"In my professional judgment, given the demands on the Army, that 980,000 [soldiers] I think is, in fact, minimally sufficient. And the real question for the Congress and the Nation is: Is that the Army that we want? Do we want only a minimally-sufficient Army, given the many challenges and the exceedingly expanding number of challenges that the Army has to meet?
"My thought would be this is a pretty good time to take a pause in the drawdown of the Army; let’s hold what we’ve got until there is an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive strategic review and take into consideration the evolving missions that the Army is being called upon to meet."
– Gen. Carter F. Ham, USA, Ret., former commander, U.S Africa Command; chairman, National Commission on the Future of the Army; and incoming president of the Association of the United States Army
As a retired Army officer and a retired Army senior enlisted noncommissioned officer, between us is a combined 53 years of service in the Regular Army and Army National Guard, and as members on the House Armed Services Committee, we agree strongly with General Ham’s sentiments and think enough is enough.
Now is the time for action.
For that reason, we have introduced the bipartisan H.R. 4534, the Protecting Our Security Through Utilizing Right-Sized End-Strength (POSTURE) Act of 2016.
This bill ends the drawdown of U.S. land forces, which includes the Regular Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Active Marine Corps, and Marine Corps Reserve.
The land forces’ end strength is on a downward glide path to 450,000 soldiers in the Regular Army; 192,000 soldiers in the Army Reserve; 335,000 soldiers in the Army National Guard; 182,000 marines in the Active Marine Corps; and 38,500 marines in the Marine Corps Reserve by Fiscal Year 2018.
This drawdown would bring our land forces to pre-World War II levels and is primarily based on old and often flawed, global security assumptions and analyses.
Specifically, this plan does not take into consideration a resurgent Russia, an aggressive Iran, civil wars in Syria and Yemen, an expansionist China, and a provocative and unpredictable North Korea – all of which are modernizing and improving their militaries.
Additionally, there is no better organization in the world capable of deploying overseas to help a beleaguered people overcome natural or manmade disasters than the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps – the soldiers and marines who perform missions such as eradicating Ebola or helping the Haitian people recover from earthquakes are our warrior-diplomats who bring the face and values of America to those in need.
This drawdown threatens our ability to bring those values to others and does not plan for the direct impacts on our service men and women and their families caused by increasing deployments and rotations overseas, decreased dwell time and ability to reset units, diminished training opportunities and modernization of equipment associated with increased readiness needs, and other manpower stresses.
Foreign threats and global insecurity are expected to continue to grow, yet we will continue to rely on this shrinking force to confront them.
For example, while we are drawing down the land forces, we are also increasing deployments and our presence in Europe, the Middle East, the South China Sea, South Korea, Africa, and elsewhere to address conventional, major power threats as well as terrorist networks in these regions.
In fact, the administration and the Pentagon have already delayed the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, increased military personnel in Iraq and Africa, announced new heel-to-toe Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in Europe (in addition to likely additional infantry, Stryker, and aviation deployments), discussed additional combat aviation units in South Korea, expanded deployments and presence in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and reversed the planned downsizing of the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) in Alaska.
We simply cannot meet all of these, or the ever-increasing likelihood of additional contingency needs with a force structure any smaller than current end strength levels.
The Army is already stressed at its current size to meet the demands of its Combatant Commands.
No matter who the next president will be, it’s time to give his or her administration the tools it needs to secure our nation.
Finally, without divulging classified information, we know our enemies and adversaries are also noticing the drawdown of our end strength and are moving quickly to exploit gaps and "push the envelope" of our ability to deter threats and assure our allies.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan first used the phrase "Peace through Strength."
Since then, countless military and political leaders have used this critical security tenet to their advantage, understanding that having the capability and will to deal with the most serious threats, militarily and diplomatically, is itself a deterrent.
The rapid force structure drawdown, significant diminishment of readiness, long delays in critical maintenance and modernization of facilities and equipment, attempting to offset costs by cutting service members’ promised benefits, continuance of lengthy worldwide deployments and commitments, and poor long-term planning and strategizing are just some of the challenges we face to maintaining "Peace through Strength".
However, we can tackle those challenges.
There are a number of actions that we can take, including repealing defense sequestration, pursuing waste-eliminating reforms in the Department of Defense, encouraging and assisting our allies and partners with their own military improvement efforts, and ensuring that the next president has a force capable to not only address current and future threats, but also capable of being rapidly and affordably rebuilt.
That is why we are working on a bipartisan basis to achieve the goals of the POSTURE Act this Congress.
(Editor’s note: Rep. Gibson represents New York’s 19th Congressional District and has served in the House since 2011. He sits on the Agriculture, the Armed Services, and Small Business Committees. He is a retired Army colonel. Rep. Walz represents Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District and has served in the House since 2007. He sits on the Agriculture, the Armed Services, and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He is a retired Army command sergeant major.)
Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.
House Armed Services Committee
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.
House Armed Services Committee