A backdoor draft

By streiff Posted in Comments (16) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Promoted from Diaries.

In today's NYT, John Edwards resurrects the idea that the administration is carrying out a "backdoor draft."

Both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry have said that extended deployments of Reservists and National Guard troops in Iraq beyond their normal tours of duty amount to a form of conscription and are taking a large toll on their families.

"Let me tell you, I want you to tell all your friends here in Pennsylvania, when John Kerry is president of the United States, we're going to get rid of this backdoor draft," Mr. Edwards said. "We're not going to continue to have people coming in the back door."

So what, if anything, does this mean? Read on.
Presumably it means that the primary function of the National Guard and Reserve Components are to provide additional income and educational benefits without requiring any duty beyond the "one weekend each month, two weeks once a year" formula that has been in effect for a half-century or so.

To understand the idiocy (or more likely the duplicity) purveyed by a man who aspires to be the Vice President, it is necessary to understand how we got to this point.

The drawdown from Vietnam confronted the Army with two very unpleasant realities: 1) the Army, as an institution, was politically unpopular and was going to pay a price for the Vietnam War in terms of appropriations and the end of the draft, and 2) the Red Army was still a threat in Europe.

To address this situation the Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams undertook a wide ranging restructuring of the Army that, for whatever reason, resulted in a situation where it was impossible for the nation to fight a war of any size or duration without an extensive call-up of National Guard and Reserves. Whether an acquiescence to fiscal realities or a manifestation of a four-star saying "never again", is academic. We're here. And we're treated to the ignominious spectacle of an alleged major party candidate complaining that at least one part of the federal government is working exactly as it was designed to work.

What is the alternative? Military geniuses of both parties on Capitol Hill have been blithely calling for an increase of 30-40,000 in Army strength to reduce reliance on the Guard and Reserve and they have been engaged in pillorying Rumsfeld and others for their reluctance. But, in the context of Iraq, is that even a real option?

Unlike various senators and members of Congress, the Army does not have a magic wand. Army divisions do not spring fully armed from the brow of Zeus. They are the product of decades of hard work. If the Army was given 30,000 additional billets, how could it fill them in any period of time that wouldn't be measured in years? It couldn't. First, it would require removing an additional 2,000+/- non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers from combat units to train and assign as Army recruiters. This would bring the recruiting establishment back to the level where it was in 1990. Second, it would require reassigning several thousand non-commissioned officers from combat units to serve as drill sergeants, staff, and subject matter instructors in BCT, AIT, and OSUT.

This assumes away the issues of barracks, training facilities, and weapons ranges which have been decimated by several rounds of BRAC. The reality of the situation is that there just isn't the infrastucture to surge the training base right now, but I digress.

Once these young men and women have been trained they have to be welded into cohesive units. That takes time and talent. Again, we would have to draft several thousand officers and non-commissioned officers from existing combat units to staff the new ones.

A charitable assessment would be that it would be a year and a half from the time one of these 30,000 new soldiers walked into a recruiting station (last para) until a new unit with that soldier in it appeared on the battlefield.

By now, it should be apparent that any surge in Active Army strength is going to inflict a heavy burden on existing units. Units now engaged in combat.

The solution to this will become readily apparent. There could be a reinstatement of shake and bake NCO programs but this program was something less than successful the last time it was used.

More likely the Army will look to units with a high number of non-commissioned officers and draft heavily from them. The Ranger Regiment and Special Forces Command will see many of their most experienced NCOs tapped for leadership positions in new units and in the training base. Non-commissioned officer academies, Ranger and Airborne Schools, and officer training programs would also be heavily hit. Even with these measures there is no doubt we would be promoting young men and women with a fraction of the time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements of today.

Similar violence will be inflicted on the professional education system for commissioned officers resulting in a significant number of young men and women assuming positions without the requisite experience to succeed. Positions where their decisions will have life-or-death consequences.

The ultimate billpayer in this scenario will be units going into combat with low unit cohesion less experienced company-level leadership and suboptimal training.

The other way of rapidly increasing the strength of the Active Army is by calling to active duty selected Reserve and Guard units and converting them to Regular Army en masse. Then, as the training base gears up, releasing reservists and guardsmen and replacing them with regular army enlisted soldiers and officers or allowing them to continue on duty in the Regular Army. But, of course, then we'd have a "backdoor draft."

In short, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

All of this, of course, begs the real questions. Should the Regular Army expand? If so, by how much? If the National Guard and Reserve Components aren't to be subject to long periods of federal service during wartime, why in the hell do we need them?

During the course of the Cold War the size of the Regular Army was agreed upon by both parties. It was agreed the Army had to be able to stop the Red Army a few yards short of the English Channel and the formula of Ten Divisions in Ten Days (see page 65). Absent a threat that a solid majority of members of Congress can agree to over a period of years, the Army and the Department of Defense are loathe to engage in a permanent expansion of the Regular Army (or any other service). Bringing on 30,000 new people and two or three new divisions only to have a RIF and retire colors in two or three years is just a profoundly stupid idea. I don't see us being anywhere near that consensus at this time.

The bellyaching by Kedwards and others on this issue are either the utterances of people too stupid about the national defense establishment to be entrusted with guarding a school crosswalk or it is a grotesquely dishonest statement by people who are demonstrating, yet again, there is no lie so blatant that their atophied sense of shame would prevent its telling.

Feel free, if you're comfortable, credentialling yourself.

I'm not sure what to say in terms of credentialing that would encourage conversation rather than deterring it.

certainly in South Carolina, a "red state" by definition - where morale is so low that there was a lockdown.

i meant a S Carolina Guard unit, training in Jersey for their deployment.

I'm just unclear on what it might be.

verification that the active Guard units themselves do indeed consider a backdor draft to be in effect, hence the use of the rhtoric is not based on some imaginery concept, but grounded at least partly in something real. Theres clearly dissatisfaction amongst the Guard and Edwards is speaking to it.

A lot of people who eventually went to Iraq thought going into the army was simply a way to get a college degree for free with no personal obligation to possibly risk their life for their country. Is their perception true, or naive?

considering there are 163000 Reserves and National Guard troops on federal duty right now and this is the first article of its type.

And you know nothing about the men making the complaints. Or the situation.

But suddenly this is validation of "dissatisfaction amongst the Guard". In statistics it's called N=1, in the media it's called "news" because it is unusual.

not by my recollection- ive seen quite a few articles for months now about resentment among the Guard for being overtaxed.

An excellent synopsis of the situation. Recently one of the 'talking head' retired generals commented on the 'add three divisions' business and he said that one great concern was not that Congress would not approve the manpower increase, but that they would. Once approved, as noted in this article, three divisions requires training, arms, materiel, housing, support, airlift/sealift, etc., etc., and that the worst possible situation is Congress approves it today and three years from now fails to fund a larger force.

People are bellyaching about the callups but after all during WW II and Korea Reserve and Guard units were activated for years not months. And, as noted in the article, why the hell do we have them if they are not going to form part of the force structure? There are only so many hurricanes and floods every year.

The Guard and Reserve are vital parts of the military structure. People ought not sign up if they think that they only thing the Guard is for is occasional hurricane relief.

who joined in the 70's as a way to pay for college and escape the lower-middle class, get out of a dead-end home town, etc, etc.

Things looked good until 1979 when our President allowed embassy staff to be caught in Iran, and we deployed to the gulf.  alot of us groused that we never signed on to go in harms way.  I remember and older Sailor (who had served and was captured on the USS Pueblo) reminded us that we had joined a branch of the US MILITARY.

I'm sure that it's the same today.  Lot's of people need help for college, live in areas with little or no hope for betterment, and the NG or Reserves seems like an easy way to get ahead.  I'm glad that someone had the charcter to remind me that hard working tax payers paid for my paycheck while I was in and picked up my GI bill tab when I got out.

...and certainly not criticizing anyone for fulfilling their obligations or for being unhappy about the way things came out. However, I am pointing out that a contract is a contract, and you can't claim it is unfair. If you gamble on something like that, sometimes it doesn't work out the way you want it to. Having put myself through college, I do know there are other ways to accomplish the goal of paying for college without mortgaging your entire future life earnings or obligating yourself to military service.

As far as I can remember reading, the military has until recently treated Terrorism as more of a force protection issue rather than a battlefield enemy that needs to be defeated.  Also the evaluation of what we currently need in terms of forces and support was largely predicated on the need to fight two regional wars of similar size to Gulf War I, but that few people in the Pentagon really thought we could realistically do this in the mid to late 1990's.  The idea that we would need to use the US military to essentially build a new country and garrison it for a long period of time wasn't really on the radar when the forces we currently have were structured.

In the 1980's I recall reading a great deal of very frank discussion about the nature of the Soviet threat and how the military would deal with it.  This ultimately led to a doctrinal concept called Air-Land 2000 which covered how our forces would be structured and how these force structures would fight.  This doctrine was the one used during Gulf War I.

My question is: is this frank discussion going on right now among those who make such policy and how long can we realistically expect actual changes to be refelected based on these ideas.

This article is quite excellent but the point seems to be that even if we decide now to add two divisions it won't really give us any benefit on the ground for years to come.  That seems to be true but we may want those two divisions four or five years from now, and if so we ought to get things started as quickly as possible.

Especially when you are somehow incapable of sticking to a subject.

The Regular Army is feeling a might taxed right now, but no one to the right of Charlie Rangel is calling living up to your obligations a "backdoor draft."

The use of the National Guard and Army Reserve has had numerous problems over the years. In 1992 there was a low level mutiny in the 256th Infantry Brigade (Separate) (LA ARNG). A fairly crude version of the story is here. A lot of the particulars will seem eerily familiar.

But to attribute a degree of significance to this story while studiously ignoring the 163,000 other stories is disingenous.

The presence of the Soviet Union was a great unifier of national defense strategy. The National Military Strategy and Defense Planning Guidance reflected a 1.5 war scenario where we had to fight a major war in Europe while simultaneously dealing with a brushfire war in South Africa, Korea, Taiwan, or Iran. As an aside the Iranian scenario that resulted in the OPLAN 1000-series was predicated on a Soviet thrust to seize Abadan and the Iranian oil fields.

OPLAN 4102, the defense of Western Europe, was ruthless in its mathematics. The 10/10 strategy I mentioned in my original post was based on the number of miles of railroad transversing Poland and the Western Military Districts of the Soviet Union and the amount of rolling stock that was a)available and b)able to move over that rail net.

Based against that was NATO sealift and airlift.

The annual wargames were heavy in attrition models, us on their rolling stock and them on our sealift. The resulting calculations provided the magic number of 10 divisions in 10 days and that in turn required the basing of 4 2/3 divisions in Germany.

Once the Soviet Union went belly up there was no longer a unifying vision. As Dr. David ChuASD/PAE under Bush 41 said (don't be fooled by the title, that is one of the most powerful positions in the defense establishment), "without a Soviet threat there is no logical floor on the strength of the Army." (I was glad I had worn my brown pants to that presentation).

And that is where we are today. Kerry and his acolytes don't believe we are at war. Unfortunately, a large number of members of Congress adhere to that school of thought. Unless the services are assured of long term support for increased force structure, they will continue to use the National Guard and Reserve for their intended use: combat duty.

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