Stretched to the Breaking Point

From Holden:

That’s how our military is described by a consortium of security policy think tanks and advocacy groups in this report:

More than 27 percent of the military’s active duty troops are overseas, and more than half of them are in combat zones, numbers not seen since the Vietnam War, a new study shows.

The study from a consortium of security policy think tanks and advocacy groups warns that the stress the Iraq war is placing on the military’s personnel and equipment could reach a breaking point in as little as two years.


A much greater percentage of the force is deployed overseas than it was for the last decade, from 1992 to 2002, the study shows. It also questions whether adequate preparations were made to support such a deployment.

“The fact that we are doing it doesn’t mean we can do it,” Conetta said. “What was the preparation that allows for this? There hasn’t been the preparation. It doesn’t mean people are revolting in the field (leaving the military). You’re not going to see a problem right away. … My concern is that it might be soon.”


The study points to other indicators of possible trouble to come in the Army, which it argues is going to be stretched to the breaking point by an extended Iraq deployment.

More than 20 percent of the Army has already been deployed more than 120 days so far this year. In 2003, the total was 25 percent, according to estimates from the Project on Defense Alternatives.

Those numbers represent half of all deployable forces. It is a stark increase over the number of soldiers who were deployed more than 120 days a year for the previous eight years, according to Defense Department statistics cited by the study. Between 1994 and 2002, less than 5 percent of the Army was deployed for more than 120 days in any one year.


“Soldiers can deploy occasionally for 120 days oversees without missing out on important yearly routines at their home base, such as training, special assignments and leave. Deployment of much more than 120 days in a year results in deficits accumulating in the other aspects of a soldiers career and personal life,” the study says.

The Marine Corps has kept its Iraq rotation to seven months in deference to its standard six-month sea tour schedules.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan and now with the liberal Center for American Progress, said the only way to forestall a mass exodus of mid-career soldiers strained by Iraq was to change the deployment length to six months, and to promise only one year out of every three would be spent overseas.

“You’ve got to do for active duty no more than one year out of three or you are going to lose people who have not made a life-time commitment,” Korb said Tuesday. “This is ruining marriages and families.”

Roughly 60 percent of the active duty force is married.