One of IAVA's most thoughtful members is Ray Kimball, who served in Iraq as an aviation officer for the Army. I offer to you a fantastic piece by Ray discussing all the recent hollow talk of troop numbers and increasing the size of the military. I am sure you will find it interesting.
Now that the President has officially gotten behind the idea that we need a larger Army and Marine Corps (and better late than never, I say), it's worth casting some thought to just who and what those extra warm bodies should be.
Nothing sets my teeth on edge more than reading some egghead's report calling for some half-assed troop increase with a nice, round number, and no further detail on exactly what that increase should look like. This only confirms one of Rumsfeld's worst bon mots, "people are fungible." And please don't give me the old chestnut of "we'll let our generals figure out when and where they need the troops" - that's not the way our system works, and hasn't for a long time. The last military officer who had that much autonomy in translating raw numbers into force capabilities was George Marshall, whose like is nowhere to be found today. Any troop increase authorized by Congress is going to have to be specific and detailed - below is my shot at it.
I'll put a warning up front - anyone looking for a huge increase in combat arms capability (infantry, armor, artillery) is going to be sorely disappointed. The fact of the matter is, our current capability in warfighting overmatches anyone else on the planet by a significant margin, and is likely to stay that way. It's not the strain of war that is breaking our military - it's the strain of winning the peace, and while our square peg combat arms can be forced into that round hole, the forces below are far better equipped for it.
My Troop Wish List:
1. An Africa Command (AFRICOM)
We have Unified Commands all over the world, who are responsible for the employment and operations of US forces in that part of the globe. These commands are uniquely tailored to the specific demands of their part of the world - except for Africa, which is currently an added responsibility to the European Command. This makes about as much sense as having the elected US Representatives from Massachusetts pull double duty as voting for the residents of Texas. The staffing should be comparable to PACOM's current setup, with a single staff supplemented by additional support elements. Troops required: 2100.
2. MP Brigades
Every overseas Unified Command (including the Africa Command, above) needs an Military Police (MP) brigade over and above what they've got right now. In our current structure, these are the units best suited for the three-block war currently underway in so many parts of the world. Once of many advantages of this unit is that it's designed with decentralized operations in mind, a must for future ops. Yes, I'd love to design the perfect unit, with just the right mix of linguists, vehicles, etc., but the current requirements for building a TO&E are so cumbersome that you'd finally get your units in, oh say, 2030. Exact numbers for this type of unit are not readily available on public domain websites, but 5500 troops seems to be a common estimate. Four of these brigades (one each for PACOM, SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM) would therefore need a total of 22,000 soldiers. Yes, I left out EUCOM, largely because any surge of forces needed for that part of the world should come largely from our brethren in NATO, seeing as how it's their backyard.
3. Engineer Brigades
Our current rhetoric talks a lot about "clear, hold and build" - the problem is that, while our trigger-pullers are exceptional at clearing, holding and building are two other things entirely. The MP brigades, above, are intended to be the holders - the engineer brigades are the builders. Or, more specifically, the folks who can partner with host nation capabilities to help them build the infrastructure and capabilities they need for representative institutions to flourish and take root. Again, the strength of this organization is its capability for decentralized operations. Public numbers seem to be somewhere in the vicinity of 9500 soldiers. Again, four brigades translates into a total of 38,000 soldiers.
4. Support Elements
None of the above are self-sustaining or a unit unto their own. Each has specialized equipment and vehicles with unique support and maintenance requirements. Pinning down the exact numbers is problematic - as a rough thumbnail, I'd call it 12,000 soldiers, or roughly 20% above the manning of the units above. These would not be new units, but additions or supplements to units already in place to support those Unified Commands.
5. Permanent MiTT Teams
Finally, I'd give every Unified Command a permanent MiTT structure, similar to what's operating in Iraq now. Think of this as preventive medicine - these folks could be crucial in training local militaries and police, and helping to prevent problems before they start. Each structure has about 4200 soldiers, so this translates into 16,800 troops.
So, the grand total is 90,900 additional troops---if we're really serious about this Long War. At current costs for salary and benefits, that translates to an additional $9 Billion per year in personnel costs, to say nothing of the costs of purchasing and maintaining their equipment.
If you disagree with the numbers or the picked units, well, that's to be expected. My larger point is this - anyone (and that includes the President, Senators, Representatives, DoD types and folks in uniform) who just sling around numbers with no thought as to what they represent or how they're going to implemented should be treated like the mindless dilettantes they are. When talking about troops, numbers just aren't enough.