Comments: Paranoia and Politics

The machines in Venezuela have a paper trail, by design, it was a requirement before they were purchased. Jimmy Carter verified the result, but they won't left us use the Carter Center in Florida.

The only problem I have with troops repositioning is that it is part of a "plan" created by Rumsfeld. So far, Rumsfeld's plans do seem to have worked as anticipated.

Posted by Bryan at August 16, 2004 05:59 PM

The last sentence should read: ...Rumsfeld's plans do not seem...

Sorry about that.

Posted by Bryan at August 16, 2004 06:01 PM

I find the idea of a major troop redeployment interesting just because it's such a huge logistical problem.

I share your concern about the Rumsfeld's consistenly bad record, but after all, he'll be gone after November :) and maybe someone more reliable can make sure it's done correctly.

Posted by Anne at August 16, 2004 08:52 PM

I happen to know a little about this troop movement.

It's hardly some "election year" politics. It's been in the works even before Bush was elected, but given Clinton was a lame duck by that point and everyone knew Cohen was gone after the election even if Gore won. So, like a lot of major initiatives that have lots of ricebowls that would be broken, there was hardly any incentive to do much on it pre- Jan 01.

When Rumsfeld came in, the intent was seen more as a cost saving device (it was the early intent of DR and Wolfowitz to CUT the Army - good thing those plans did not get implemented). The military force (you can check out demographics at the UnderSecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness homepage) has become more married - and that means larger "family" costs (personnel moves involve more weight, need to have DoD schools, etc.). Additionally, married with children military personnel bring a different set of "issues" such as the spouse wanting a career, some school stability for the kids, etc..and those become drivers for retention, especially among mid-career folks. A lot of assignments to Korea and other overseas places were 1 to 2 year unaccompanied which became harder to find "volunteers" for when your workforce have spouses and kids who don't want dad or mom to leave for "peacetime" assignments overseas..

Now, add on top of that the costs of maintaining facilities and making payments to the host nation (for training damages, etc.), especially in a country (Germany) that has its own military capability and post 91 a lack of immediate threats on its borders.

While it's true that being based forward in some cases is an advantage in projecting power, but that also depends on having the capability to move those forces and have ready/trained forces to move. The concept is instead of having 30K soldiers in units with varying states of readiness (under an individual replacement system), the Army will move the whole 30K back to the US, stand up stabilized units (in one location formed as a cohesive team that stays together for an extended period). At certain intervals when the unit is trained up, it gets rotated to some place (maybe Korea, maybe Eastern Europe, etc) without families to facilities that don't need as much infrastructure and can continue to train while being ready to deploy rapidly on short notice. The benefit for the soldiers is their family can stay in one place in the US for longer periods (5-6 years) and the time away is predictable and shorter (say 6 months every 3 years) - barring an actual contingency.

Part of the problem in getting this done was it required a complete overhaul of the human resource system (not easy, doubly so in a government bureaucracy, triply so in an organization that has a cultural that resists changes). It also had the potential to shake up some ricebowls (break up major organization that could mean loss of general officer positions; the Army had a fixed number of soldiers in Germany so moving them out could mean a reduction in the size - no longer an issue now but was in 00-01). The host nations would lose some income so the towns/cities around major US bases were putting pressure on their leaders to resist. Finally (but the list is much longer), you have to have the space back in the US to accept as well as the resources to move everything (it is a big logistical problem, but you don't have to move all the equipment if you connect the dots right)..

And smack in the middle of all this is the Congressionally mandated Base Realignment and Closure process that Congress has been putting off (politics!)...there is one scheduled for next year but talk in Congress of delaying..this action puts pressure on Congress to hold a BRAC round because it would look stupid to close a post that DoD is announcing it's moving troops back to from Congress probably will be forced to hold a BRAC in 2005 especially since there are now cities/towns in the US that stand to gain income..and it also puts momentum (because they'll start shifting resources and people in the 05 budget) in place to make it hard for Kerry to undo..and we have to pay off the host nation countries while getting the other nations lined up to accept our rotational units...

To cut to the chase, this is long overdue..the simple point is why should we continue basing and resourcing paradigms established to fight the Warsaw Pact when our strategy and security environment has changed significantly?

I find it ironic that Wes Clark is critical of this when he talked about a similiar initiative when he was on active duty as the Pentagon's top strategist..

Posted by Col Steve at August 17, 2004 01:22 AM

Col. Steve: Two quick comments. First, it would be really nice if the administration presented this as 'long standing policy' rather than 'look at the neat new ideas we have': that's election-year politics.

Second as an historian, is the ricebowl metaphor something that's particular to you, or is it common among other military personnel? And during which of our Asian wars, do you think, did it become a common usage?

Posted by Jonathan Dresner at August 17, 2004 01:52 AM

I hadn't read the press releases that much so if that's how it came out, then I agree with you..I only saw the pundit comments.

The "ricebowl" methaphor is quite common in Pentagon/military speak..I'm unaware of its origin, but it's used to talk about organizational and personal interests and tends to have a negative connotation.

bureaucracies tend to protect their “rice bowls.”

When I was stationed at Schofield, I recall having to remember (and now forgotten) my unit's history in the Boxer Rebellion (oops, the China Relief Expedition)..that would be my guess..but would think you might have a lot better insight.

Posted by Col Steve at August 17, 2004 01:24 PM

Well, there've been so many Asian wars in the last century; I was thinking Korea or Vietnam, but there's something to be said for China as a possible source.

Maybe it's a Hawaiian thing, though, Asian metaphors being pretty common, and I just haven't run across it in my relatively academic circles yet.

Posted by Jonathan Dresner at August 17, 2004 04:18 PM