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Obama’s Army Secretary Says A Bigger Army Doesn’t Necessarily Mean A Better Army

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Simply increasing the number of soldiers in the army will not necessarily make it better, according to U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning.

“Whether the number is 450- or 480- or 520- [thousand], you could end up creating more imbalances because those people cost something,” said Fanning during a Thursday session at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C. “We have to have the money to train and equip them. And there these is ‘the [logistics] tail’ — and that goes to the future for a very long way — you have to plan for modernization of a larger force.”

The Army is on its way to drawing down to a total of 450,000 active-duty troops, the smallest it has been since before World War II. Just five years ago, the total number of Army personnel was 566,000. Fanning insisted “the number, by itself doesn’t really tell you a lot.” He insisted that critics need to stop focusing on raw numbers and recognize other factors that impact the Army’s war-fighting capability, such as training and equipment.

Fanning expressed concern over the Army’s singular focus on countering current threats, while failing to engage in “intellectual thinking about the future.”

The Army’s problems go beyond simply raw manpower, there are also significant concerns regarding readiness. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength noted that sequestration in 2013 degraded readiness, forcing the nation’s primary land force to focus on readiness as opposed to the investment in the future Fanning mentioned.

President Barack Obama threatened to veto a congressional increase to the defense budget last year unless caps on domestic spending were also lifted. He made good on the threat in October 2015, vetoing a $612 billion defense spending bill.

President-elect Donald Trump promised to engage in a massive rebuilding of the U.S. military once he enters office in January. His plan aims to significant increase troop levels to 540,000 active personnel, however, experts are skeptical that he will be able to fund his ambitious venture.

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