WASHINGTON, DC, NOV. 26 – As concerns rise over intelligence indicating Al Qaeda may try to smuggle terrorists with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) across the Mexican border onto US soil, conservative pundits from Bill O’Reilly to Democratic members of Congress are calling for deployment of the Army National Guard to protect America’s borders.
“One of the most shocking things is just how porous the border is even after 9/11,” Rep. Jim Turner, Ranking Minority member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security recently said. “It’s hard to contend we’re making America safe if we know the southern border is still open and can be used as an access point for Al Qaeda operatives.”
That the nation’s borders leak like a sieve is no secret. Classified CIA intelligence reports made available to HSToday show the spy agency was concerned about terrorists being smuggled into the US from Mexico as long ago as 1988. At that time, according to one report, the CIA was tracking a handful of known terrorists from the Middle East to Panama, where they were supposed to join other terrorists apparently already in Panama, all of whom were to be smuggled into the US through Mexico.
There’s a big problem, though, with protecting not only the borders, but with being able to adequately respond to catastrophic terrorism on the homefront. Guard and Reserve forces necessary to carry out such missions are dwindling due to their deployment to Iraq, while nondeployed Guard and Reserve units have had their manpower and resources denuded to supply deployed units fighting the war on terror abroad.
National Guard and Reserve units now make up more than 40 percent of US troops in Iraq, and depending on how long it takes to adequately secure the Arabic nation, many more Guard and Reservists may have to be sent there. Pentagon officials say Guard and Reservists may account for a full half of military forces in Iraq in 2005. More Army and Marine reservists have died in Iraq since the start of the offensive against insurgents began in Fallujah than in any comparable period since American forces entered Iraq in March 2003.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura recently complained that Guard deployments are “jeopardizing homeland security” by leaving state governors “woefully short-handed,” pointing out that the men and women who join the Guard have a higher tendency to be law enforcers, fire fighters and emergency medical providers.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ investigative arm, warned lawmakers last week that “the cumulative effect of these personnel and equipment transfers is that the readiness of nondeployed forces [domestically] has declined, challenging the Army to continue to provide ready Guard forces for future missions.”
GAO emphasized that “while the Army and the Air National Guard have supported the nation’s homeland security needs by providing personnel and equipment for unanticipated missions [abroad], the Guard’s preparedness to perform the homeland defense and civil support missions that may be needed in the future is unknown.”
The findings reveal that US policymakers are poorly positioned "to manage the risks to the nation’s homeland security," GAO said.
GAO disclosed that “state officials have expressed concern about the Guard’s preparedness to undertake state missions, including supporting homeland security missions, given the increase in overseas deployments and the shortages of personnel and equipment among the remaining Guard units.”
Senior US military commanders in Iraq said over the weekend it is increasingly likely they will need yet another increase in combat forces in order to quell remaining pockets of Al Qaeda-backed insurgents in the country.
Over the past week, as military officials took a hard look at the forces needed to combat a resilient insurgency and to oversee the massive reconstruction effort in Fallujah – demands that senior military officials say will tie up a substantial number of Marines and Army troops for weeks, and perhaps months – the Pentagon has come to realize there’s a significant gap in desired troop strength.
The number of extra troops needed is still being reviewed, but most officials say it’s likely to be the equivalent of several battalions.
Lt. Gen. John Sattler, Commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, had warned last Thursday that Fallujah’s security may depend for some time on US forces. Sattler made clear the US military may have to remain in the city to prevent it from falling back into terrorists’ hands. And it could. A seven-page classified intelligence analysis prepared by Sattler’s unit warns Fallujah will likely again become a stronghold for Al Qaeda-linked insurgents as soon as US forces pull out. It predicts insurgents will continue to grow in number, wage guerrilla attacks, and try to foment unrest among Fallujah’s returning residents.
"Our assessment is that the insurgency remains viable," a senior military intelligence officer in Baghdad told The Washington Post this weekend. "One of the things we see the insurgents doing is moving to areas where we don’t have a lot of presence."
Violence surged through central and northern Iraq on Saturday as a tenacious insurgency led by Sunni Arabs kept up relentless assaults in a string of major cities, from Ramadi to Fallujah to Baghdad.
With Iraqi elections looming and violence expected to escalate – Al Qaeda and Iran are calling for further uprisings to stifle the elections–
US commanders have had to commit additional forces in cities like Fallujah and Samarra. In recent weeks, US commanders also had to obligate thousands of additional soldiers and Marines into trouble spots throughout
the Sunni triangle. It took 12,000 Marines and soldiers and some 2,500 Iraqi forces two weeks just to flush out the rebels who stayed in Fallujah to battle US forces.
Military analysts are worried Fallujah, Mosul, and other cities inside the Sunni Triangle could become “the new Beirut.” With most of the foreign terrorists who battled alongside Iraqi “insurgents” in Fallujah having left the city before or in the early stages of the assault by US-led forces, Fallujah and other cities could indeed become a quagmire reminiscent of Beirut and requiring a significant US military presence, which in turn would put pressure on strained forces elsewhere in Iraq, according to Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of Central Command.
Additionally, military and intelligence sources say hundreds of “terrorists” from Fallujah have relocated in Mosul, where US forces are beginning a campaign to put down the insurgency there. Fomenting these terror-backed uprisings, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, called on Arab nations and Muslims to protest the US military operation in Fallujah. US intelligence says Iran is supplying arms, supplies and safe havens for rebels in Iraq.
Meanwhile, insurgents in Mosul have been trying to drag the Kurdish minority into their fight in an effort to ignite a sectarian war. Violence against Kurds has escalated in recent days, with offices and officials of Kurdish political parties attacked. Insurgents fired on a truck carrying Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and at least one Kurd reportedly was beheaded in Mosul. Two Iraqi soldiers also were beheaded in Mosul, claims an Al Qaeda-linked group led by Osama Bin Laden loyalist, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who escaped US forces in Fallujah.
Further fanning the flames of Islamist anger toward US forces in Iraq, extremist publications and websites in recent days have begun to claim that US military forces used banned chemical weapons in Fallujah. An alleged Iraqi physician has even been quoted saying he examined corpses in Fallujah and confirmed that the individuals died of chemical weapons.
In addition, authorities are concerned that the unrelenting wave of assaults by insurgents in the Sunni-dominated parts of the country indicate the attack on Fallujah has inflamed Sunni resentment against the American presence rather than pacified it.
Consequently, senior defense officials and outside experts believe the Pentagon has overstated the effect the offensive on Fallujah has had on the insurgency. US forces already have had to be diverted from Fallujah to fight insurgents in Mosul and elsewhere.
Responding to Gen. Sattler’s claim that “we feel right now that we have … broken the back of the insurgency and we have taken away this safe haven,” Anthony Cordesman, a senior analyst atthe Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “I see absolutely no chance that’s true.”
“The level of hostility that the fighting in Fallujah has created among Arab Sunnis, many other Iraqis and Arabs outside Iraq, raises serious questions about its impact on future insurgent activity,” Cordesman says, adding, “it may well make it much easier [for them] to get recruits and to justify violence. It also has almost certainly increased the slow but steady polarization of Iraqi Sunnis into a group that feels disgraced and deprived of power and wealth by the invasion and the occupation that has followed.”
During a visit to Iraq last week, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, agreed with Sattler’s position that the US military had broken the back of the insurgency. Abizaid told reporters the Fallujah offensive was a major blow to the insurgents and that the only way US-led forces could be defeated is if they lose their will.
But Abizaid told the Pentagon’s internal news service “we are … under no illusions. We know that the enemy will continue to fight.”
If the military is unable to significantly put down Al Qaeda-backed uprisings throughout Iraq and more Guard and Reserve forces have to be deployed, there’s little doubt it will further strain military manpower and resources domestically, which would be vital in responding to a major terror attack on America, especially one involving multiple attacks using WMDs.
Iraq’s interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, said last week that insurgents and terrorists will inflict as much damage they can in a continuing effort to frighten and intimidate Iraqi citizens and security forces as they try to stop the country’s upcoming elections.
Some military officials have long argued that the US cannot win the war in Iraq without committing tens of thousands more troops. But the military cannot substantially increase boots on the ground in Iraq without creating military vulnerabilities in other parts of the world or making tours longer or closer together in Iraq.
To bolster combat forces in Iraq in the run-up to the elections there in January, the Pentagon will likely expand its forces in Iraq by thousands of troops through delaying the departure of more experienced units as fresh troops rotate in, military officials say.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee last week that “I’m committed to providing the troops that are requested, but I can’t promise more than I’ve got.”
Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Michael Hagee, added: “The demand on the force has increased exponentially,” explaining Marines now spend almost twice as much time deployed as they did two years ago.
In October, the military ordered 6,500 troops to delay their departure from Iraq.
This past week, the Army and Air Force announced an increase in the number of reservists on active duty in support of partial mobilization. The total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been mobilized is 182,478, including both units and individual augmentees.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Nov. 17, the four military services’ chiefs admitted that the Bush administration did not adequatelyprepare for the military’s role in post-war Iraq. The four chiefs unanimously testified that while they had adequately planned for combat operations, they failed to put enough effort into securing the nation and fighting a burgeoning terrorist insurgency in Iraq.
Compounding this problem, the US Army is facing resistance from more than 2,500 veterans – and likely many more – whom it has ordered back to duty. This as GAO’s new report revealed Army and Air National Guard efforts to reshape their forces to meet post-9/11 warfighting requirements “have degraded the readiness of nondeployed units, particularly in the Army National Guard.”
GAO told lawmakers in a report released last week that “to deploy ready units for overseas missions, the Army National Guard has had to transfer equipment and personnel from nondeploying units. Between September 11, 2001, and July 2004, the Army National Guard had performed over 74,000 personnel transfers. Similarly, as of May 2004, the Army National Guard had transferred over 35,000 equipment items to prepare deploying units, leaving nondeployed Army National Guard units short one-third of the critical equipment they need for war.”
Because the Pentagon is having to rely largely on Guard and Reservists to stabilize Iraq and fight terrorism abroad, equipment shortages in the field have followed suit, resulting in nondeployed units stateside being stripped of equipment to keep deployed units abroad equipped.
It is no secret that troops are routinely put in harm’s way without adequate equipment – a situation made glaringly clear on Oct. 13 when an 18-member platoon from the 343rd Quartermaster Company refused to deliver a shipment of fuel from the Tallil Air Base near Nasiriya to Taji, another base north of Baghdad – region that is among the most hostile in Iraq – because they lacked the armored vehicles and other critical equipment to safely make the trip through hostile territory.
There’s no paucity of reports about Guard and Reserve units having to cannibalize equipment to beef up forces in Iraq, which represents the biggest mobilization of the Guard and Reserves in half-a-century.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the global war on terror triggered the largest activation of National Guard forces since World War II. As of June, over one-half of the National Guard’s 457,000 personnel had been activated for overseas warfighting or domestic homeland security missions in federal and state active duty roles.
In addition, the Guard has also experienced long deployments and high demand for personnel with specific skills, such as military police. The high pace of operations and the Guard’s expanded role since 9/11 have raised concerns about whether the Guard is capable of successfully performing its multiple missions within existing and expected resource levels, especially given the challenges it faces in meeting future requirements, GAO explained to lawmakers.
Within one month of the 9/11 attacks, the number of Army National Guard members activated for federal missions more than quadrupled, from about 5,500 to about 23,000. By June, over 50 percent of the National Guard’s nearly 350,000 Army and 107,000 Air National Guard members had been activated for overseas warfighting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, or homeland missions, such as guarding active Air Force bases because Air Force and other services military police had been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
In recent weeks, the largest deployment ever of the Vermont and Tennessee Army National Guard got under way. In Minnesota and Texas, the deployment of the Army and Air National Guard is the largest since WWII. Oregon’s Army National Guard also is experiencing its longest overseas mission since World War II. The Wisconsin National Guard is sending combat forces to war for the first time in 60 years. Indiana’s contribution of National Guard soldiers and Reservists last week reached its highest level since 9/11. Earlier this month, Georgia’s largest National Guard unit, the 48th Infantry Brigade, was put on alert for possible mobilization and deployment in the Middle East.
Historically, the nation has fought its wars largely on the shoulders of its citizen soldiers, but this changed during the Cold War with the creation of a large standing force that depended less on Reserves. During the first Gulf War, Guard and Reservists were back home within months. That’s not the case today. The long-term involvement of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan has required the Pentagon to tap its roughly 870,000 National Guard and Reserve forces for periods of a year or more to prosecute a full-blown war.
“We couldn’t do what we have done without the Reserves and Guard,” said retired Lt. Col. James Carafano, a military analyst with the Heritage Foundation.
What may be an ominous portent for the future, the Guard has fallen short of recruiting goals since the war on terror in Iraq began. To maintain its authorized end strength of 350,000, the Guard needed to recruit 56,000 soldiers in fiscal 2004 but ended up with about 88 percent of that total, Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz said last week. “We missed by 8,000” soldiers, Schultz said.
Recruiters nationwide are reporting that it’s becoming increasingly tougher to sign up new recruits, yet the National Guard is adding another 1,000 recruiters before the end of the year.
Following conversations with active-duty soldiers deployed to Iraq, Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, reluctantly decided that “nothing” will persuade these soldiers to join the Guard. The Guard managed to recruit only 3,900, or 58 percent, of the 7,000 active-duty soldiers the Guard sought to transition into its ranks in fiscal 2004.
Staying up to strength, though, is crucial because the pace of the Army’s Reserve deployments continues to be at an historical high. And the third rotation of forces to Iraq to begin in February or March will include still more Reserve and Guard soldiers than the first two rotations.
“The question is, how long can we keep this up?” Schultz asked.
The Congressional Budget Office has asked the same question, and concluded that the active Army would be unable to maintain current troop levels in Iraq “beyond about March 2004 if it chose not to keep individual units deployed to Iraq for longer than one year without relief.”
Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina warned late last year, “We are pushing the envelope. We are using our troops pretty much to their maximum utility.”
Retired Col. David Hackworth, told Rocky Mountain News “the only way we’re going to be able … to sustain military operations with the small pool of assets that we have is to go to the draft."
Prior to hearing testimony from the military’s four service chiefs last week, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter noted “we haven’t met our targets in some portions of the Reserve and Guard. Retention and recruitment has always been an early indicator that the force may be over-stressed, so we need to pay close attention to these numbers … Because the military is so actively engaged in theglobal war on terrorism, we’re in danger of wearing it out.”
Indeed, for the second straight year, Army recruiters fell short of their goal for signing up enlistees in the first month of a new recruiting cycle. For the first 30-day period in its new recruiting year, the Army was 30 percent short of its goal of signing up 7,274 recruits. The Army had a particularly hard time recruiting for the Army Reserve. Enlistments for the Reserves were 45 percent below the recruiting target. In the same period last year, the Army came up 25 percent short in its goal in the first month for enlisting 6,220 regular recruits and 40 percent short of its Reserve enlistment goal.
The Army entered fiscal year 2005 with an unusually low number of recruits – about 16,000, or 21 percent of its overall goal for the year. By contrast, a year ago the Army began fiscal 2004 with 33,000 prospective soldiers, or 45 percent of its recruiting goal for the entire year.
A recent internal Defense Department survey indicates that the desire of part-time soldiers to stay in the Reserves and National Guard is eroding. About 59 percent of Army Reservists and 62 percent of Army National Guard soldiers said they intended to stay in the military, down about 10 percent from just a year earlier.
Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the 250,000-member Army Reserve, told USA Today in the fall of last year that “retention is what I am most worried about. It is my number one concern. This is the first extended-duration war the country has fought with an all-volunteer force.”
Maine’s Adjutant General Brig. Gen. John W. Libby told The Washington Post “our recruiting is down significantly from last year, and our retention rates are down also.”
West Virginia’s Guard Commander, Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, agrees. He recently said “a lot of my experienced people are coming back from deployments and retiring.”
The decision to prevent active duty and reserve troops from retiring at the end of their original commitment “suggests just how strained the military is in trying to provide for the Iraqi occupation plus all the other US obligations around the world,” Ted Carpenter, an analyst with the Washington-based Cato Institute, has said.
Gen. Hagee testified last week that “since 9/11, we have activated in excess of 95 percent of our Selected Marine Corps Reserve units. Most have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan … the demand on the force has increased exponentially. This demand is especially telling in the strain on our Marines, their families, and on our equipment and materiel stocks.”
While Gen. Hagee said “the Marine Corps continues to meet its recruiting and retention goals in quantity and quality,” he stressed that “the individual recruiter had to spend a great deal more time with each candidate and his or her parents. We see this trend continuing. Similarly, our career retention specialist had to spend more time with individual Marines in order to ensure we met our reenlistment goals.”
In the past two years, the Marines have gone from a deployment rotation of three-to-one (6 months out /18 months back), to its current one-to-one ratio (7 months out / 7 months back). “This means that if you are in the operating forces you are either deployed or getting ready to relieve a unit that is deployed,” Gen. Hagee told lawmakers.
Air Force Chief of Staff, General John P. Jumper, told the House Armed Services Committee that the “continued demands of global operations, additional contingencies in other theaters, and a tasking to support Army operations with 2,000 of our expeditionary combat support forces required us to reassess our planning assumptions, and to adjust our Air and Space Expeditionary Forces to an expanding mission set.”
Gen. Jumper stressed that “demands on our deployable forces have not diminished, and we do not expect them to decline for some time. Our rotational deployment requirement supporting OEF and OIF averages nearly 20,000 Airmen – about three times the demand prior to September 11, 2001. Additionally, the Air Force Component Commander in the Central Command area of operations asked us to deploy for longer tour lengths to allow greater continuity for expeditionary commanders in the field.”
Consequently, AEF baseline deployment time has been extended from 90 days to 120 days and AEF rotation cycle from 15 months to 20 months. Gen. Jumper said this was the only way the Air Force could give its “forces greater continuity in the field with an additional benefit of more stability at home bases in the face of increased requirements.”
Jumper also noted that “we … recognize the challenges longer deployments present to our Reserve Component, challenges that could affect the number of Air Reserve Component volunteers.”
Edward Luttwak, the senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, recently observed that the US “can call on some 800,000 troops – including the Marine Corps, National Guard and Reserves – but more than 500,000 of this number are involved in training, procurement and logistics. That leaves not more than 300,000 available for operations.
“These combat formations in turn have their own headquarters, logistics and support echelons; hence the so-called ‘rifle strength’ most relevant for Iraq – including tanks crews, gunners and such – is less than 180,000. That is just about the number already in Iraq – and training to go there or just returned – plus the Marines needed to guard embassies; the garrisons in Korea; the troops fighting in Afghanistan, and those forces the Pentagon scrambles every day to plug acute troop deficits elsewhere. That is why there can be no widening of the fighting in Iraq.”
In an effort to free up yet more troops, the White House has begun to move troops away from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and reduce the number of troops on the Korean Peninsula – at a time when North Korea poses not only a nuclear danger to South Korea, but the US now that the communist regime has successfully developed ICBMs capable of delivering nuclear warheads onto US cities.
The US Army has acknowledged that it is stretched too thin and finding new recruits challenging – the extended tours of duty have made service less attractive for not only the regular armed forces, but especially the National Guard and Reserves. To meet this year’s quota for enlistees, the Army has had to speed up induction of “delayed entry” recruits, meaning they are already borrowing from next year’s quotas to meet this year’s numbers.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself was forced to tell Congress in early February that the military is so overstressed he had to use his emergency powers to expand the Armed Forces by 33,000 troops.
“There is no question that the Army is stressed,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee in January.
The Pentagon has had to institute “stop-loss” orders to maintain troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, and preventing troops from retiring or leaving the service at the end of their enlistments. In addition, “stop-move” holds soldiers overseas beyond the original end of their tours. About 40,000 servicemen and women have been affected by the “stop-loss” and “stop-move” orders, nearly 20,000 of which are Reservists.
In yet a further sign of a perilously strained Armed Forces, the Pentagon is calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserves – older reservists typically in their mid-to-late forties usually waiting retirement who have not been on active duty and have not trained in quite some time. Traditionally, they are only supposed to be called up during a time of national emergency.
Their call-up only further exacerbates the problem of being able to adequately respond to terrorism on American soil.
In California, for example, Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, the commander of the state’s National Guard, said of some 21,000 Guard and Reserve members under his command, about 7,000 are either deployed or getting ready to go abroad.
Statewide, during an emergency the California Guard might be able to deploy 9,000 troops into action immediately, Eres said.
And should California need more still more troops, Eres has said he could call on neighboring states. But neighboring states would likely be utilizing their respective Guard and Reserve forces in the event of the kind of emergency that would require California to put all its Guard and Reserve boots on the ground. But the sunshine state probably wouldn’t get those out-of-state troops in the event of a calamitous national emergency such as a terror attack using WMDs.
And some states are just critically short of manpower. Guard commanders are beginning to tell Washington they can’t deploy any more troops. “As far as New Hampshire goes, we’re tapped,” New Hampshire Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John E. Blair told The Washington Post.
This issue of who will protect states during a national emergency with so many Guard and Reservists fighting terror abroad was recently raised in Tennessee. Thousands of Tennessee’s Guard members are deployed overseas. The deployment of more than 3,200 members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team is the largest deployment of Tennessee National Guard since World War II.
The 278th makes up the majority of the 4,000 Air and Army National Guard currently called to active duty. There are only 14,000 total Guardsmen in the state.
In Mississippi, the unit designated as "first responders" to repair hurricane damage, the 223rd Engineer Battalion, was deployed for the past year to Iraq. But while the unit has returned home, said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, "they left the equipment in Iraq." Gen. Cross also noted he has sent 21 helicopters to Iraq, leaving just five for post-storm rescues and transport of cargo and troops.
Moreover, Guard and Reserve WMD Enhanced Response Forces might have to be deployed to Army bases because, according to a survey of Army facilities, their own first responders aren’t “adequately equipped, trained or funded to respond to all facets of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and/or high-yield explosive incident.”
In May 2001, the Army provided base commanders with “eight critical tasks” to help improve training, equipment and funding for first responders, but the survey found such efforts have been “fragmented,” “ineffective” and “not adequate.”
The fact that the Armed Forces are chronically understaffed was realized by Pentagon leaders and strategists long before 9/11 and the war on terror. For years, the Services had had a hard time meeting their annual recruiting goals. In 2003, Army Gen. Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that an additional 50,000 troops would be needed beyond what the Bush administration said would be necessary to stabilize Iraq after the invasion.
Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command from 1997 to 2000 and one of the most respected and outspoken military leaders of the past two decades, wrote in his book, “Battle Ready,” that “everybody in the military” knew “we would need 300,000 troops to pacify Iraq.”
Continuing, Zinni said “Army chief of staff [Shinseki] testified that we would need 300,000 troops to pacify Iraq. Everybody in the military knew he was right. But the party line down from the Pentagon decreed that the number was half that, and he was pilloried."
Gen. Abizaid said during a CENTCOM briefing in April: “Do I have enough troops in Iraq for the current circumstances? Clearly, I asked for more troops. The 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armory Cavalry Regiment were on their way home. And I asked that we up the number of forces in the country so that we could have a mobile reserve to deal with the conditions that were developing in the Fallujah area and down in the Najaf-Karbala area.”
L. Paul Bremer, the former Ambassador-at-Large for Counterterrorism who oversaw the US occupation of Iraq until the government was able to be turned back over to Iraqi, said in Sept. “the single most important change – the one thing that would have improved the situation – would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout …”
Several months earlier, retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who preceded Bremer as the first administrator in postwar Iraq, told The Washington Post “there is no question that the Army personnel system is stressed. I think the Army is in terrible shape. I think people are worn out, equipment is run down and we’ve overstressed the Reserves. We’re drastically short [of] infantry and MPs because the Army is too small.”
John Pike, a defense analyst and director of GlobalSecurity.org, has said “next summer, you’re going to see a realization that the … Guard and Reserves, as presently configured, are broken," adding, “what they are doing is using them as a stopgap.”
By all accounts, the administration will be forced to make tough decisions on how best to organize its troop force, which, undoubtedly, will include how much longer it can rely on the National Guard and Reserves, or how much it will need to increase the number of active-duty troops – something the White House and Defense Department had resisted prior to the election for fear it would signal the reinstitution of the draft.
A recent Pentagon survey of Army Reservists indicates they have increasing doubts about their units’ war readiness and less enthusiasm for re-enlisting. Indeed. The survey showed the desire of National Guard and Reservists to stay in is diminishing. About 59 percent of Army Reservists and 62 percent of Army National Guard soldiers said they intended to stay in the military, down about 10 percent from 12 months earlier.
The Army Research Institute projects that only 27 percent of Guard and Reserve soldiers intend to re-enlist – an all-time low.
The reason is simple: Doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, businessmen, and accountants were supposed to be part-time soldiers but whom the Pentagon has come to rely on for nearly half of its military force abroad to fight a full-time war. Neither they nor the Pentagon anticipated this.
“The assumption on the part of the administration was that once Baghdad fell … everything else would fall in line,” said retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor. “They certainly didn’t anticipate the chaos and the emerging insurgency.”
In Maine, 60 percent of its 2,300 Army Guard troops have been deployed. “The current pace isn’t sustainable,” says the state’s Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. John W. Libby.
North Dakota’s Maj. Gen. Michael J. Haugen echoed that sentiment. He said his state has mobilized as many troops as were called up during World War II and that “we will eventually hit the wall” and be unable to deploy overseas. For certain specialized units, such as engineers, “I’m almost there,” he told The Washington Post.
The lengthy deployments of guardsmen and reservists means personnel shortages for police, fire and other "first responders" on the scene of terrorist attacks and natural disasters. More than 80 percent of the Idaho Army National Guard, typically engaged in firefighting during the summer season, was alerted, mobilized and in part deployed to Iraq in May 2004.
Many Guardsmen and Reservists play vital roles in the civilian law enforcement and emergency services infrastructure. But with so many deployed, this has meant costly extended hours for many police officers and EMS personnel. This as economic burdens are squeezing the resources of local governments due to decreasing revenues and a weakened economy.
In mid-Dec., GAO told Congress “nearly every state and local government is facing a large budget deficit for fiscal year 2004.” The National Governors Association estimates states are facing a total budget shortfall of $80 billion this year. Given this tight budget environment, state and local governments have been forced to make difficult trade-offs between security investments and other needs, such as service expansion and equipment upgrades involving police and emergency services. According to the National Association of Counties, many local governments are planning to defer maintenance of their transportation infrastructure to pay for some security enhancements.”
Exacerbating this manpower problem, the 2004 federal budget is phasing out the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, a hallmark of the Clinton administration that provided more than $8 billion in grants to saturate crime-plagued areas with new police officers. The COPS program has provided grants to pay for all or part of entry-level officers’ salaries during their first three years of work. Agencies that received COPS grants were required to keep the officers for a fourth year. But now, many cash-strapped police departments that met their obligation to the grants program can no longer afford the extra manpower. This as crime rates are beginning to rise and at a time when terror alerts require cities to take police from regular beats and assignments to protect sites deemed vital to national security.
So, the burden of warfighting has fallen on the Guard and Reserves, to the detriment of domestic security. For example, NPR reported Nov. 17 that “with so many Reserve troops going to Iraq, new pressures have mounted on local law enforcement agencies in West Virginia. One-third of the county sheriffs departments now have personnel gaps. Many departments are turning to retired officers to take up the slack.”
Police departments nationwide are having to do the same thing.
Guard and Reserve deployments clearly have left communities across the nation short of the first responders needed to deal with everything from terrorist attacks to everyday crimes and emergencies.