Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Even if you support it, how do you sustain it?

Folks, the Army is in trouble. It is going to take at minimum two decades to rebuild our Army. Five years of rugged warfare conditions have taken a steep toll on man and materiel alike. It's broken all right, and George Bush is the vandal who broke it.

That the Army missed their recruiting goals for May by 9.27% is just the tip of the iceberg. The real fractures go much deeper. Young officers are leaving the service in higher numbers than at any time since Vietnam. It is unprecedented – but the Army has been hemorrhaging officers and senior NCO’s in leadership positions for at least the last two years. When I started getting up in arms about it was when I read an editorial by Lucian Truscott IV in the New York Times two years ago that confirmed what I had been witnessing.

This compromises the quality of the leadership of the officer corps. Army OCS has a 100% acceptance rate, and Republican members of Congress are having a hard time finding qualified candidates to even apply to West Point. (I know applications have been falling for at least two years, and I am looking for the supporting link for that claim)

Take this data point for instance: 97% of all eligible Captains are being promoted to Major. Traditionally that number has been between 70-80%. The promotion to Major has heretofore been the winnowing point for career officers. Now, if you have Captain’s bars and sufficient time in service, and you haven’t been court-martialed yet, you will get Oak Leaf Clusters.

Now consider that even though we are missing all those officers, qualified applicants are not being informed of the OCS option because their numbers are needed to bolster the enlisted ranks. This is counterproductive recruiting and short-term thinking.

This exodus of seasoned officers has resulted in what can only be classified as promotion by attrition. And that is no way to run an Army.

Now – let’s consider the recruits to the enlisted ranks. Fully 17% of the recruits into service in FY 2006 were admitted to service on waivers. Can anyone imagine a scenario in which that figure would improve when have already recruited everyone who is fit and willing? (Yeah, me neither.)

So lets recap: In our Army, we have a bunch of hinky troops – and not enough of ‘em, by the way – and no one to lead them. Also keep in mind that the Army uses accounting methods in the billet shell game that would make a Hollywood accountant blush. (h/t SPfY for that line).

This is a recipe for disaster and a broken military. It’s time we face the facts and deal with them. I do not believe our military has time to let Bush run out the clock on his failed presidency. Congress needs to get tough, and they need to do so now, while they are writing the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2008. The way things stand right now, we have at least a 20 year rebuilding process ahead of us. And we can't pay for it with tax cuts. It's time for a gut-check.

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