Senior US Military Gloomy About State Of Armed Forces

A new survey of more than 3,400 active and retired field-grade officers found they are downcast about the state of the militay with 60% saying the nation’s armed forces are weaker than they were 5 years ago and 88% believe the war in Iraq had stretched the military “dangerously thin.” Two thirds of rspondents had combat experience although only 10% had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Mot of them were students at senior-level military schools such as the Army War College.

The survey asked members of the militay if they agreed or disagreed with the following sentence: “Torture is never acceptable.” Although 44% disagreed a majority 53% agreed that torture should never be allowed. Of course, these officers lack the experience of President Bush who dodged combat and was never confronted with the possibility of becoming a prisoner of war.

Those surveyed were greatly concerned about extending any further the armed forces in new battle zones. They ranked the United States Army as the service branch which was most exhausted and not ready to assume new combat roles. Almost two in five wanted the draft reinstated in order to meet contemporary needs of the nation. On a one to 10 scale on having confidence in President Bush only 5.5 expressed this view with 16% stating they had “no confidence at all in the president.” Almost two-thirds of these military men believe America’s currrent crop of civilian leaders “are either somewhat or very uninformed about the U.S. miltary” and only 13% believe civilian leadership has set reasonable goals for the armed forces.

  • MAJ Joshua Stringer

    As an active duty Army field grade officer, I did not have the opportunity to participate in the recent survey, but seem to fit the norm of respondents – field grade, 14 years of service, two tours into Iraq (one pending). I am always professionally skeptical of statistics, as they can be misleading to the actual thoughts of the respondent due to the limited nature of the question/response. But, I do have some thoughts of this latest data.

    Topic 1: Overall Health. First, this survey is not an “assessment.” It’s a snapshot used to paint by numbers. 3,400 military officers were asked if they were concerned about the health of their organization(s)…most said yes (>5 on the scale of 10). That is a no-brainer – of course we are. Does anyone in America want it any other way? We care deeply about our services. We are living in a very difficult time in terms of usage.

    As a service, we have to ask the hard questions all the time – not just when it is an election year. Questions like: What type of military do we need? How large should it be? Do I have the correct equipment to fight the type of threat? How do I fit with the other elements of national power? What is our military “breaking” point? How do I refit these organizations within the budgeting & procurement contraints? Those are tough questions to answer and everyone wants to know the timeline. Unfortunately, the answer almost always is…it depends.

    Topic 2: Military Growth. I can only speak from an Army perspective here. I believe that some of the options listed in the survey – lower educational standards, enlistment bonuses, lifting age restrictions, and criminal/health waivers, will have profound negative consequences on the overall quality of the “professional” Army Soldier. The enlistment bonuses are a great perk, but not the reason to enlist or to stay a member of the team. There is a unique flavor to an all volunteer force that elects to serve based on fundamental personal/moral convictions – not because of the overall incentives. Now, that is not to say that incentives are not part of the decision making process, but they should not be the overarching factor by a longshot.

    I think that the survey and ensuing article “Survey: Officers Gloomy about Military” has only provided data with extremely limited value. It painted a picture of incompetency of the civilian leadership and correlated that with concern over the “health” of the military.

    I will tell you that we will always remain concerned about the health of the organization – whether in peace or war time. I believe that our civilian leaders are engaged more with our service now than ever in my career and have supported our efforts to promulgate avery difficult fight.

    Rest assured, your military is doing positive things in Iraq and re-enlistments of current Soldiers are high (even without the bonuses)…an indication that Soldiers are feeling their work is worthwhile.

  • Fred Stopsky

    You make valid points. The Military Times has also done surveys of the armed forces over the past few years. They detect about 30% of enlisted men are concerned about deployments and the rationale of why they are fighting.
    The central issue is the ineptness of the Bush administration in conducting the war. Senior military leaders advised against the Rumsfeld strategy and were overruled. How many deaths are attributable to the Bush/Rumsfeld military policies? As a senior leader, you must be concerned that men died due to mistakes of their superiors.