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February 22, 2007

Comments

How is there a gun shortage in the military? Does the NRA know about this? This boggles my mind too. Here we have the most powerful army of the most powerful nation on earth who hope to have standard issue military equipment when it comes time to deploy in about a year. You know, fingers crossed and all.

Wow. This war has really exposed the schism between civilian and military leadership. You have the cold-worriers (clever, huh?) with paranoid nuclear fantasies ramping up our bomb-dropping capabilities at the expense of all other facets of military engagement/purpose.

I've yet to hear one complaint from the air force.

Goddamn Democrats, cutting off funding for our troops so they don't even have enough rifles! String up the traitorous liberals responsible for this!

[snark]
Do it like the Russians in both World Wars?
Give a rifle to every third soldier and let those lead the charge. When the enemy line is reached the number of rifles will equal the number of men. [I don't make that stuff up, the Russian logistics was that dreadful in the beginning of both wars and that was the "solution"].[/snark]

Nothing new btw, I read that a lot of US soldiers (primarily National Guard) had to buy their own combat boots because their units received equal amounts of every possible size, so about half of them were either too big or too small. At least one NG unit had to steal ammo (and borrow more from a neighbouring Marine unit) for their machine guns because they only got rifle ammo.

[snark]
Maybe the US should switch to Kalashnikovs, so the troops could get their ammo and equipment from the enemy.[/snark]

It says they don't have enough M-4s; presumably it means they will have to deploy with the older and bulkier M-16s.

Given what is said in the wikipedia, the M4 is also far from perfect.

"It says they don't have enough M-4s; presumably it means they will have to deploy with the older and bulkier M-16s."

That was my reading of it as well; If they were going to be deployed without rifles at all, I presume the general would have said as much, rather than specifying that they'd be deployed without the prefered rifle.

Not an ideal circumstance, obviously, but I've already noted that one of Bush's failings almost from the start has been his failure to even ask for a military that was actually sized and equipped for the wars he wanted it to fight. Presumably he wanted his wars on the cheap so that he could afford his domestic agenda.

Presumably he wanted his wars on the cheap so that he could afford his domestic agenda

, i.e., redistributing wealth upwards.

I await Dick Cheney to come on TV and explain to me that this means we're winning.


It's not clear to me what context the "preferred rifle" bit is in. Since it's not quoted verbatim, it's not clear to me whether the guy was saying they'd have to deploy with a different gun, or if the reporter just added that as extra description of the M4.

I await Dick Cheney to come on TV and explain to me that this means we're winning.

the fact that demand for the weapons exceeds supply means shows just how popular the war is. if nobody liked the war, there would be no demand for its implements. it's The Market at work!

only commies want the market to fail.

don't be a commie.

That's awesome cleek.

Why can't our soldiers defend themselves by throwing back the flowers the insurgents have been throwing at our young men and women and our middle-aged men and women in partial uniforms since we took Baghdad?

Clearly, the Park Service needs to close down a few hundred national treasures so that the money wasted there can be sent to Iraq and converted to the rubble of democracy.

", i.e., redistributing wealth upwards."

I've always been amused by this "liberal" conviction that the failure to redistribute wealth downwards quite as agressively as the left wants constitutes redistributing it upwards.

Roughly on-topic, if the topic is administration responsibility for the troops' welfare:

Don't miss Thomas Nephew's technologically (and comedically) improved transcript of Tony Snow handling the Walter Reed questions at the White House presser.

"It says they don't have enough M-4s; presumably it means they will have to deploy with the older and bulkier M-16s."

It's not quite as bad as it sounds, because the distinction here is entirely between the Guard as it normally is -- which as the article notes, but doesn't emphasize, is that normally as a Guard soldier you only drill
"just once a month and for a few weeks in the summer."

Naturally, everyone in the state's National Guard units aren't all called up at once to train. So there's absolutely no need for everyone to get their own M-4. It's not as if you take it home with you, to keep in the closet to grab when the militia is called to duty.

The entire point here is that the deployment date was drastically moved up, from 2010 to 2008. Thus the need to suddenly have more M-4s on hand than previously anticipated.

But, you know, that previous lack is entirely reasonable, and doesn't demonstrate any sort of standing problem in the least, at least insofar as the story makes clear; it's the acceleration in the deployment schedule, the great "surge," that has caused a temporary problem.

The real problems are stuff like this:

[...] Of particular concern, he said, is the possibility that the prospects of going to Iraq next year could cause some Arkansas reservists not to re-enlist this year.
And this:
[...] Given that they would be in Iraq for about nine months, that would leave only three months for training before they go. In the past, six months of training has been the norm before heading to the war zone.
But I'd like to clarify that, insofar as this story reports, there's no indication that M-4s have been lacking in training up to now. Hilzoy's implication that there has been ("But I always thought that it was important to actually train on equipment") doesn't seem clearly supported by the story to me, though maybe she was expressing her concern abou the 3/6 month difference.

I certainly agree that the story expresses entirely valid concerns about important and real problems, mind. I just wouldn't focus on the M-4s as remotely the most important aspect.

On the mortars and howitzers, it's been routine for units deployed in Iraq to leave their equipment there for the succeeding units, so the depth of the problem here as regards that is unclear.

The underlying problem overall, of course, is the small size of the active Army compared to the current mission. Although the Army primarily organizes in brigades now, not divisions, there are only ten divisions in the active army. This is tiny compared to the many hundreds created for WWII, or even during Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

And training for a weekend a month simply doesn't prepare you as well as being in the Army full-time.

The entire structure of our current military, with the bulk being Reserves and Guard units, wasn't designed for long-term sustained use. Thus the breaking. It's that simple.

Now, everyone go shop! It's wartime!

Gary: The entire structure of our current military, with the bulk being Reserves and Guard units, wasn't designed for long-term sustained use. Thus the breaking. It's that simple.

Bingo.

And it was purposely designed this way in the wake of the Viet Nam debacle, in the hope/expectation that it would prevent future administrations from waging wars that did not have the support of the U.S. population.

That's why the Murtha proposal is not any kind of undermining of the troops, but exactly the opposite -- an effort to make the volunteer force concept play the political role it was designed to play.

At the point when this administration committed to a long, sustained engagement is when they needed to go to Congress and the voters to reshape the services for that occupation, er, engagement. They did not, because they were unwilling to pay the political price -- preferring to make the troops and their families and communities pay the human and economic price.

Don't miss Thomas Nephew's technologically (and comedically) improved transcript of Tony Snow handling the Walter Reed questions at the White House presser.

On the other side of that, I saw the commanding general for the facility (I forget which show or his name) unequivocally take full responsibility for the whole mess last night. “It’s my fault. Period.” Not the tiniest attempt to shift blame up or down. He claimed 100% responsibility. Obviously he has no political aspirations, but I was highly impressed (by his owning it, not by the mess).

"At the point when this administration committed to a long, sustained engagement is when they needed to go to Congress and the voters to reshape the services for that occupation, er, engagement. They did not, because they were unwilling to pay the political price -- preferring to make the troops and their families and communities pay the human and economic price."

Your comment is entirely correct, of course, though I (naturally) have one quibble: they never -- or didn't until very recently, at least -- "committed to a long, sustained engagement": it was always just a temporary problem, and would be cleared up in another six months (a friedman)!

Last throes, etc. So one has to include the reality denial as a key part of the equation explaining what took place (the key part, really). I know Nell knows this, so I'm just amplifying the (quite obvious) point.

Gary: The entire structure of our current military, with the bulk being Reserves and Guard units, wasn't designed for long-term sustained use.[...]

Nell: And it was purposely designed this way in the wake of the Viet Nam debacle, in the hope/expectation that it would prevent future administrations from waging wars that did not have the support of the U.S. population.

I am not certain this is correct. I am unable to find a cite for this at the moment, but I believe that the Army redesign begun by General Abrams was to prevent the military from going to war without using the National Guard and Reserves in order to prevent wars like Vietnam. General Abrams believed that if reservists would have to be called up to support any major operation, it would discourage future Presidents from getting involved in military conflicts that did not enjoy widespread support.

As for the notion the military is not designed for sustained conflict, I am not certain what would lead to that conclusion. Unless one is able to amass significant reserves in men and materiel prior during peacetime, all military forces must depend on their governments to properly fund them to replace losses. This strikes me as less a design flaw than a fact of life. If the military is not given the resources to not only fight a war, but to regenerate combat power as necessary while the fight is going on, it will break eventually no matter how it is designed.

Nell: And it was purposely designed this way in the wake of the Viet Nam debacle, in the hope/expectation that it would prevent future administrations from waging wars that did not have the support of the U.S. population.

I am not certain this is correct. I am unable to find a cite for this at the moment, but I believe that the Army redesign begun by General Abrams was to prevent the military from going to war without using the National Guard and Reserves in order to prevent wars like Vietnam. General Abrams believed that if reservists would have to be called up to support any major operation, it would discourage future Presidents from getting involved in military conflicts that did not enjoy widespread support.

This seems to be "disagreeing" with Nell by agreeing with her.

Are you, perchance, serving in the Army, G'Kar? Have you possibly posted here before, under another name? (If so, you needn't say which, of course; I'm just curious.)

I included Nell's comment because of her apparent agreement with your comment regarding the design of the Army, but you are correct that I concur with her conclusion if not the details which led to there.

As to your questions, let us say that I choose to post this way for personal reasons and leave it at that, if you will.

"As to your questions, let us say that I choose to post this way for personal reasons and leave it at that, if you will."

Sure. I thought so. Good to think you may be with us, at whatever frequency or infrequency, G'Kar.

(Non-sequitur note: most people have a much more distinctive prose style than is sometimes realized; a good editor/reader can often recognize someone simply from that, and a relatively short sample, at that.)

Keep your hands off my throat, G'Kar.

By G'Quan, is there nowhere in the universe I can go without you following me Mollari?

Not making any particular point (after all, the economy is obviously a bit better than it was), but I think the notes by a WWII vet on his training are pretty interesting:

* We trained with and went into combat with weapons that had been produced BEFORE OR DURING World War I (1914-1918)! They were obsolete and the best example is that the infantry rifle was a bolt action World War I production Enfield (the American version of the British Lee-Enfield rifle). I trained with it and I trained others on it. Later on, of course, the Garand was developed and it was a good (but not great) semi-automatic weapon.
* My Browning Automatic rifle, with which I fought in combat, was produced in 1917 by the Springfield Armory and was as faulty as a weapon could be including jamming too, too frequently.I disliked it with a passion and considered it a lousy weapon.
* My ammunition belt was made of canvas and it came from World War I. When it rained it was impossible to get the ammunition clips out of the belt and if you were lying on your stomach under fire you could not get the clips out of your belt unless you rolled over and raised yourself! If you did that, of course, you were a better target! I went into combat with that stupid, lousy, rotten ammunition belt and hated it with a passion until I threw it away and carried my ammo clips in my jacket pockets!
* We had no artillery to train with and used logs on wheels for artillery training. In order to fire the artillery in SIMULATED combat (maneuvers) we would call out "BANG". That signified that the artillery piece had been fired!
* In actual combat we still used some artillery from World War I but most were new and decidedly inferior to both Russian and German artillery.
* We used broom sticks for weapons when we trained since we did not have enough genuine weapons to go around.
* There were no anti-tank weapons that had any value. We did have an anti-tank weapon which was a 50 caliber piece. It was pea shooter and absolutely useless against any normal tank. It was a weapon designed to get the gunners killed and no more of that: Notice how small this anti tank gun is! It was a piece of junk; a pea shooter of no value but enormously dangerous to the gunners! Junk, first class killing junk!

OCS: He claimed 100% responsibility. Obviously he has no political aspirations, but I was highly impressed (by his owning it, not by the mess).

Reinforcing Andrew's point about there being many, many Army officers with that kind of integrity. Making it all the more shameful that their civilian overseers have been such shirkers...

Nell- Its not just the civilians though. The problem is that careerist cowardice starts to be evident in bird Colonels at the latest, and is universal in Brigadeer Generals or better.

It seems clear it is not universal, given OCSteve's cite of the commander of the Walter Reed facility's willingness to take full responsibility for the problems there.

"The problem is that careerist cowardice starts to be evident in bird Colonels at the latest, and is universal in Brigadeer Generals or better."

Universal. Right.

I'm glad you didn't give in to the urge to wildly over-state, and slur those who don't deserve it. All U.S. generals are cowards.

That's kind of thin, don't you think (he says to no one in particular)?

It seems clear it is not universal, given OCSteve's cite of the commander of the Walter Reed facility's willingness to take full responsibility for the problems there.

I couldn’t find the transcript for what I saw last night – I did determine it was an interview with Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman.

The closest I find in a quick search now is this. Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff:

"We own that building, and we're going to take charge of it," Cody said at the Pentagon. "The senior Army leadership takes full responsibility for the lack of quality of life at Building 18, and we're going to fix it."

Cody blamed "a breakdown in leadership" for the troubling conditions but said no one has been fired or relieved of command. He did point to lower-ranking officers and noncommissioned officers lacking "the right experience and the authority to be able to execute some of the missions."

Weightman didn’t mention the lower-ranking officers and noncommissioned officers in the interview I saw. But even here, Cody is blaming the lack of experience and authority in the lower ranks on a breakdown in leadership.

Interesting.

I'd attempted to comment on this at about 7AM, but for some reason was unable to. Take Gary's comments as a superset of mine.

Although...if there was a natural catastrophe and the Arkansas National Guard was called up, would we be able to count on approximately one out of every six soldiers having to supply their own rifle?

if there was a natural catastrophe and the Arkansas National Guard was called up, would we be able to count on approximately one out of every six soldiers having to supply their own rifle?

of course. the only problem would be making them choose just one.

What happened to the old (late) 19th century practice that there should be 3 rifles for every deployable man (typically 1 for the fight, one modern reserve and one older still working model)? And that was for armies of millions, not the comparably small forces of today. Usually personal firearms were the one thing armies had no lack of (maybe short on artillery or ammo but not rifles). If there is a shortage on this, it does say much but nothing good about those responsible.

Oh, I think there should be a couple of rifles for every man, deployable or not. And by "man", I mean "adult".

What constitutes "adult" is another conversation, of course.

And it was purposely designed this way in the wake of the Viet Nam debacle, in the hope/expectation that it would prevent future administrations from waging wars that did not have the support of the U.S. population.

That's why the Murtha proposal is not any kind of undermining of the troops, but exactly the opposite -- an effort to make the volunteer force concept play the political role it was designed to play.

Ah, a starve-the-beast approach?

Out, damned italics!

Clarification: deployable = theoretically able to be drafted, drilled and sent to war; formally known as able-bodied men*

Unlike ammo, properly manufactured rifles** can be kept in workable condition almost indefinitely with modest effort (and don't underestimate the value of a good bolt-action rifle :-) , ask any sniper)
No excuse for shortages therefore.

*let's let gender/sex out of it for a moment
** okay, that excludes first generation M16

I generally agree with Gary’s comment, but have a couple of points,

Re Gary’s comment on the effects of an M4 shortage, "Naturally, everyone in the state's National Guard units aren't all called up at once to train. So there's absolutely no need for everyone to get their own M-4. It's not as if you take it home with you, to keep in the closet to grab when the militia is called to duty."

Yes, but while not absolutely necessary, it is quite helpful if everyone has their own rifle during training. Each individual needs to zero his weapon and if you are constantly sharing weapons that is more time and ammunition required to zero those weapons for each shooter. Most units do have rifles for every assigned soldier, unless they are overstrength (and yes, this isn't Switzerland so they are kept in the Armory or Reserve Center).

A bigger issue is a shortage of major equipment items. If you only have a company’s worth of HMMWVs, it is hard to train a brigade with over 10 companies concurrently. Yes, you schedule training around your assets, but it gets hard when that many soldiers have to share so few vehicles. I am personally aware of a reserve MP company whose vehicles were effectively stolen by a training center, so it could train mobilizing units. That is good, but hard on the company, which can’t train on its own equipment.

Re the issue of how big the US army was during previous wars.

“This is tiny compared to the many hundreds created for WWII, or even during Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.”

Err, no. The US is certainly low in divisions now with only 10 active Army divisions, but the WW 2 army had only 91 divisions (68 infantry, 1 mountain, 16 armored, 5 airborne, and 2 cavalry), and the other armies that fought the other wars had fewer divisions, than the WW 2 army. Reagan's Cold War army had only 18 active divisions.

http://www.historyshots.com/USArmy/backstory.cfm

Note, I am quibbling with the divison numbers here and agree with his main point, that we needed a larger army. To quote the former Army Chief of Staff "Beware of the 12 division strategy for a 10 division army".


Donald Clarke

If this is truly a "battle for civilization itself" (as Bush has framed it) why do we blithely send a volunteer force? If civilization is on the line, shouldn't we be MORE invested in this struggle? Unless of course, putting your money where your mouth is would be politically inadvisable.

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