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Meeting the Needs of the Day and Age, Expanding the Military

Location: Washington, DC

Meeting the Needs of the Day and Age, Expanding the Military
By Tom Cole
February 14, 2005

No one can deny that our troops have done a tremendous job over the past couple of years. They have successfully liberated two countries, kept our country safe and continued peace keeping missions across the globe. Yet, in a post-September 11, 2001 world it is necessary to be prepared for anything and everything. Secretary Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have begun to reorganize our military structure to be more "capabilities based," precision guided, rapidly deployable and unconventional. I believe these changes to our military structure are necessary, but also believe we must expand the size of the military to meet the needs of the day and age.

The combat phase of the 2003 Iraq War was won quickly, but the occupation phase soon involved around 220,000 personnel. A year after combat operations began, the Department Of Defense engaged in the "largest troop rotation since World War II." All active Army divisions were involved. During this time Reserve Components and Marine Corps units were asked to serve more than yearlong tours. And, many personnel either came under "stop loss" orders that kept them from leaving service or were facing multiple combat tours. The President has assured us there will not be an immediate recall of our troops from Iraq. Recently Lt. Gen. James Lovelace said that the service is assuming 120,000 soldiers will be in Iraq through 2006. This type of long-term commitment and other requirements to support the Global War on Terrorism will require a new and larger military.

Since World War II, the Army has used a combat unit called a division that consists of 15,500-18,000 soldiers. Divisions are composed of smaller units, known as brigades, with 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. These smaller groups, if used correctly, can be lighter, faster and more rapidly deployable. In order to become more responsive and deployable, the Army is currently redesigning its ten active duty division force to a 43 or 48 brigade-level unit of action. The Army National Guard will also redesign its force structure in a similar fashion. This is a good interim approach as we work to rebuild our forces.

The navy is also implementing new methods for deploying its forces overseas. These changes involve new kinds of naval formations, more flexible deployment schedules and long duration deployments with crew rotation. The Navy traditionally has been organized into aircraft carrier battle groups and Amphibious Ready Groups. But navy officials believe this way of organizing the Navy does not offer sufficient flexibility for responding to threats in several locations around the world simultaneously. As a result, the Navy will reorganize itself into a larger number of independently deployable, strike-capable formations.

I agree with the Pentagon that the military must undergo restructuring; we must become a more agile and deployable force. But I believe we must also be prepared to add more soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. A much larger force will be needed to meet the demands of the War on Terrorism and to allow for these structural changes to the military.

Last year Congress voted to increase the active duty Army by 30,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 9,000 personnel over the next five years, but the defense spending bill did not include enough funds to permanently fund this increase. I am currently working on legislation that will address this issue. I am drafting a bill that will be introduced in the next few months that will require the Pentagon to permanently increase the size of the military. I believe this debate is timely and necessary as we employ our military in multiple tasks around the globe and sustain our peacekeeping commitments. The protection of our borders and the defense of our nation is the most important job of the government and I will continue to work in Congress to make sure we have given our men and women in the armed forces every tool to be successful.

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