Given human nature, a large long service standing military will do what takes to keep their jobs even if it means defeat in war, would rather play at war than win, and present a standing threat to civil authority, regardless of intent. This tendency is found in any profession, doctors who kill more patients than cure hide behind their union, lawyers who lose behind theirs. And unlike doctors and lawyers, the military doesn’t practice it’s profession so the public, the government or themselves can find out whether or not they are competent.
Before JFK’s renaissance of the military and before Vietnam as I experienced it, shined boots and belt buckles, paint over dirt, shoe tags for parts, and properly formatted lesson plans were the elements of combat readiness. This is the default setting after a decade of peace. The post Vietnam army avoided this by training to specific contingencies which provided a realistic framework for training even when the contingency changed. We lost a lot of people in Vietnam due to shined boots and belt buckles, etc.
It is for these reasons that we can adopt either the default military that won all our wars before DoD was invented, and demobilize the active components of the military and turn the equipment, personnel, and material over to the Guard and Reserves, OR we can adopt a more modest proposal:
The Modest Proposal
1. End the Up or Out System. There is no good reason why once on reaches his or her level of competence to stay there.
2. Open the promotion system to all qualified regardless of component or service.
3. A rank or grade goes with you, regardless of service or component promotion in one is good for any other.
4. A service member may compete for positions of a lower grade with no loss of grade on retirement.
5. All service is computed in points and at 7200 points, the benefits of a twenty year full retirement are available.
6. All service in any component is by contract such as is done for enlisted personnel.
7. The President may designate service with other countries or government branches as creditable service for experience and points as authorized by the Congress.
8. The Congress will resume the practice of authorizing the creation of units and activities and personnel therein for the duration any emergency or contingency deemed of importance.
9. The federal military reserve components will contain units intended to be deployed as units and of units and other activities intended to provide trained individual replacements to the other services and components as needed.
10. No civilians will be employed in combat save as under the UCMJ and meeting minimum training standards for deployment as the military services.
11. The Total Forces in active or drill status will be maintained at a level to allow for expansion of a fully mobilized force of ten percent of the population within three years. This is the same level achieved during WW2.In such a modest proposal, a service member can come and go when needed or as desired and in a career path suited to the individual’s and the service’s needs.
This proposal, if it seems oddly familiar is the traditional method used in the Guard and Reserves for personnel management. The model for the Total Force is us. It returns to the model for raising forces used prior to the Cold War. It allows the rapid development of the forces needed from the talent available free of considerations of career paths, or promotion flow point and opportunity as forces impacting on the organization, equipment, tactics for war and combat operations.
The Rough Riders, the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry, was raised from scratch as such and certainly did well on San Juan Hill. The officer in charge of the Mulberry project for the D-Day invasion was called from civilian life and given the rank needed for the job. Most of the generals on both sides of the Civil War including graduates of the academies returned to active duty from civilian life. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more academy graduates in the Guard and Reserve anyway.
Certainly the type of risk takers needed for quick decision making in murky circumstances wither on the vine in vacuous staff positions marking time for field duty. The Navy in WW2 picked sailors whose annual income exceeded $30,000 for duty in on shipboard Command Information Centers (CIC), which is similar to recent experiments in using stockbrokers as players in a certain recent major exercise.
The quandary we face in the War on Terror is that the forces needed for irregular warfare and stability operations are not those required for high tech intensive war but include talents normally found in the Guard and Reserves. The forces required for high tech intensive war can be maintained in the Guard and Reserves at one third to one sixth the cost. The kind of eclectic force needed in irregular warfare and operations should include a very professional active force of special operations troops augmented, supplemented, and complemented by specialist units and personnel from the Guard and Reserve.
Otherwise, the basis for a standing military force should be the need for forces whose sustained deployment or presence is required such as sea and service overseas of duration. In this regard, it makes no sense to bring forces from bases in Asia and Europe to the US so they can be deployed more quickly to places farther away than where they were.