The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Army Plans to Cut Eight Brigades by 2017

Posted on | April 26, 2013 | 32 Comments

At graduation ceremonies for my son’s infantry training unit this morning, the speaker was a retired general who sounded dire warnings about the threats facing the United States. The old man’s speech was sufficiently remarkable as to constitute actual news, so I pulled a scrap of paper out of my pocket and took notes:

“It is absolutely unacceptable for leaders in Washington not to be prepared for the unexpected,” retired Army Lt. Gen. R.L. “Sam” Wetzel said in an address during graduation ceremonies for infantry troops at Fort Benning.
Wetzel, who first saw combat as a company commander in the Korean War, remarked that America’s historic pattern is for military decreases in times of peace, followed by unexpected crises caused by enemy attacks like Pearl Harbor, which plunged the U.S. into  World War II, and the Communist invasion that began the Korean War.
Wetzel, 82, noted the current threat from North Korea — which has developed ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons — and especially the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. He said the current problem posed by Islamic radicalism can be traced to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran.
“These radical Islamists are out to destroy our American way of life,” Wetzel said during his speech at the graduation ceremonies at Fort Benning’s National Infantry Museum.

What I didn’t realize, until I got back to the motel and did some research, was why General Wetzel was so concerned: The Pentagon is actually proposing the elimination of a brigade the general once commanded. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

A decision is possible this summer on whether the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division remains at Fort Benning or will be cut to reduce the Army force by 2020. . . .
To save money, eight brigades will be deactivated with two coming from Europe. The other six brigades would be considered from installations across the nation. . . .
At the listening session [Wednesday in Columbus], officials said the cuts are aimed at reducing the force from 562,000 to 490,000 by 2017. . . .
Lt. Col. Brent Selnau, who works at the Pentagon for the Department of the Army, said the driving factor in the cuts was the budget control act of 2011. . . . Officials are left with trying to cut a chunk of about 80,000 soldiers from the force. . . .
Retired Lt. Gen. R.L. “Sam” Wetzel, a veteran of Korea, Vietnam and former commander of Fort Benning, asked the panel of civilian and Army officials to keep the brigade he once commanded in Germany on the post. Going back to conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Wetzel asked if anyone saw the conflicts coming.
“We must not be unprepared for the next one,” he said. “That is the message I want you to take that back to Washington. I think everybody in this room agrees with me. We’ve got to be thinking about the future.”

How did I miss this news earlier? Army Times, April 7:

The Army plans to cut eight of its 45 active-duty brigade combat teams as it shrinks the force from 562,000 soldiers to 490,000 by fiscal 2017.

There was a Senate hearing this week:

To slash its end strength by 72,000 soldiers, the Army will be forced to discharge up to 29,000 personnel involuntarily, Thomas Lamont, assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, told the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Wednesday.
Between 23,000 and 24,000 enlisted personnel would be asked to leave involuntarily, and between 4,000 and 5,000 officers would be forced out, reported CQ Today.

Slashing eight brigades could seriously weaken our national security, and I’m stunned that there has been relatively little discussion about this policy. You can’t make up for the loss of eight active-duty brigades by using National Guard troops. One of the problems exposed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was that repeated long-term deployment of Guard and Reserve units has harmful effects on morale, recruiting and retention. Such a substantial reduction in the active-duty force will likely degrade overall readiness, and make it more difficult to rotate units to overseas assignments, particularly in the case of a major war.

Honestly, when General Wetzel started talking about the threat to “our American way of life,” I thought the old man had slipped a cog. But as soon as I found out about this proposal — shrinking the Army by 72,000 troops, a 13 percent reduction — I realized there was a serious policy argument involved that isn’t getting nearly as much attention as it should. Thank God for notes on scraps of paper.

UPDATE: Possibly related?

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) went after the Obama administration’s handling of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation in a radio interview Thursday — and along the way he claimed that Muslim Brotherhood members are in the administration and influencing its decisions.
“It’s very clear to everybody but this administration that radical Islam is at war against us,” Gohmert told WND Radio. “And I’m hoping either this administration will wake up or a new one will come in at the next election before irreparable damage is done. Because radical Islam is at war with us. Thank God for the moderates who don’t approve of what’s being done. But this administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

Not trying to stoke anyone’s paranoia here, but cutting the Army by eight brigades? Who benefits from that, huh?



32 Responses to “Army Plans to Cut Eight Brigades by 2017”

  1. Quartermaster
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    The amount of money the DOD will not get can only be taken out of the hides of personnel. Hardware looks expensive (and it is), but it isn’t as expensive as people are. That is as true of the military as it is for a business.

    FedGov is acting with its characteristic incompetence, a characteristic that increased greatly over Dubya’s maladministration.

  2. Mike G.
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

    All the services are being drawn down, at least until the end of September or so. The USAF is grounding several squadrons.

  3. Bob Belvedere
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

    …so I pulled a scrap of paper out of my pocket and took notes.

    Always the shoeleather reporter.

  4. JeffS
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Who benefits from that, huh?

    The enemies of the United States of America.

  5. JeffS
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

    Don’t forget installation support. I foresee a day in the not-so-distant future when it’s (once again) SOP for military personnel to be mowing grass, trimming hedges, and painting rocks.

  6. JeffS
    April 26th, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

    If it isn’t already happening, I mean.

  7. Quartermaster
    April 26th, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

    My understanding is that it hasn’t hit the civvie work force hard yet. Yet, that’s really where it needs to hit. There’s nothing wrong with the troops doing KP, cutting grass or painting rocks (stupid and is just busy work). It is actually cheaper, and better for the service, to not have the civvie work force hung around its neck.

  8. Josh_Painter
    April 26th, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

    Sign of weakness. “@smitty_one_each TOM Army Plans to Cut Eight Brigades by 2017 #TCOT

  9. atemely
    April 26th, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Army Plans to Cut Eight Brigades by 2017 #TCOT

  10. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 26th, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

    I agree. Contractor salaries in the military are huge.

  11. AngelaTC
    April 26th, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    From the resident malcontent: I agree with this 100%.

  12. DaveO
    April 26th, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

    Since WWII, the Army’s force structure has been based on fighting two wars simultaneously – focused on winning one while fighting a delaying campaign on the other (until the first war is won and all resources can be focused on the second).

    Under President Carter, the requirement to fight 2 wars remained, even as the force was hollowed out to the point that Desert 1 was the high point of American military service. President Carter was reminded by the USSR that America was a nuclear power.

    Under President Obama, the requirement was drawn down to 1.5 wars. With the loss of 8 brigades (100,000 soldiers), plus the losses to the Navy and the Air Force, the US of A is now on track to not winning even 1 war, unless we go nuclear. But, unless you’ve been following the news on America’s nuclear arsenal, we aren’t really much of a nuclear power anymore. Obama the anti-nuke warrior won that war, as did Putin.

  13. DaveO
    April 26th, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

    Not really. Because we Americans require regular peace dividends, we draw down the force. That loss of knowledge, skills, and attributes must be made up some way. The Civil Service became a jobs program, and the GSers are not capable of providing the KSA necessary to keep America safe. Contractors are extremely cheap when one considers that America was paying pennies for certain KSA, and decided even those pennies were too dear to spend. Disclaimer: retired Army, former contractor, and GSer.

  14. Lisa Walker
    April 26th, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

    Lisa Walker liked this on Facebook.

  15. JeffS
    April 26th, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

    I can’t argue with the cost. No argument there. Nor with the concept of KP; I’ve done it myself.


    … we want trained soldiers, or uniformed gardeners?

    And I don’t remember it always being better for the service. It could happen, but equally often, it was a place to stuff undesirables, who got to do an “easy” job at the same pay as the troops who actually took their job seriously. It caused morale problems in those circumstances.

    Which makes It a two edged sword.

  16. Thane_Eichenauer
    April 27th, 2013 @ 2:03 am

    It is OK to say that taxpayers benefit from reducing the long term number of soldiers?

  17. Thane_Eichenauer
    April 27th, 2013 @ 2:07 am

    Yep. The folks that run things apparently think we need to keep C-5A planes handy but don’t need quite so many soldiers.

  18. Thane_Eichenauer
    April 27th, 2013 @ 2:13 am

    Perhaps if the US government is limited to engaging only 1 campaign of bombing and invastion at a time it can have John Kerry persuade some other super power to pound some other miscreant country. I rather think that the UK, France, Russia and Germany are inclined to tell the US that it has no interests in bombing or invading a country unless there is an imminent threat which I rather think should be the criteria we should already be using. It took long enough for the US Army to leave Iraq. It just might be time to start cutting down on US invasion and bombing campaigns. If we need to keep up the number of soldiers perhaps we can cut down on the foreign rebellion aid fund the US government seems to always have money for.

  19. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    April 27th, 2013 @ 3:21 am

    There are some contractors who save money and some who don’t.

  20. jsn2
    April 27th, 2013 @ 6:58 am

    The taxpayers will not benefit from this force reduction. The money will be funneled to unemployment benefits, food stamps or social security disability payments (aka scammers on the dole). Obama knows a thing or two about scams.

  21. jsn2
    April 27th, 2013 @ 7:09 am

    At some point Obama will claim that since he was valiantly able to end the war in iraq and afghanistan the troop reduction is a Peace Dividend from him to a grateful nation. He will then find a way to funnel the money to liberal groups, friends in need of cash and OFA while the MSM picks belly button lint. They’re all pricks fit for hog swill

  22. Jeffersonian527
    April 27th, 2013 @ 7:57 am

    Liberals love to jump on the Wagon now that it’s not a White racist Skinhead bent on the destruction of all other races, but before known they were calling for a lynching, They helped create this monster now they disown him and try and jump ship…..fortunately a Liberal can never truly cover who they are it’s a malformation at birth.

  23. Jeffersonian527
    April 27th, 2013 @ 7:59 am

    Also not a big fan of the Ruskies but kudos to them for the great intel they passed to our knuckle heads, They have dealt with the Islamic radicalism for years and know the danger…..Thank you Russia for the heads up!

  24. JeffS
    April 27th, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    If it’s done intelligently, I’d agree. But this is the same sort slice&dice of the armed forces we saw after Vietnam, instituted for similar reasons, the so-called “Peace Dividend”.

    I served during that period, and the damage wrought by that ham handed approach was immense.

    So, pardon me for worrying about America’s enemies over tax payers. Of which I am one, by the way.

  25. Mike G.
    April 27th, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    Front line squadrons are being drawn down or grounded. We’re talking F-22, A-10, B-1, B-52 and F-15 air wings. Even the Thunderbirds are taking a hit.

  26. Quartermaster
    April 27th, 2013 @ 11:30 am

    Heh! When I was in the undesirables got the truly sorry, nasty jobs. If they bollixed those, then the only place left was the Stockade/Brig and a reissued ID card, since such time is dead time and does not count towards your contracted obligation.

    Things like cutting grass and such were rotated among units so that they were not a burden on any one unit. Every body did police call, and everyone below E-4 did KP.

    DaveO brings up contractors, and they can save you money, if they are applied correctly. The Civil Service work force, however, is far more expensive than a soldier is, and their numbers should be strictly limited. The civil service is one reason why the DOD budget has soared as it has over the last 40 years. That needs to be cut to the bone.

  27. JeffS
    April 27th, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    That would be the correct approach, QM, and I saw that as well. It’s a leadership issue, but a valid approach.

    Civil service? God forbid! And I am a goobermint employee. Better to have a services contract in place, with competent supervision, i.e., LIMITED civil service.

  28. DaveO
    April 27th, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

    The short answer is “No.” The Army does not draw down intelligently, it draws down under the direction of Congress which is financially empowered by special interests.

    The Army drew down in the 1990s under the Peace Divident. Every occupational specialty, specific types of intelligence-gathering aircraft, and other equipment saved the taxpayers a few billion. That savings was spent several times over hiring those former soldiers as contractors, buying new aircraft and technology – we got rid of the capability of fighting a non-state, low-tech force and we paid in thousands of dead Americans and billions spent to regain the capability. Since 2009, Obama has never given the military a unified vision, or strategy, of how he expects the military to behave to protect America. Without that, the military can not draw down intelligently.

  29. Syria: Another Casualty of ‘Hope’ : The Other McCain
    April 28th, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    […] And yet amid all this broiling trouble, our leaders in Washington propose to eliminate eight combat brigades from the Army. […]

  30. David R. Graham
    April 28th, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    Glad you’re on this. It’s been in the Army orbit for a year or more. Now you’re in the Army orbit. Welcome to the Army! AF was forcing out field grades over a year ago. I don’t know about Navy but would suspect similar. Word of advice: learn the enlisted and officer ranks and the three grades of officer – and cross-learn the naval equivalents, especially the officers. This will make other things go smoothly. Also, cutting brigades would not be so compelling if building unwanted equipment were not (Abrams tanks). Welcome to the Army! We see things up close and personal, as you do now.

  31. Thane_Eichenauer
    April 29th, 2013 @ 12:22 am

    How many air wings does the US government need to defend the US? I think a good case can be made that it is less than what we have now.

  32. Bob Agard
    April 29th, 2013 @ 2:12 pm