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    Middle East
     Apr 17, 2007
Page 1 of 2
An army popping at the seams
By David Isenberg

WASHINGTON - Two events of the past week illustrated the increasing stresses and strains on the US military as it tries to sustain both its "surge" in Iraq and its overall military presence in Iraq.

On April 9, the Pentagon named four National Guard brigade combat teams it plans to send back to Iraq. These four units have all seen action in the past few years, making this the kind of

guard redeployment not seen since World War II.

The brigades will be deployed for a maximum of one year at any one time. That is tacit recognition of the delicacy of the deployments because normally National Guard deployments are between 18 and 22 months.

Although they are not scheduled to begin deployment until December, they are receiving alert orders now to provide them the maximum time to complete their preparations. These units will deploy as replacement forces for formations currently operating in Iraq. There are approximately 13,000 personnel in these four brigades.

The final determination of whether these units will deploy will be made based on conditions on the ground in Iraq. The units are: 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Little Rock, Arkansas ; 45th Infantry Brigade, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indianapolis ; 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Columbus, Ohio.

These are essentially all units that have already been deployed abroad within the past three years. Two of them, the brigades from Indiana and Oklahoma, already did rotations in Afghanistan. And the one from Arkansas already went to Iraq. And the brigade from Ohio went to Kosovo.

The fact that these units have already been deployed in the past few years illustrates the unprecedented nature of the decision because under the Pentagon's own guidelines National Guard Units can only be deployed once, for up to two years, every five years.

But according to Chris Preble, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, "The goal of army doctrine, keeping troops at home for three years, has not been the case for some time." He notes, "What [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates is pushing for is to increase the size of the military, but that wouldn't provide troops for 18 months. Gates is trying to accommodate the number of troops he has available to the mission of staying in Iraq. The problem is the policy itself. We are going to have for some indefinite period of time troops in Iraq. The true solution is to reduce the size of the presence."

Previously, top army leaders have broached the subject of changing deployment rules to allow for more frequent callups of National Guard and reserve units to relieve pressure on the active duty army. But because the army relied heavily on the guard and reserve early in the war, many units have hit their legal deployment limits.

The deployment orders for these units has become an element in the battle between the White House and Congress over funding the war in Iraq. One provision of the proposed Congressional bill would prevent the president from sending army units into Iraq and Afghanistan that have not spent at least a year at home since returning from the combat zone.

President George W Bush argues that, with this provision, Congress is trying to micromanage the war by telling US generals how to run a war and vows that he will veto it. But Bush already has leeway because army doctrine says that troops should spend at least two years at home before being sent back to a war zone for another year. And the provision gives the president the power to waive the law if he deems it is in the national interest.

Yet, as Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense in the Ronald Reagan administration, has written, Bush needs to address the issue of why army doctrine mandates that units spend two years at home between deployments - one year of recuperation followed by one year of training - and why Congress is insisting that units spend at least one year at home. The answer is that it takes two years for a unit to attain a readiness 

Continued 1 2 

When a readiness 'crisis' is a real crisis (Apr 4, '07)


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