Officers say military weakened, not broken, by Iraq and Afghanistan

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have weakened the military, stretching it dangerously thin. The civilian leadership has imposed unrealistic expectations on the armed forces, particularly in rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. Iran and China, not Iraq or the U.S., have been the biggest beneficiaries of the 2003 invasion. Those aren't talking points from the latest anti-war rally; they're the opinions of over 3,400 active duty and retired military officers who took part in a just-released survey from Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for a New American Security, a centrist think tank. About one-tenth of those polled are active-duty officers, and roughly the same proportion have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Three out of five told pollsters the military is weaker now than it was five years ago, a decline they attributed primarily to the pace of troop deployments overseas, the civilian leadership and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly nine in 10 said the Iraq war had stretched the military "dangerously thin." Concern centered in particular on the front-line soldiers in the Army and Marine Corps; those service branches were rated less ready to complete missions overseas than were the Navy and Air Force. Only a third of the officers said the equipment and protection provided to U.S. troops in the current conflicts are adequate, and three-quarters said the civilian leadership has set unreasonable goals for the military in Iraq. Four in five told survey-takers it would be unreasonable to ask the military to wage another war somewhere else while troops are still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But while the officers worried about the future readiness of the military, they were more bullish about its present condition. Sixty-four percent said the morale of U.S. forces today remains high, and 88 percent predicted Gen. David Petraeus and the "surge" strategy would help achieve American military goals in Iraq. "The Army is not broken," retired Gen. Robert Scales said at a Tuesday press conference announcing the survey results. He later added that evidence of a severely weakened military "isn't going to show up in the statistics; it's going to show up anecdotally. It's something we'll have to look for in the months ahead, the canaries in the coal mine." At the same briefing, Lt. Col. John Nagl noted that two figures particularly surprised him as an active-duty officer. One was that nearly a quarter of those surveyed said defense spending should remain the same or actually decrease over the next decade. Nagl said he also wasn't expecting to find that officers condemned torture as "never acceptable" by only a very slim majority (53 percent), while 44 percent indicated it was acceptable under some circumstances. When it came to addressing recruiting needs, officers sometimes took positions diametrically opposed to the approach of military and civilian leaders in Washington. Only 7 percent said they support increasing the use of waivers for recruits with criminal histories, medical conditions and low test scores -- something the Army has been doing for years now. The most popular step, with nearly four in five officers agreeing, was to offer citizenship to those who serve -- a proposal that died in the Senate last October.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.