Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, August 02, 2004

Ranting and Raving
Written by: Goemagog

Beck sent me this, saying it was something I might be interested in. I'm pretty sure he wanted me to comment on it, so I will. (It's his blog, I just post here.)

Paying someone who is in charge of three finance clerks the same as an infantry squad leader makes no sense, either morally or economically.

The military pays on a pay scale. Pay is determined by a table with ranks on one side, and time in the military on the other. More experienced soldiers get paid more than less experienced people of the same rank, and higher ranking soldiers get paid more than lower ranking soldiers. It makes sense, and has been how every army has functioned since forever.

I would agree that the military has a lot of leadership positions created just so higher ranking soldiers (and extremely common for the officers) have a job even when the Army hasn't anything real for them to do. The Army has a number of headquarters units which do nothing, just so they've got someplace to put officers and senior NCO's who would otherwise be kicked out.

Not only do combat arms soldiers, especially infantrymen and special operators, have a much more hazardous, arduous, job but it is one that, until the advent of the use of "contractractors," had no civilian counterpart.

What he's talking about is the use of "contractors" as a substitute for an infantry force. The civilian counterpart previously were mercenaries, something which escaped his comments. He's upset that the military is hiring mercenaries to do it's job, instead of paying infantrymen more to do the job. "Contractors" is just a euphamism for mercenary, like "IT consultant" is for temp. Everybody pretends it's something else, but everybody knows that it is what it is.

He thinks we should pay infantrymen more, to lure these people back into the military to do the same job they're being paid as mercenaries to do. I think this is bullshit.

Even if you go by a purely libertarian economic military model, by not paying mercenaries, we cut into the demand for mercenary labor. Basic supply vs. demand says that this will cut the price paid for mercenaries, thereby making current wages more competitive for the highly trained special forces soldiers he's so worried about.

But the problem runs far deeper than he even bothers to allude to. Civilian contractors, in varying roles, have taken on many of the jobs previously performed by uniformed soldiers. This has been a tremendous mistake.

The Army has people, equipment, and facilities. The people, soldiers, need fed and clothed. Equipment needs maintained, repaired, and sometimes replaced, facilities likewise. The further you send soldiers away from the facilities, the harder it is to get the equipment (such as food, ammo, and spare parts) out to them. The Army has contracted this out to an absurd degree.

We have to contract out to get enough planes to fly our soldiers into and out of Iraq. Instead of having engineers build bases for our soldiers, we've contracted that out to companies who overcharge us for setting up a tent city that our soldiers are trained on how to do themselves.

The bonus pay system Owens recommends is perfectly logical.

The infantrymen in the combat zone get a bonus pay already, just like the mechanics in Iraq, also in harms way.

Even if all the mercenaries were incorporated into the Army, they wouldn't be deployable in the numbers that we've hired them in. That would require a larger logistical train to bring them equipment and supplies, and we're close to our limit there. The military is improvising by using civilian companies and contractors to move supplies, putting these non-mercenary contractors in life-threatening situations (think decapitation) and some of our supplies in terrorist hands. There's been some debate over whether or not we should be performing escort missions for these civilian convoys, but most people dodge the issue of why our military is paying civilians to move our supplies through a war zone.

Many of the units we are sending are being sent to do a job they've only been training for during the three month preperation for deployment. Primarily, they're being trained as RAOC (rear-area operations center) and MP units, with a bit of engineer thrown in. Why aren't we deploying units whose personnel have been training their entire military career for these tasks?

For soldiers to be good at a task, they have to be trained at it. A "Jack of all trades, master of none" soldier is not something the Army used to want. It wanted specialists, masters of their fields, trained in depth and with focus. This is why infantrymen are not taught by default to drive tanks, and tank crews spend most of their training time with the tank, rarely practicing dismounted tactics.

So where are the actual MP and RAOC units? An MP deployed at a roadblock isn't getting experience doing anything else, but while deployed, it's better to keep him at the roadblock, so he gains expert knowledge of his duties there. He doesn't learn any other MP functions, and while deployed he's too busy to be given refresher training in those duties. To keep soldiers adept at all the functions of their jobs, the Army decided to rotate units around. I agree with this part. The problem is, that the Army doesn't have enough units to rotate specialists in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so it's giving introductory courses on MP and RAOC duties to soldiers who have spent years learning every detail of a howitzer that the Army won't put them within 20 miles of. Tankers are being pulled from their tanks and taught how to run roadblocks, gun crews are being taken from their guns and taught to clear rooms of enemy combatants.

The Army says that this is acceptable, as every soldier is trained in basic infantry skills in basic training. The soldiers they're sending to Iraq are not being asked to act like basic infantrymen though, they're being asked to act like specialists with only introductory training in their new field.

I don't think the basic problem is that infantrymen aren't being paid enough, it's that the Army has chosen to reduce the size of the Army, without addressing how it impacts the functioning of our military in the field.

My suggestion is not a pay raise for infantrymen, or even a pay raise for anybody. I think the basic pay for all ranks should be cut. The allowance for dependents should be expanded considerably (soldiers of all ranks get extra pay to help them feed and clothe their families), as should the pay for being in a combat zone. We also need a few more divisions. Eleven should do it, and that would more than double the size of our current active duty Army, something nobody at the Pentagon wants done no matter how desperate they are for soldiers.

Two more airborne divisions to swap out with the 82nd and the 101st when they need to train up new soldiers and resupply. Six infantry divisions, light on armored units, but with extra engineers, logistic units, MP's, and RAOC training to perform all the mundane REMF jobs that need to be done but don't require knowing how to kill someone with a spatula. These six divisions would not be trained heavily on offense, leaving the taking of ground/cities to the armored and airborne divisions. Deploying four at any given time, meaning that room stateside would only be needed for two at a time. And no soldiers would be transfered into or out of a unit that was overseas. Personnel changes would be made only the first week after a unit enters CONUS, so that the rest of the stateside time is spent training with the exact same people they'll be deploying with. The Army likes to pretend that soldiers are interchangeable, but that hurts morale, and morale is important to keeping units functioning at a high level.

We'd need an eleventh division, of course, so that soldiers could train on basic job skills while waiting for an opening (since replacements would wait until the unit returns to CONUS, this could be a few months). Where would we get enough soldiers for all these divsions? The draft, drafting everyone for four years and sending those not needed for active duty units to their states national guards.

That way we'd have the offensive ability we need (the current military strength, plus two additional airborne divisions), the capacity to do the peacekeeping/nationbuilding/occupation duties we've accrued, while bolstering our national guard with a huge boost in manpower, should the looming threat of war with China make them needed.

Of course, this would mean that our military would have to take it's duties seriously, and not have it's highly trained airborne soldiers building schools instead of killing bad guys.

Goe, ranting and raving, as the title says.

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