Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes / Marine Corps This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to recruitment levels over the last few y
April 17, 2007

mt_gforces.jpg Cpl. Michael S. Cifuentes / Marine Corps

This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to recruitment levels over the last few years, but given the military's reticence over publicly admitting anything that might be perceived as detrimental to the military, I find this remarkable. As C&Ler GM wrote to me when he sent in this tip, the issue of bringing back the draft is a political third rail that no politician wants to touch. Bush, with a popularity rating hovering in the high 20s/low 30s, REALLY does not want to go there. So should we read this as a metaphorical shot across the bow by the military brass to Bush: "either re-arm or re-fit or get us the hell out of there?"

Marine Corps Times:

The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony Tuesday that increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps may not resolve severe and growing personnel problems. There was even talk of returning to the draft to fill the ranks.[..]

"If the United States is going to have a significant component of its ground forces in Iraq over the next five, 10, 15 or 30 years, then the responsible course is for the president and those supporting this open-ended and escalated presence in Iraq to call for reinstating the draft."[..]

Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, an international relations professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., described what he sees as the "disastrous state" of ground forces, a broken commitment to troops because of broken equipment, missed training and his sense that the 95,000 increase in Army and Marine Corps personnel planned over the next five years isn't fast enough to provide relief.

The 95,000 - 65,000 soldiers and 30,000 Marines by 2012 - are not enough, he said, because of the extraordinary means used to field forces. This includes having 20,000 Navy and Air Force personnel assigned to traditionally ground-force missions such as convoy duties and guarding detainees, using stop-loss to prevent people from leaving the military when their obligation has ended, recalling people from the Individual Ready Reserve - who "in many cases" did not even have a relevant military skill, McCaffrey said - and relying on contractors and civilians to replace military personnel, both in combat theaters and even for stateside assignments such as being instructors for military training.

"For the first time since Vietnam, we are caught with no strategic reserve. We simply do not have a strategic fallback position for the crisis that will come inevitably," McCaffrey warned.

McCaffrey, like Korb, worries about the quality of recruits.

"Ten percent of Army recruits are of low caliber and do not belong in uniform," he said, noting that the number of moral waivers has increased, the percentage of high school graduates has dropped, and the average age of first-time enlistees is rising.

Because of concerns about who is being recruited and even who is being retained, Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said he is not even certain it is wise to make the planned 95,000 increase.

"There are very likely clear limits on the size of an all-volunteer ground force the Army and Marine Corps can achieve without dramatically increasing the pay and bonuses of soldiers and Marines," Krepinevich said. The average cost of supporting a soldier has more than doubled over the last five years, he said, in part because of big bonus increases, but "there are worrisome indicators that the quality of the force has declined, perhaps significantly."

Like Korb, Krepinevich mentioned a military draft as a possibility. Another suggestion from Krepinevich was to "welcome" foreigners to serve in the U.S. military in exchange for citizenship.

Korb had two suggestions beyond the draft, both controversial. One would be to drop the military's prohibition on openly homosexual people serving in the military.

"Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 personnel have been discharged as a result of this policy, including 800 with skills deemed mission critical, such as pilots, combat engineers and linguists," he said.

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