In an alarming article written by C. Todd Lewis and issued by the Army News Service, 1 in 5 troops may be undeployable by 2012.
- By the time the Army meets its goal to have Soldiers home for twice the time they’re deployed, the service could face the problem of having nearly one in five Soldiers unable to deploy. Today, nearly 14.5 percent of Soldiers in a brigade combat team are unable to deploy by the unit’s latest arrival date in theater, or LAD. That number is up from a little over 10 percent in 2007. By 2012, it’s expected the number will be as high as 16 percent, said Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-1. “We don’t want it to grow, but the reality is, we’re tracking what’s happening with our Soldiers and we’re making our best assumptions and assessment of what’s going to happen in the future,” Bostick said.
- He said medical issues are a prime factor in the increase of non-deployable Soldiers. “Some of it is temporary medical, where we fix the Soldiers and they are not ready to go at the deployment time,” Bostick said. He also said about 68 percent of those injuries are musculoskeletal issues, including knees, backs or muscles, for instance. The Army’s leadership asked the secretary of defense for a temporary end-strength increase in 2009 to help alleviate problems associated with non-deployable Soldiers. As a result, about 22,000 additional Soldiers were approved above and beyond the Army’s congressional mandate of 547,400.
- Also adding to the roster of non-deployable Soldiers is the elimination of stop-loss. That policy allowed the Army to extend Soldiers’ enlistment beyond their end-of-service date, so they could deploy with their unit. Without stop-loss, some Soldiers stay behind when their unit deploys. “We have to make up for those losses,” Bostick said. “They are on our books and we have an end strength, so we can’t recruit against them. So you have to find a way to have three-to-one, about 12,000 Soldiers, to make up for 4,000 that might be stop-lossed.” Non-deployable Soldiers are a “huge issue we are working across the Army that we have got to fix,” Bostick said.
- The need for additional Soldiers can also be attributed to the service’s wounded warrior program, Bostick said. The number of Soldiers in that program is increasing. “We thought that number was going to actually start coming down, but with what is happening in Afghanistan, the number is going the other direction,” he said. Today, there’s about 9,000 Soldiers in the wounded warrior program from both the Active Duty and Reserve Components, Bostick said. “From a personnel point of view, you have to care for Soldiers and their families and treat them with dignity and respect,” he said.
- SFTT has previously reported that the current supply-and-demand requirements to support the war effort is unsustainable and impacts dwell time and quality of life. The data and statistics provided by LTG Bostick are clear indicators that this manpower shortage, where 1 in 5, or 20% of the Army will be non-deployable by 2012 due to injuries, is quickly approaching a crisis point.
- Even if we were to dramatically reduce our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2012 as is currently planned, the problem of limited available manpower due to injuries will remain.
- Obviously a possible short answer to the question that this manpower crisis asks would be to institute the “draft” to augment our professional military, but this is an unsustainable political and societal goal. One simple solution to this stark reality, that a draft is a “no-go” and that injuries will soon cap combat power means available for limited policy ends, would be for decision makers, elected officials, and senior military leaders to immediately “surge” the industrial base and defense contract force to research, design, develop, and field improved troop-level gear and equipment that will further reduce injuries. If you start there, right now, the crisis LTG Bostick alerts us to might just be manageable and support the principle that we “treat them with dignity and respect.”