Defense Department Told: Restore Military Readiness
Jim Kouri, CPP
U.S. military forces, ground forces in particular, have operated at a high pace since the attacks of September 11, 2001, including the support of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between 2001 and July 2007, approximately 931,000 US Army and Marine Corps service members deployed for overseas military operations, including about 312,000 National Guard or Reserve members, according to the Department of Defense.
To support ongoing military operations and related activities, the U.S. Congress has appropriated billions of dollars since 2001, and through September 2007, the Department of Defense has reported obligating about $492.2 billion to cover these expenses, of which a large portion are related to readiness.
In addition, DOD’s annual appropriation, now totaling about $480 billion for fiscal year 2008, includes funds to cover readiness needs.
While DOD has overcome difficult challenges in maintaining a high pace of operations over the past six years and U.S. forces have gained considerable combat experience, reports have shown that extended operations in Iraq and elsewhere have had significant consequences for military readiness, particularly with regard to the Army and Marine Corps. To meet mission requirements specific to Iraq and Afghanistan, the department has taken steps to increase the availability of personnel and equipment for deploying units, and to refocus their training on assigned missions.
For example, to maintain deployed force levels, DOD has increased the length of deployments and frequency of mobilizations, but it is unclear whether these adjustments will affect recruiting and retention. The Army and Marine Corps have also transferred equipment from non-deploying units and pre-positioned stocks to support deploying units, affecting the availability of items for non-deployed units to meet other demands.
In addition, they have refocused training units extensively for counterinsurgency missions, with little time available to train for a fuller range of missions. The DOD has adopted strategies, such as relying more on Navy and Air Force personnel and contractors to perform some tasks formerly handled by Army or Marine Corps personnel.
If current operations continue at the present level of intensity, DOD could face difficulty in balancing these commitments with the need to rebuild and maintain readiness. Over the past several years, the US Congress has received reports on a wide range of issues related to military readiness and made numerous recommendations to enhance DOD’s ability to manage and improve readiness.
Given the change in the security environment since September 11, 2001, and demands on U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilding readiness will be a long-term and complex effort.
However, many observers believe the Defense Department can take measures that will advance progress in both the short and long terms. A common theme is the need for DOD to take a more strategic decision-making approach to ensure programs and investments are based on plans with measurable goals, validated requirements, prioritized resource needs, and performance measures to gauge progress.
Overall, Congress strongly recommended that DOD develop a near-term plan for improving the readiness of ground forces that, among other things, establishes specific goals for improving unit readiness, prioritizes actions needed to achieve those goals, and outlines an investment strategy to clearly link resource needs and funding requests.
The House also made recommendations in several specific readiness-related areas, including that DOD develop strategies to target shortages of items required to equip units preparing for deployment, and DOD adjust its training strategies to include a plan to support full-spectrum training. DOD agreed with some recommendations, but has yet to fully implement them.
Family Security Matters contributing editor Jim Kouri, CPP is currently vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He�s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by
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