Army Nearing Breaking Point
Army officials worry that an extended presence in Iraq cannot be sustained
with an all-volunteer Army unless troops can be relieved from permanent duty
in other parts of the world, such as Western Europe and the Korean peninsula.
Negative vibes from Army brass these days hint at serious personnel problems
that, according to one four-star general, could “eventually break the
Of the Army’s 33 active-duty brigades, 16 are committed—11 in Iraq,
one in Afghanistan, two in South Korea and two are being converted to Stryker
brigades. The Iraq occupation also has kept four National Guard brigades deployed,
for a total of 15 Army brigades. Even with three Marine brigade equivalents
in Iraq, there are not enough troops, said the general. “We still don’t
have the coalition we expected. We are still uncertain about the Iraqi security
forces,” he said. “We are hopeful, but we’ve had a lot of
failed assumptions thus far.”
...Third Rotation Into Iraq Begins in September
Meanwhile, the third major rotation of U.S. troops into Iraq—known as
Operation Iraqi Freedom III—will be stretched out over six months, beginning
in September 2004. The second rotation, OIF II, took four months, but this time
around, the Defense Department decided to draw it out to ease the stress on
the transportation systems and maintain “better continuity on the ground,”
said a senior defense official. The number of troops will stay between 135,000-138,000.
“We’ll do it from roughly September until February or March of 2005,
over a period of six or seven months,” he said. “It is more manageable
from the transportation point of view.”
War Stress Mounting in the Marine Corps
Protracted combat operations in Iraq also are taking a toll on the Marine Corps.
The deployment of two Marine expeditionary units—each comprising about
2,400 troops—that was scheduled for October now is being moved up to July
or August, said Lt. Gen. Robert Magnus, deputy commandant for programs and resources.
There are no plans to extend seven-month tours in Iraq to 12 months, but that
means many Marines will end up serving two seven-month tours in a two-year period,
while Army soldiers serve 12 months out of 24. Marine aviation units are seeing
the most wear and tear, Magnus said. “Aviation is tapped out,” he
told reporters. To make up for shortages of attack helicopters, the Marines
will be deploying more Hornet and Harrier fighter jets. To keep up with growing
personnel and operations costs, the Corps recently reprogrammed $500 million
of its $2 billion procurement accounts. “We are making some pretty hard
decisions on programs,” Magnus said.
‘Security of Supply’ Treaties Exclude Vaccines, Fuel
In times of war, the United States can mandate that domestic and foreign allied
industries redirect their commercial production lines to meet U.S. needs for
defense supplies. But no such agreement exists for civilian emergencies, such
as a terrorist attack with biological weapons. No “security of supply”
treaties are in place for products such as pharmaceuticals and fuels, said William
J. Denk, director of defense programs at the Commerce Department.
“We just went through a drill with the Department of Homeland Security
to determine what international agreements exist out there for security of supply
in areas such as pharmaceuticals, energy and fuel,” he said. “There’s
almost nothing out there.”
The only exception is an agreement with Mexico and Canada to share vaccines
for foot-and-mouth disease, which was negotiated in March 2004. “There’s
nothing in the World Health Organization about mutual supply,” Denk said.
“No standby contracts exist with anyone for vaccines.”