Guard deployments unsustainable
THIS nation's Army was never intended to fight a long ground war. But, since October 2001, the Army has been waging counterinsurgency campaigns...
Special to The Times
THIS nation's Army was never intended to fight a long ground war. But, since October 2001, the Army has been waging counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan with some 200,000 troops constantly deployed. This raises the question of whether the Army would be able to handle another operation, for example, in Iran.
In his first news conference since taking over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen claimed that despite the active Army's massive involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States still has the resources to undertake contingency operations like an attack on Iran, should that become necessary. "There is more than enough reserve to respond [militarily] if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do," Mullen noted.
Mullen's claim echoed that of his predecessor, retired Gen. Peter Pace, who argued in congressional testimony last February that while an American response "will not be as precise as we would like," the military would be ready to respond by "reallocat[ing] resources and remobiliz[ing] the Guard and reserves."
While Mullen and Pace can remobilize the Guard, the fact of the matter is that most of the Army Guard would not be ready for combat because of the demands placed upon it primarily by the war in Iraq.
To maintain combat readiness, Guard units should not be deployed more than once every five years. But since 2001, every Army National Guard combat brigade has been deployed overseas at least once and two have already been deployed twice. And, none of the four National Guard combat brigades already on their way to Iraq to support the latest surge has been home more than three years, and one unit, Indiana's 76th Infantry Brigade, received a mere two-and-a-half years between deployments.
Moreover, to maintain troop levels in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the Pentagon will have to remobilize eight more National Guard units for service in Iraq and Afghanistan beginning late next year. In fact, it has already notified these units.
Of the eight Guard units, all have already served in either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. Three brigades returned from deployments in 2005, including the 81st Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, and two more returned from Iraq in 2006.
Sending these units back to a combat zone this early not only breaks the military's social compact with these volunteer soldiers and their families but hastens what some officials privately call the unsustainable rotation and deployment "death spiral."
Before administration officials decide to impose what Vice President Dick Cheney has dubbed "serious consequences" on Iran, it would serve them well to recognize that the Guard units would not be fully ready.
The active Army is in no better shape. Thirteen of the Army's 43 brigades will have served three tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and five brigades will have served their fourth tour in either theater by year's end, many with less than a year in between deployments.
As long as we are mired in Iraq, this nation's ability to respond to crises elsewhere will be limited. Adm. Mullen needs to recognize this and make sure his civilian superiors are aware of the high cost of remaining in Iraq indefinitely.Lawrence J. Korb assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information. Sean E. Duggan is a research assistant at the Center for American Progress.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.