Adding grunts

Washington Times Editorial:

Official Washington is quickly reaching consensus that U.S. ground forces need to be bolstered by a significant margin over the long-term. The proposals are in the range of 40,000 to 150,000 more troops. We're inclined toward the high end of those proposals, and maybe even higher.
Historically speaking, expenditures on ground troops are absurdly low, even by peacetime standards. As the Congressional Budget Office's September 2004 report on long-term defense spending showed, U.S. expenditures on ground forces are about half what they were at the height of the Reagan defense buildup in the mid-1980s, when the United States was without a hot war to fight and waged the Cold War mostly by proxy.
That decline — most evident at the Cold War's end and reaching a nadir during the Clinton administration — was unsustainable well before the September 11 attacks. All the more is it unsustainable afterward, in an era with new and challenging commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
As retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales pointed out on the opposite page yesterday, these days, if all Army and Marine infantrymen were collected together in one place, they wouldn't even fill FedEx Field. It hasn't always been this way. Five years after World War II ended, amid the postwar "peace dividend" and a pre-Korean War retrenchment, the end-strength of the U.S. Army was almost 700,000. Right now, it's about 480,000.


Maj. Gen. Scales proposes a ground-force hike of 150,000 over the next four years, which is closer to the mark. He calls to increase the number of Army brigades to 50 from the current 33 and adding two Marine Expeditionary Brigades. Maj. Gen. Scales' proposal includes the 30,000 already authorized by the Secretary of Defense, and so is really an increase of 120,000 over current levels. The price tag of those 150,000 additional ground troops will be in the tens to scores of billions.
It is time to admit that the Clinton administration made a mistake by reducing US forces to their current levels.


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