Udall Introduces Legislation To Increase US Troop Strength By 80,000
Washington, DC - With the United States Army straining to meet its current obligations and the National Guard and Reserves stretched to the limit, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Nelson and Jack Reed and Representatives Ellen Tauscher and Mark Udall today announced that they will introduce legislation to significantly increase the Army's baseline troop strength. The United States Army Relief Act will boost the overall troop levels authorized by Congress by 20,000 active duty members per year over the next four years, giving the Army the breathing room to reduce the overburden on our active duty troops as well as our Guard and Reserve and rebuild our capacity to respond to future threats.
"The war in Iraq has put a tremendous strain on our Army. Our troops are overstretched - not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in 117 other countries around the world - and unprepared to meet potential future threats. Additionally, we continue to rely too heavily on our Guard and Reserve. Our troop levels should reflect the fact that we are at war," said Representative Udall, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Without this bill, we risk asking too much of our men and women in uniform who have performed so courageously and sacrificed so much in their service to this country. They, future recruits, and the country all need to know that we are committed to providing the resources necessary to keep our Army strong."
"The United States Army is facing a crisis today," Senator Lieberman said. "It is not a crisis of quality, bravery or commitment. Our Army is a magnificent force and the men and women in today's Army are as good as any who have ever worn the uniform. The crisis is there simply are not enough of them."
"To protect our country in the post-9/11 world, we need an Army large enough to respond to threats wherever danger lies, but the strain on our Army and our over reliance on our Guard and Reserves are pushing our capacity to the breaking point," said Senator Clinton. "We need to get serious about addressing this challenge and this legislation is an important step in the right direction."
"We have an opportunity to increase the effectiveness of the Army and alleviate the stress placed on the National Guard and Army Reserves due to the long-term commitment the Administration has made in Iraq," Senator Reed stated. "While increasing the size of the Army is absolutely necessary to maintain our commitments across the globe, it is also critical that the increase's funding is provided in the annual Defense Authorization budget rather than relying on continued supplementals."
Since 1945, the size of the active duty Army has dropped in times of peace and spiked during wartime. At the end of the Cold War, the Army shrank as part of the "peace dividend". However, now, in a time of war, the size of our Army has not followed the historic precedent of increasing to meet the demands placed on it. While we have increased defense spending since September 11, permanent troop levels have not risen accordingly.
Without increasing troop levels, the force requirements of the ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of the Global War on Terror are unsustainable. There are currently approximately 499,000 active duty Army troops backed up by nearly 700,000 National Guard and Army reservists, a third less than the force level on hand when the first Gulf War was fought in 1991. This relationship between the total number of troops versus the number of operationally deployed troops has resulted in an active duty force that is stretched to the limit.
In addition to hampering the military's ability to successfully complete the missions assigned to it, this overuse has significant consequences for domestic homeland security operations. A disproportionate number of federal, state and local first responders are also Guard and Reserve members. At a time of strain for large municipalities struggling to secure their infrastructure against the threat of terrorism, the drain on available personnel as well as budgets is unacceptable.
In announcing the legislation, the Members of Congress emphasized that this prolonged strain on our active duty members of the Army and our Guard and Reserves is damaging the long-term ability of these components to operate effectively. Increased force requirements since September 11 have resulted in soldiers facing constant deployments into war zones without rest, training and preparation. The Guard and Reserve have been strained to the breaking point for years on end. To continue to retain and recruit the high-quality soldiers we need for our 21st century fighting force, we must slow down their deployment schedules and make them more predictable.
"As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have long sought solutions to relieve our overstretched military and give us enough troops to meet current and new threats to the United States. Raising the cap on the size of the U.S. Army will reduce the need for back-to-back tours, stop-loss orders, and lengthy, unpredictable deployments, making the military a more attractive place to serve. It's critical that we combat the recruitment and retention problems that threaten to break our all-volunteer Army by reducing the overwhelming burden placed on the shoulders of such a small number of soldiers," said Representative Tauscher.
In order for the Army to fulfill its operational requirements today as well as face the contingencies of the future, it must be larger. Some progress was made toward this goal when Congress authorized an increase of 20,000 troops. However, this increase was not enough to provide the long-term relief or support that the Army requires in order to fulfill its mission. In order to provide a lasting, long-term solution to the Army's challenges, an additional increase of 80,000 troops is required. This number will equip the Army with sufficient personnel so that it may not only engage in a stabilization operation like Iraq, but so that it may do so while maintaining optimal troop rotation schedules.
The United States Army Relief Act
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO)
July 13, 2005
Good afternoon. I'm glad to be here today with Senators Lieberman, Clinton, and Reed, and my colleague in the House Mrs. Tauscher.
I'm also pleased that General Tilelli, Lt. General Christman, and Major General Scales are here today and supporting this legislation. And my thanks to Third Way for its recent report on this issue and its help on this bill.
We are introducing this legislation at a critical time for our military.
The war in Iraq has put a tremendous strain on our Army, the Reserves and on National Guard units that were never intended for such long deployments, and ought to be used more effectively for homeland security.
There is deepening concern that our current force requirements cannot be sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan without depleting our reserves and diminishing our capacity to meet other global threats.
I am one who believes we have more work to do to thoroughly understand these other global threats and the strategies and tactics necessary to prepare for the kind of conflict we are facing in Iraq.
The upcoming Pentagon defense review needs to look at increased troops levels in the context of our long-term security needs as well as the immediate challenges.
But in the meantime, the Bush Administration's lack of foresight in Iraq has left us with an immediate problem that cannot be ignored. Our troops are overstretched - not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in 117 other countries around the world.
Last year, nine of the Army's ten divisions were deployed to, preparing to deploy to, or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. And we continue to rely too heavily on our Guard and Reserve.
Without this bill, we risk asking too much of our men and women in uniform who have performed so courageously and sacrificed so much in their service to this country. They, future recruits, and the country all need to know that we are committed to providing the resources necessary to keep our Army strong.
Let me emphasize that this is not about increasing troops so that President Bush can plan for more Iraqs; this is about rebuilding the strength of the incredible institution that is the U.S. Army.
Leadership begins with recognizing reality. Although we may wish we had a different starting place, this is the place that we find ourselves after much miscalculation and wishful-thinking by the Bush Administration.
So we ask the Administration today to heed our call and to heed the call of so many in the military community who understand the importance of increasing the Army's end strength. The defense of the United States is and must continue to be the first priority of the government.