 and restructured 124. The Army will not replace its Reagan-era tanks, infantry carriers, artillery and aircraft for at least a generation. Soldiers stay in the ranks because they serve in a unit ready for combat; fewer than a third of the Army’s combat brigades are combat ready. And this initial 40,000 soldier reduction is just a start. Most estimates from Congress anticipate that without lifting the budget sequestration that is driving this across-the-board decline, another 40,000 troops will be gone in about two years…

Read on.

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Since during the Vietnam Conflict the "the Army had broken because the sergeants were gone[ b[y] 1971 [as] most were either dead, wounded or had voted with their feet to get away from such a devastated institution," that raises two questions. First, having recognized the problems of the 1970's, will the Army maintain a strong NCO Corps as it reduces by 40,000? Second, can one compare the presumably drafted privates of 1960's Army, whom in all probability reflected by 1971 the anti-war and resulting anti-military attitudes of the society from which they were taken into the military, with those volunteering to serve today? Perhaps one of the benefits of today's volunteer and more professional Armed Forces will preclude the Army from having to experience another environment such as occurred in 1971.