While sitting and having some mandatory fun watching GEN Casey brief the Senate Arm Committee, I watched Ted Kennedy indicated his concern regarding officer retention and linked it to the current 15 month terms. GEN Casey, basically replied he was right, in that the Army as a whole is stretched. GEN Casey mirrored SEN Kennedy's concern regarding that and the increasing issue of suicides.
Senator Kennedy referred to the Army's Suicide Task Force as "underfunded" and continued to reenforce his concerns regarding midcareer Majors and Captains. Secretary of the Army Pete Green again linked that getting the deployment timetables from 15 back to 12 months would continue to be a step in the right direction. Senator Kennedy reminded the Chief of Staff and the Secretary that while a 12 month cycle would be a step in the right action, it would probably now address long term problems.
One of the more colorful discussions centered around the overall size of the Army. What size should the Army be? All sides agree that the post-Desert Storm drawdown was a mistake of epic proportions. What they did not agree on was just how big we should grow our ground forces. Frankly, they jumped around the answer like Barry Sanders. All eventually agreed that the current target of 547,000 would not be enough to provide the Reserve and National Guard the relief they need.
My read? No one knows the answer on what we need to fight a global counterinsurgency. All the answers provided by Chiefs and Senators are based on high end analysis and modeling. Similar modeling and analysis created our current undersized Army. History teaches us that it is harder to build an Army and relatively simple to tear one down. Time and again America paid a steep price for drawing down its military in exchange for what we call a "Peace Dividend."
Our challenges our steep: In the 90's, we cut too many people. The protracted war on terror has made recruiting difficult. It is not going to be simple to grow the needed 70,000 Soldiers to meet the Army's goal of over a half a million. The Army is continuously lowering recruiting standards to maintain the current force.