The active Army needs 74,000 more Soldiers over the next decade to meet the ever-increasing global demands, according to General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army. This proposed increase is in addition to the 26,000 additional troops outlined in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which raises the target troop strength of the Active Army to 476,000 from 450,000. Gen. Milley also recommended to the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 7 that the National Guard and Reserve components should add 12,000 and 10,000 respectively.
The General also stressed the importance of domestic agencies, whose funding has been on the chopping block to pay for President Trump’s proposed increases in defense spending.
We have to use not only the military forces, but we need the State Department, the CIA, the FBI. Those all participate in various capacities, so it’s important to have a whole-of-government approach to the conduct of war.
As Liberty Nation readers are aware, military troop strength ebbs and flows with the political tide. Defense spending is often the first to be increased or slashed. So-called progressives are quick to point out that defense spending makes up around 50% of discretionary spending (while ignoring the golden calf of entitlements, which make up over 50% of ALL federal spending). Republicans, including President Trump, point out the ever-increasing age of military equipment and the need to remain technologically superior to our adversaries (and frenemies if you include countries like China and Russia).
The Army’s troop strength reached a wartime peak in 2012 at around 570,000 and the Obama administration systematically reduced levels to the approximately 450,000 we see now. This reduction drew criticism by many, both in and out of uniform.
Both active duty enlisted and officers faced “separation boards” which reviewed the files and records of thousands of service members within their designated year groups and offered the equivalent of pink slips to those who did not make the cut. Many good, dedicated, and hardworking commissioned and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) were separated from the Army.
This reduction was a blessing and a curse. While many good soldiers were shown the door, many were removed that should never have been there in the first place. During “the Surge” and other recruitment pushes, standards that would previously prevent a recruit from joining the military were waived. It was as if Oprah ran the recruiting offices. “You get a waiver! You get a waiver! Look under your seat. Everyone gets a waiver!”
This led to a sizeable issue within the Army. Recruits joining the force were not of the quality the Army was accustomed to, and discipline issues abounded. Concurrently, a “mission before methods” environment and pattern of deployments eroded the focus on standards and training, resulting in a schism between the “garrison Army” and the “deployed Army.”
The U.S. Army is still combating these issues as it attempts to reinforce the standards and discipline of the garrison Army with the mission focus and combat power of the deployed Army.
If the United States is to repeat the process of increasing troop numbers, we would be wise to ensure that the Army (and other services if they follow suit) does not fall into the traps of the early 2010s. Quantity is not necessarily a quality all of its own. While having an all-volunteer force brings certain obstacles to recruiting, the military needs to combat the increasing civil/military divide if it wants to recruit motivated, dedicated, high-quality recruits.