America's Strategic Fix and Our New Decision Points

America's national leadership since 9—11 has said that we are in a 'Global War on Terror.' More recently, they describe it as a 'Long War.' Putting it together then we are in a 'global—long war on terror' against  jihadists, Islamic fascists, or however you want to describe that enemy, and implicitly any other people or nation that advocates and is pursuing the wherewithal and means to destroy this Country—after all that is the definition of a threat.  The moniker suggests this war is something different, above and beyond even the scope of World War II.

Meanwhile, North Korea is threatening to test a nuclear weapon and continues to develop missile delivery platforms.  Iran continues to reject the international community's and United Nation's demands to halt their nuclear weapons program.  China continues to be the center of gravity of global proliferation; buying political and economic inroads into every region of the world, while proliferating to regional proxies to gain access to strategic minerals, food and oil. They do this all the while sitting back watching America play rope—a—dope with terrorists, tied down in Iraq and sitting on the U.S. debt.

Our allies meanwhile have been cutting their defense budgets reducing their military capabilities to the level of constabulary forces while enjoying 10 weeks of vacation every year, with the French sandbagging us at every turn.

Domestically the Supreme Court usurps presidential war time authority and interprets treaties and imposes foreign law. Our national intelligence collection efforts have become a political football for partisan advantage. Unelected federal judges insert themselves into intelligence programs with juvenile legal rulings about Presidential excesses under FISA when the FISA court itself has confirmed the President's authority to conduct warrantless intelligence activities.  National newspapers expose our deepest national secrets while journalists receive applause and awards. The entire 'global—long war on terror' has been reduced to soundbites masquerading as strategy.  Domestic politics looks like 1972 all over again.

America is at war?

—no we are not.  Don't kid yourself. 

The U.S. Army is at war, the Marines are at war and other elements of our armed forces are at war.  But are you at war? Do you feel like you are in a war?  Is this war having any tangible effect on your day to day life?

As a nation that claims to be at war we are in a grave position in it.  America is strategically fixed:

  •  America faces a range of threats from a resurgent Islamic jihad movement to rogue and messianic states acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

  •  The 'landpower' of the United States is strategically vulnerable, fixed and committed to Iraq.  The war in Iraq has cost billions in equipment losses;   that is destroyed equipment not just damaged.  The wartime operations tempo is burning through the equipment life of every piece of army hardware to the result that 70% of the Army is supporting the 30% deployed.  Two thirds of the Army Total Force—active, guard, and reserve are rated as not ready due to low equipment readiness.

  •  The Army end—strength is too small for the missions it has been given. 

  •  America is not united in this war; not even close. No war of any kind can be prosecuted, much less won under this condition.

  •  Osama bin Ladin knows more about some Americans than we care to admit.


  • What does this mean?  It means units like the 172d Stryker Brigade are extended in their war time deployment only weeks before departing Iraq.  It means units are recalled to combat after just being returned home. 

    It means the Army is beginning to suffer an exodus of junior officers.  It means divorce rates are going to 60% in deploying units.  It means the guard and reserve is changing from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve.  It means the man—days of the Guard and Reserve have been used up under current authorizations becoming politically unsustainable for more deployments.  Unit and institutional training is on the decline.

    It also means active Army units are deploying in and out of combat zones almost twice in three years.  It means our Army is psychologically enduring a warfighting cycle it never has before. It means we had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in Gulf War 1 than we have in the entire Army today.

    It means the Army can generate this force and only sustain this effort if young American soldiers continue to reenlist in service.

    When they stop—it's over.   

    The bottom—line is the Army is broken; our enemies know it and see it and the 'Peace Dividend' got us here. Some peace.

    That also means the President's military and strategic options become increasingly confined and non—conventional.

     However we can get 'strategically unfixed.' 

  •  First, our defense budget at 3.8% of GDP is too small.  The Kennedy Administration averaged 9% GDP; the average post—Vietnam budget from 1974—1994 was about 5.8 %.  If we are in a 'global—long war' then that suggests we need a defense budget that more reflects wartime averages; that means political choices must be made.

  •  The Army budget needs serious increases to re—arm and re—equip the force now; the Marine's too.  These bills should have been anticipated at the outset of any war effort.

  •  Modernization and transformation must continue and be funded.

  •  In 1990 the Army end—strength was approximately 770,000 and that was a volunteer force. Army end—strength should be increased 150,000 more and we need to buy the equipment and build the infrastructure as needed to equip and house it. As our allies grow weaker, and diplomatically facile, we must grow stronger.

  •  We must never forget that the Army is the force of decision  for America.

  • After serving 30 years on active duty I have had a major change of mind.  Relying exclusively on a volunteer force is failing America.  We need to bring back and implement a selective service call—up alongside the voluntary force.

  •  A solely volunteer force means America's 'professional' military goes to war exclusively —not America as a people.

  • It means military service in America is becoming multi—generational and demographically marginal, both in the active and reserve forces, and that's bad for a democracy

  •  It defeats the concept of 'citizen—soldier' a mainstay of our democracy.

  •  It pushes national security policy and war to the extremes of academic theory and anonymous sacrifice.

  •  The draft is not for manning, but for service—to Country and no deferments.

  •  We need to fund initiatives for the strategic deployability of the Army. The C—17 production line should not be closed. The fact is we need more strategic airlift than we have now to move the Army. We need intra—theater lift. We also need new platforms to move the army to fight in non—contiguous and non—linear battlefields. America needs more fast sea—lift and pre—positioned afloat equipment to move the Army globally as well. 

  •  Finally, if we acquiesce and allow rogue states that sponsor terrorist organizations to possess nuclear weapons then our nuclear deterrence strategy  is effectively overcome by events.  Our nuclear deterrent strategy must be changed to hold proliferating and terror sponsoring states, organizations and individuals directly at risk should a catastrophic nuclear event occur on United States soil.

  • Classic nuclear deterrence against missile attack is no deterrent to weapons being passed covertly to third parties and used on a non—attributed basis.  Allies and enemies should understand up—front that it will be a triggering event and we will hold those states strategically culpable. Let's quit worrying about our intelligence shortcomings and make them worry about America's safety.

    Congress must support the Administration with both its intelligence programs and terrorist detainees and pass laws that give the President the capability to prosecute this war, get the criminologists and apologists out of the way, and put the Supreme Court back in its box.

    America has reached some important decision points.  If what I have proposed is politically untenable—if we can't come together to support the war effort because political advantage is more important, if we can't restrain judges that want to control the prosecution of our wars and intelligence collection, if we can't increase the defense budget, if we won't challenge threatening emerging nuclear states, if we can't expand, repair the Army and better deploy it, and finally, if we can't even draft in war—time, then let's quit calling this a war. 

    ...It's only business as usual and that's not a winning strategy.

    LTC Joseph C. Myers is the Senior Army Advisor to the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB.  A graduate of the US Military Academy he holds an MA from Tulane University.  LTC Myers was a 2003 Senior Army Fellow at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

    America's national leadership since 9—11 has said that we are in a 'Global War on Terror.' More recently, they describe it as a 'Long War.' Putting it together then we are in a 'global—long war on terror' against  jihadists, Islamic fascists, or however you want to describe that enemy, and implicitly any other people or nation that advocates and is pursuing the wherewithal and means to destroy this Country—after all that is the definition of a threat.  The moniker suggests this war is something different, above and beyond even the scope of World War II.

    Meanwhile, North Korea is threatening to test a nuclear weapon and continues to develop missile delivery platforms.  Iran continues to reject the international community's and United Nation's demands to halt their nuclear weapons program.  China continues to be the center of gravity of global proliferation; buying political and economic inroads into every region of the world, while proliferating to regional proxies to gain access to strategic minerals, food and oil. They do this all the while sitting back watching America play rope—a—dope with terrorists, tied down in Iraq and sitting on the U.S. debt.

    Our allies meanwhile have been cutting their defense budgets reducing their military capabilities to the level of constabulary forces while enjoying 10 weeks of vacation every year, with the French sandbagging us at every turn.

    Domestically the Supreme Court usurps presidential war time authority and interprets treaties and imposes foreign law. Our national intelligence collection efforts have become a political football for partisan advantage. Unelected federal judges insert themselves into intelligence programs with juvenile legal rulings about Presidential excesses under FISA when the FISA court itself has confirmed the President's authority to conduct warrantless intelligence activities.  National newspapers expose our deepest national secrets while journalists receive applause and awards. The entire 'global—long war on terror' has been reduced to soundbites masquerading as strategy.  Domestic politics looks like 1972 all over again.

    America is at war?

    —no we are not.  Don't kid yourself. 

    The U.S. Army is at war, the Marines are at war and other elements of our armed forces are at war.  But are you at war? Do you feel like you are in a war?  Is this war having any tangible effect on your day to day life?

    As a nation that claims to be at war we are in a grave position in it.  America is strategically fixed:

  •  America faces a range of threats from a resurgent Islamic jihad movement to rogue and messianic states acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

  •  The 'landpower' of the United States is strategically vulnerable, fixed and committed to Iraq.  The war in Iraq has cost billions in equipment losses;   that is destroyed equipment not just damaged.  The wartime operations tempo is burning through the equipment life of every piece of army hardware to the result that 70% of the Army is supporting the 30% deployed.  Two thirds of the Army Total Force—active, guard, and reserve are rated as not ready due to low equipment readiness.

  •  The Army end—strength is too small for the missions it has been given. 

  •  America is not united in this war; not even close. No war of any kind can be prosecuted, much less won under this condition.

  •  Osama bin Ladin knows more about some Americans than we care to admit.


  • What does this mean?  It means units like the 172d Stryker Brigade are extended in their war time deployment only weeks before departing Iraq.  It means units are recalled to combat after just being returned home. 

    It means the Army is beginning to suffer an exodus of junior officers.  It means divorce rates are going to 60% in deploying units.  It means the guard and reserve is changing from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve.  It means the man—days of the Guard and Reserve have been used up under current authorizations becoming politically unsustainable for more deployments.  Unit and institutional training is on the decline.

    It also means active Army units are deploying in and out of combat zones almost twice in three years.  It means our Army is psychologically enduring a warfighting cycle it never has before. It means we had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in Gulf War 1 than we have in the entire Army today.

    It means the Army can generate this force and only sustain this effort if young American soldiers continue to reenlist in service.

    When they stop—it's over.   

    The bottom—line is the Army is broken; our enemies know it and see it and the 'Peace Dividend' got us here. Some peace.

    That also means the President's military and strategic options become increasingly confined and non—conventional.

     However we can get 'strategically unfixed.' 

  •  First, our defense budget at 3.8% of GDP is too small.  The Kennedy Administration averaged 9% GDP; the average post—Vietnam budget from 1974—1994 was about 5.8 %.  If we are in a 'global—long war' then that suggests we need a defense budget that more reflects wartime averages; that means political choices must be made.

  •  The Army budget needs serious increases to re—arm and re—equip the force now; the Marine's too.  These bills should have been anticipated at the outset of any war effort.

  •  Modernization and transformation must continue and be funded.

  •  In 1990 the Army end—strength was approximately 770,000 and that was a volunteer force. Army end—strength should be increased 150,000 more and we need to buy the equipment and build the infrastructure as needed to equip and house it. As our allies grow weaker, and diplomatically facile, we must grow stronger.

  •  We must never forget that the Army is the force of decision  for America.

  • After serving 30 years on active duty I have had a major change of mind.  Relying exclusively on a volunteer force is failing America.  We need to bring back and implement a selective service call—up alongside the voluntary force.

  •  A solely volunteer force means America's 'professional' military goes to war exclusively —not America as a people.

  • It means military service in America is becoming multi—generational and demographically marginal, both in the active and reserve forces, and that's bad for a democracy

  •  It defeats the concept of 'citizen—soldier' a mainstay of our democracy.

  •  It pushes national security policy and war to the extremes of academic theory and anonymous sacrifice.

  •  The draft is not for manning, but for service—to Country and no deferments.

  •  We need to fund initiatives for the strategic deployability of the Army. The C—17 production line should not be closed. The fact is we need more strategic airlift than we have now to move the Army. We need intra—theater lift. We also need new platforms to move the army to fight in non—contiguous and non—linear battlefields. America needs more fast sea—lift and pre—positioned afloat equipment to move the Army globally as well. 

  •  Finally, if we acquiesce and allow rogue states that sponsor terrorist organizations to possess nuclear weapons then our nuclear deterrence strategy  is effectively overcome by events.  Our nuclear deterrent strategy must be changed to hold proliferating and terror sponsoring states, organizations and individuals directly at risk should a catastrophic nuclear event occur on United States soil.

  • Classic nuclear deterrence against missile attack is no deterrent to weapons being passed covertly to third parties and used on a non—attributed basis.  Allies and enemies should understand up—front that it will be a triggering event and we will hold those states strategically culpable. Let's quit worrying about our intelligence shortcomings and make them worry about America's safety.

    Congress must support the Administration with both its intelligence programs and terrorist detainees and pass laws that give the President the capability to prosecute this war, get the criminologists and apologists out of the way, and put the Supreme Court back in its box.

    America has reached some important decision points.  If what I have proposed is politically untenable—if we can't come together to support the war effort because political advantage is more important, if we can't restrain judges that want to control the prosecution of our wars and intelligence collection, if we can't increase the defense budget, if we won't challenge threatening emerging nuclear states, if we can't expand, repair the Army and better deploy it, and finally, if we can't even draft in war—time, then let's quit calling this a war. 

    ...It's only business as usual and that's not a winning strategy.

    LTC Joseph C. Myers is the Senior Army Advisor to the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB.  A graduate of the US Military Academy he holds an MA from Tulane University.  LTC Myers was a 2003 Senior Army Fellow at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.