Gen. Frederick Kroesen Leadership Award Speech
I am most assuredly grateful to be among the honorees being recognized this evening by the American Security Council Foundation.
I am a believer who was first attracted to the organization by its determination to promote ‘‘Peace through Strength’’ back in the days of the Cold War.
I was impressed when the Reagan and first Bush administration incorporated the phrase when expressing the National Security Strategy of that Era. After my retirement from the Army I accepted an invitation to become a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, believing that Peace through Strength is still a worthy necessary and noble goal.
To that end I am in full accord with the Council’s aims today, especially Project Independence which, obviously I think addresses a national security issue.
My particular attention has always been on the capabilities and readiness of our Armed Forces, particularly the United States Army. (Just incidentally, I was reading recently in National Review a commentary on the latest award of the Nobel Peace Prize in which the magazine offered that ‘‘the prize should go every year to the U.S. Military, the number one guarantors of World peace.’’)
I have for many years, since the end of the Cold War which we won almost two decades ago, believed that our Army is too small for the mission load that it carries. After 40 years of fielding the military strength sufficiently credible for deterring and preventing the expansionist aims of the world’s Communist leaders and providing for Europe’s longest ever period of peace, we suddenly reduced the Army to about half the size of the initial Cold War forces and that of the Army that fought the Persian Gulf War. The reduction provided the long awaited ‘‘peace dividend’’ that we enjoyed through the 1990s and signaled that worries about war were over. Didn’t someone write that we had come to the end of history?
But today, with two wars going on, the Army is relatively the same size it was before 9/11. It has been authorized more soldiers, but they are filling spaces vacated by wounded warriors, personnel infected with the HIV virus, pregnant women and others who remain in the Army but cannot be deployed overseas, particularly to the combat zones. The structure of the Army has not been increased.
Today there are about 300 thousand soldiers serving in some 80 countries around the world. We still have thousands troops in Kosovo, we have a small brigade in the Sinai Desert that has been there between the Egyptians and Israelis since the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. We have the equivalent of an aviation brigade in Colombia engaged in the drug war and a large Special Forces contingent supporting the Philippines Army suppressing Muslim terrorists on Mindanao. We have a small medical force in Mongolia and various small detachments and training teams in many African countries. These enduring commitments which total 80 to 90 thousand on any given day are good will ambassadors among our allies, but they are a drain on our manpower well.
The consequence of these commitments are too many soldiers being re-deployed to combat for the third, fourth or fifth time and very few enjoying what is called ‘‘dwell time’’, i.e. a year at home before they have to return on another ‘‘hardship tour’’, one in which they are not accompanied by their families. Too many reservists are being called for multiple tours of duty to augment active Army units. These Reservists suffer disruptions in their lives, losing jobs or opportunities for promotions or new assignments in their civilian pursuits.
We have a magnificent Army out there, one without peer in the world, but it is overcommitted, over-worked and wearing out, not because of the threats it faces, but because it is too small. I do not know what size it ought to be, but I do know that a couple hundred thousand more soldiers, a few dozen more brigades and a refurbished support and training establishment (the institutional Army) would provide a much more comfortable organization for satisfying the missions we continue to have.
I would like the American people to understand that need, the cost of which would be chump change out of the stimulus packages.
I am counting on the American Security Council Foundation to help spread that word.
Again, my sincere thank you for the honor bestowed and for this opportunity to express these thoughts.
General Frederick Kroesen
First Vice President