The large standing Army and active duty military we have known in our lifetime may seem the norm – but it isn’t.

Is there a way to maintain a strong military capability – available and scalable if needed – without the structure we have become accustomed to?

Is there a better way to balance our Reserve and National Guard forces that is better in line with our economic, national security, and yes – Constitutional requirements?

This Sunday, 19 FEB from 5-6pm EST, join us with our guest, General Ron Fogleman, USAF (Ret) for the full hour. Using his recent article in Defense News, Going Back to the Future: Militia Model Could Cut U.S. Expenditures as a starting point, we will discuss these ideas and more as we look for a way to maintain strength and options as the budget crunch starts.

You can listen live by clicking here.You can listen later by getting the show at that site, or from the Midrats podcast on iTunes.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Army, Podcasts

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  • Bucherm

    Oh man, this is wonderful.

    Yes, let’s strip down the AD Army and Marines to their relative size pre-WW2. I’m sure that the DoD will do a fantastic job recruiting people for what will turn out to be back to back to back to back to back deployments. Who needs family when you have the service?

    Forcing prolonged deployments on people(as in, multi years) is possible when there isn’t much expectation out of army life because they are “The scum of the Earth”. The era of that is long gone.

  • Robert

    “Is there a way to maintain a strong military capability – available and scalable if needed – without the structure we have become accustomed to?”


    Leave the AF, Navy and Marine Corps as-is and maintain the expeditionary units of the Army – the 101st, 82nd, and all the SF/Ranger units. This total package could rapidly respond effectively to any contingency (as in Afghanistan) and reserves could be called up to fight a MTO (as done in Desert Storm/OIF).

    The key to such an effort is to maintain the readiness of reservist and in the past this has been a serious problem. More effective management of the reserves is not an insurmountable task, however.

    Will such a plan actually help the economy as proposed or will adding an additional 200,000 people to the workforce just exacerbate our employment problems?

    As a side note, Brookings conducted a survey of future leaders in 2010 and over 70% of the respondents favored some form of public service after graduating from college to repay student loans, etc. I think this is a fantastic idea and would create better citizens rather than occupants of the US. However brining back the military draft is not the correct answer. Expeditionary national police force? Beef up State’s S/CRS to respond to foreign and domestic issues? Join DHS and lock arms on the southern border? We should consider new options for HA/DR, stability and reconstruction missions and reduce dependence on DOD’s capabilities.

  • Byron

    Proficiency at arms is a perishable item. Combat skilled veterans teach their hard learned lessons to new recruits. The airborne corp and SF are not good infantry, cavalry or armor. Airborne and SF are trained to fight and hold a very short time and SF is geared more towards training foreign troops and small time scale combat ops. Only infantry is trained to seize and hold for an indefinite time. Only armor is trained to punch through lines and cause maximum destruction in a short time. Only cavalry is trained to move fast, observe and report and harrass the flanks and rear of an enemy.

    Deny the Army of these perishable skills at your peril; otherwise you set the nation up for another debacle like Korea in 1950. We damn near lost that peninsula and if it weren’t for the Marines and Navy we probably would have despite the best efforts of Harry Truman.

  • Robert


    What enemy are we going to use these heavy assets against in a contingency? Are you hoping for a no-notice land invasion of China? Iran? NK? When comparing the modern battlefield to 1950, are you discounting our current US global strike capabilities? 300,000 men under arms combined with the assets of the navy and air force is a formidable force.

    The US economy underpins all elements of national power. We don’t have the economic strength to conduct a war against an adversary as you describe. Why maintain an expensive capability, using borrowed money, that can’t be used? So, the Cold War generation can sleep better?

    When considering national peril, I am far more comfortable not having a tank corps prepared to conduct Cold War tactics against a non-existant enemy, than I am with ignoring the national economic crisis – an actual threat to national security.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    The assumptions you make in your assertion are incorrect. One can almost hear the suppressed laughter from Moscow and Beijing with the comment “non-existent enemy”.

    History informs us that, when we fail to maintain credible competence and capability across a spectrum, wherever we choose to have lapse is precisely where the enemy makes us fight.

    Your idea of “global strike capability” as a replacement for being able to fight a conventional conflict against a near-peer does not pass muster, either. One only has to look to the fate of the “Kido Butai” to see that.

    To also assert that the draconian cuts in Defense spending will play any role at all in easing the “economic crisis” is to ignore the numbers. The entire Defense budget could be eliminated from the 2012 budget, and this country would still have a $1.2 TRILLION deficit. With the only practical effect of rendering us impotent to defend our interests and project our power as an element of statecraft.

    Byron is absolutely correct. The gutting of our ability to produce the weapons and systems of conventional conflict is a fool’s errand. To assert that we will not need them, and that we could not afford to fight when our enemies threaten, is even more so.

  • Robert

    So your assertion is we are going to use heavy mechanized forces to invade Russia or China?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    No, Robert, it isn’t. But should an enemy invade an area, or threaten it, with conventional forces, we can counter as needed. Or do you think you have a crystal ball that tells us such will never happen?

    If you believe your assertion, why then is China and Russia increasing their respective amphibious lift capabilities?

  • Robert, history has shown again and again, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to have armor and not need it, than not have armor and need it.

    If a militia based Army is such a good idea, why isn’t a militia based Navy also a good idea? Let’s just put 2/3 of the fleet “in ordinary” and have reservists slated to man them.

  • Robert

    Most likely for the same reason Reagan continued to invest in SDI – to get us to keep spending our way to economic and political collapse. Our economy is our national center of gravity and it is extremely vulnerable at present.

    Further what value has having a large conventional force provided the US? I’ll buy deterrence during the Cold War. Byron used the example of Korea as a debacle – why not include Viet Nam as well. In 10-15 years, I’m sure we’ll be able to add Afghanistan and Iraq to the list of modern debacles involving US ground forces. I hope I’m wrong on the latter but I see no indicators to suggest otherwise. DS was an exception, but then again look at the fight of the adversary. Having a large ground force at the ready only makes leaders of the MICC willing to commit them in wars of choice.

    I didn’t call for eliminating these capabilities, I said to transfer them to the reserves. As I’m sure you are aware, the reserves can be activated and used effectively during combat operations. The issue is how do we effectively maintain readiness of the reserves and not let it turn into the reserves of the 1970s. A problem that can be worked through. Balance could be achieved across expeditionary capabilities and those that would needed to be mobilized for a conventional fight. Put a heavy division on a 30 day alert status for a 12 month rotation, if the threat is as ominous as you say.

    On a final note URR, if you have an opinion feel free to share it but don’t judge the opinions of others as correct or incorrect – they are opinions and assumptions – I have mine; you have yours. I understand you are trying to stay on message and beat the drums for increased military spending and maintaining a large military but I’ve seen you do this time and time again on this forum and its getting a bit old. Thanks.

    To Eagle 1 – perhaps you can ask the General for his thoughts on the current practice of spreading the fiscal pain evenly across each Service instead of leadership actually prioritize missions and functions.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Now I see why you hold the views you do. I didn’t judge your opinions. I judged your assertions. As has history.

    As for beating the drum for increased military spending, you know nothing of the kind. It is not something I have ever advocated, but neither do I advocate cutting past the tipping point.

  • How about the concept in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers?

    You know, given this business of required ‘public service,’ we have on one hand a GI bill without military service. And, on the other hand, a neo-VISTA, the perfect draft-dodging hide-a-way for the children of the elite should we ever be face with a real war that will require mobilization of a major percentage of our population under uniform.

    But, we could re-organize under a quasi-militia system. Traditionally, we’ve fought our wars with a strong navy buying time for our island nation to fully mobilize. True, in this age of ICBM’s, much damage could now be visited upon our nation from afar. But, winning a war and eliminating an enemy as a viable threat still requires boots on the ground.

    So, we would still have to field a Navy of probably 350+ major surface combatants with about 12 carrier groups. And, 12 is not a lot. Between December 1941 and December 1942, we lost every one of our come-dressed-as-you-are carrier force with the exception of the Enterprise.

    With the Navy, goes the USMC, at current strength. I would suggest that any contingency that occupies three Marine divisions is by definition a major war.

    The USAF is untouched or expanded. This is the other service with an immediate intercontinental reach. It will also be needed for antimissile defense and hitting enemy industrial infrastructure.

    Which leave the active duty Army. You will still need to have a core of knowledge and leadership in place ready to effectively expand our land warfare capabilities. And, someone is going to have to keep in immediate readiness a massive inventory of tanks, artillery, engineering logistics and transport. You also must keep intact the ethos and skills of, and in particular, the elite forces now residing in the US Army.

    Which brings us to the militia. How about a six month hiatus upon high school graduation for boot camp and training in some combat speciality. To be followed several subsequent summers of re-fresher training. We already have, extant in the civilian population enough firearms to arm every man, woman and child in the US. Bringing in formal training just builds on formidible defense system courtesy the Second Amendment.

    How about the right to vote contingent on completion of such service. It might even bring home the concept that voting isn’t a right, but a responsibility.

  • Jamie

    Why are ‘deterrence’ and ‘fleet in being’ such difficult concepts to understand?

  • George

    Easy to do, model is in place. The Swiss are good start with Isreal more experienced. Under the age of 40, deploy in 1 hr. over 40, homeland defense and natural emergencies. All men and women of age, have their military weapons and gear in their home. Side benefits, crime will drop 50-75% less police needed, people will work together to hold politicans accountable for their actions. You will get physical conditioning which most need anyway, and will lower health care costs. The answer” as long as someone else does it.” not applicable.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    This is just silly.

    Firstly, the record of combat effectiveness of militia forces is abysmal. See also War of 1812: Defense of Washington, DC.

    Secondly, the record of logistic support of mobilization readiness for a cadre army, which is what we had in 1898, 1917,and 1941, is tragic. See also AEF in WWI, organic equipment, machine guns, aircraft, artillery – need for loan from allies; as well as Defense of Philipines, equipping of Philipine Scouts, antiaircraft ammunition and guns. Just to name a few.

    Thirdly, the record or training readiness of hastily mobilized reserves, garrison and militia is no better for a cadre army. First Bull Run, Task Force Smith. The successful outfits were trained on the basis of strategic warning (WWII)or trained while the small regular forces traded blood and space and territory for time to train before they dare be committed to battle. The world is a smaller place and 9/11 is the new normal.

    The cost of blood and treasure will be huge, just to get back to basic readiness from peacetime cadre in garrison, and the current “plan” is to delete cadre forces seen as irrelevant by the experience of the LAST WAR.

    Then there is R & D and keeping capabilities and techniques relevant to the current state of the art, on a short fiscal shoestring.

    The yearning for the swiss model ignores the basicly isolationist strategy underlying it and the capital investment and maintenance required for high tech equipment. Basic geography alone makes it clear the two cases are not remotely alike. You might keep a machine gun in the front hall closet, but a SAM battery, or a tank park? Nope.

    5% of GDP would support a force much greater than it was in 1990, while huge amounts are wasted by fluctuating force levels and continual continuing resolutions which prevent proper contracting and payment of predictable expenses and fixed costs, you know, money management over the fiscal year. 3% would likely be adequate, if parsimony was part of the expected expertise of the officer corps.

    But first you need serious people who recognize that defense and readiness for war are serious business, not a piggy bank for graft.

    That’ll be the day.

  • Byron

    “But first you need serious people who recognize that defense and readiness for war are serious business, not a piggy bank for graft.”

    Grandpa, that is the money line of the year!

    Robert, how much military history have you studied or read? Not much, I expect. I’m a career civilian, a high school graduate and I rather doubt I have your education. Hell, you’re probably smarter than I am…but… I read a lot of military history and that history through the ages has taught me that a largely citizen army always gets run over by a professional army. You bring up Vietnam…but ignore the fact the military didn’t lose that war, the damn politicians did. History taught me that too. Think I lie? Ok, then look how long we conducted tactical air operations over North Vietnam for little to no result in the South…until the Christmas bombing campaign when Nixon got mad at the North Vietnamess for screwing around on the bargaining table and pretty much tossed the bombing restrictions out the door. In less than two weeks the NV were back at the table begging for negotiations to stop the bombing. It was a lesson that George H.W. Bush took to heart during Desert Storm: he sent the whole can of whoop ass north and let the military sweat the details.

  • Robert

    @ XbradTC

    Can you provide a post Cold War example that illustrates your theory of “Armor Economics”? And again, I said put armor in a reserve status not eliminate it from the Army.

    As for your second point, most don’t think of a naval militia because of the Constitutional language to “maintain a navy and raise an army”. However, forward thinking ideas such as yours certainly warrant consideration. Not sure that 2/3 is the correct balance but the entire naval reserve force is under review. CNA previously identified the option of maintaining a surge force. If the navy decides to dedicate a portion of its fleet to a surge capability, then perhaps aligning reserve forces to reserve ships is a logical approach. Hell, if it happens we’ll even name a reserve ship after you!

  • Orsonroy

    Smedley Butler was right.

  • Byron

    Robert: 73 Easting. Look it up. And when the 120mm smooth bore speaks, everybody in the village, those that aren’t dead, listens real hard.

  • James


    Tanks are REALLY REALLY REALLY expensive to maintain and operate. Same with any high performance vehicles like fighters etc.

    The guard has already done as much as it can to get the big expensive vehicles out to the active duty guys. AND being a tanker is a 24/7 job there is no point using 10mil dollar tanks and operating them with 100 dollar a month people.

    Modern warfare is blitzkreig. What you wana spend 3 months preparing for the war and give the enemy that amount of time to prepare also? We did that its called iraq and they prepared quite well for the insurgency.

    Some places can sustain a militia force for a reason. Israel, Switzerland, etc………….DONT GO ANYWHERE. They are forever on the defensive. They could never sustain a offensive in say Iran. The Swiss have the single largest fortress on the planet. They dont have to go anywhere and their entire country is surrounded by people who are a buffer agaisnt agression agaisnt them.

    I like the Idea of social currency. Want to get a “free” education? Well sure just take 6 years in the military or 4 active 6 reserve.

    One of the things to remember. Yes militia are cheaper Much cheaper sometimes……..and they die. By the hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands. They are also a hit or miss organization. Some will be damn terrible some outstanding.

    And you cant use them for long at all.