Planned cuts to the U.S. Army will endanger national security commitments, a new study conducted by the RAND Corporation argued.
National security commitments, the report argues, are a stalwart resistance to terrorism, deterrence of aggression and preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) from spreading.
On all three counts, RAND found that the U.S. fell short.
President Barack Obama promised to “degrade — and ultimately destroy — ISIL,” but experts say poor planning has resulted in a complete misjudgment of the Islamic State’s scope and scale.
The Obama administration has pledged to “defend our NATO allies … we will defend the territorial integrity of every single ally.” Yet, the report notes that the U.S. did not correctly anticipate the Russian invasion of Crimea or Ukraine. Nor did national security officials see the threats posed by Russia to nearby NATO Baltic states, even as the Kremlin was “building a pretext for intervening in the Baltics through such actions as reviewing the legality of the states’ independence from the Soviet Union.”
Even now, Russia is planning on building a second large military base near the Ukrainian border.
In 2014, Obama thanked South Korea for its commitment to Washington and said that “the U.S. and South Korea stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of Pyongyang’s provocations and in refusing to accept a nuclear North Korea.” But the U.S. failed to address the North Korean artillery threat — according to the report, a major failure. Going yet another step further, plans did not cover the full extent of the North Korean WMD program.
The problem is that the U.S. lacks sufficient ground forces, both in the Army and the Marine Corps, the report finds. There simply aren’t enough troops to meet all the demands.
Still, the Department of Defense plans to shrink all four services, and the various what-if scenarios presented in the report, paint a sorry picture of the outcomes if the U.S. can’t keep its commitments, and international actors decide to take advantage of the weakness. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2014 entailed a rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. This shift meant a drop of active component soldiers in the Army from 566,000 to 450,000 — and even potentially as low as 420,000 with sequestration. The QDR also mandated cuts in the Army Reserve from 206,000 to 195,000 and in the Army National Guard from 358,000 to 335,000.
According to RAND, the solution is to draw as much readiness as possible out of the National Guard and Army Reserve, which is a major step to take, as this has not been done since World War II. RAND also recommended for the U.S. to increase troop presence in the Baltics and South Korea to speed up deployment times and to halt drawdown of active and reserve troops — at least until Russian aggression has died down and the Baltic states aren’t nearly as threatened.
Other methods include U.S. policy makers admitting ahead of time that ground forces can only participate in one major conflict at a time and accept the regret that follows from being unable to honor commitments to allies. If the U.S. commits ground forces to the Baltic states, South Korea stands vulnerable, for example.
“One could just accept the imbalance between stated U.S. commitments and current force planning and, in turn, accept the possibility of strategic failure and regret … but such an option does not seem very appealing,” the report noted.
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