Monday, March 03, 2008

The CNAS survey of the state of the armed forces

Have American forces been strengthened or broken by the War on Terror campaigns? The Small Wars Journal summarizes a Center for a New American Security and Foreign Policy survey of more than active service and retired 3,000 officers with the rank of major and above across the services, 2/3 of whom had combat experience. According to the survey's website "The nonscientific survey was administered online from December 7, 2007, to January 15, 2008."

Rather than repeat the summary of the survey, I'll reprint sections from what are called the "complete data", provided in Microsoft Word format, which unfortunately isn't in a form that allows cross tabulation.


Who took the survey?

How many years ago did you retire from military service? (not asked of Active Duty)

8% Active duty
3% 1 year or less
6% 2-5 years
11% 5-10 years
71% 11+ years

[Operational Experience] Please check all below that apply:

10% Served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan
62% Served in another conflict zone
56% Deployed elsewhere
10% Never deployed

What was your rank upon retirement (or "what is your rank" for active)?

1% General/Admiral
2% Lieutenant General/Vice Admiral
2% Major General/Rear Admiral (Upper Half)
2% Brigadier General/Rear Admiral (Lower Half)
31% Colonel/Captain
37% Lieutenant Colonel/Commander
24% Major/Lieutenant Commander
1% Other


Why is the US military weaker today than five years ago?

Would you say that the U.S. military today is stronger, weaker, or about the same as it was five years ago?

25% Stronger
60% Weaker
15% About the same

What is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT reason you believe the U.S. military is either stronger, weaker, or about the same as it was FIVE years ago?

Among those who think it stronger (25%)

7% Funding
2% Civilian leadership/oversight
26% Wars in Iraq/Afghanistan
53% Personnel with more experience, education, and training
0.3% Altered recruiting standards
2% Pace of troop deployments and rotations
9% Other (please specify) __________________

Among those who think it weaker (60%)

10% Funding
21% Civilian leadership/oversight
20% Wars in Iraq/Afghanistan
0.4% Personnel with more experience, education, and training
2% Altered recruiting standards
35% Pace of troop deployments and rotations
11% Other (please specify) __________________


Iraq

Please evaluate the impact of these actions on the prospects for ultimate success in the mission on a scale from 1 to 10 (the lower the worse)

Not having more troops in Iraq at the start of the invasion 3.3
Disbanding the Iraqi military 3.1
Rapidly returning sovereignty to a new Iraqi administration 4.9
Rapidly holding elections in Iraq 5.6
Not allowing a partition in Iraq 5.3

Which country do you feel has gained the greatest strategic advantage from the war in Iraq?

19% United States
37% Iran
3% Iraq
22% China
13% Russia
4% Other, please specify

In your judgment, what level of impact will General David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy and the so-called "surge" of additional U.S. forces into Baghdad have on the ultimate achievement of the US military's goals in Iraq?

44% Very positive
44% Somewhat positive
3% Somewhat negative
1% Very negative
8% No impact


Torture

"Torture is never acceptable."

33% Strongly Agree
20% Somewhat Agree
25% Somewhat Disagree
19% Strongly Disagree
2% Don't know


What does the military need to win?

Please choose the TWO most important things you believe the United States government must do to win the war on terror.

31% More robust diplomatic tools
73% Improve intelligence
21% Increase the size of U.S. ground forces
19% Increase the number of troops with foreign language skills
38% Further increase the size of Special Operations Forces
13% Develop a cadre of operational, deployable civilian experts
14% Increase spending on economic development assistance programs

Please choose the TWO most important things you believe the United States must do to prepare for the threats and challenges of the 21st century.

38% Increase the size of the ground forces (Army, Marine Corps)
30% Increase the size of Special Operations Forces
17% Increase general purpose forces' ability to train, advise, and equip host nation forces
10% Increase the size of the Navy's fleet
21% Improve space and cyberspace warfare capabilities
24% More robust diplomatic tools
7% Develop a cadre of operational, deployable civilian experts
11% Deploy a missile defense shield
23% Increase the depth of capacity in "high demand, low density" specialties (e.g., psychological operations, intelligence, military police, engineers)
2% Bring a new generation of nuclear weapons online
10% Increase strategic airlift


Who can you trust?

Please indicate on a scale from 1 to 10 how much confidence you have in these institutions.

The President of the United States 5.5
United States Congress 2.7
Department of Veterans' Affairs 4.5
Central Intelligence Agency 4.7
Department of Defense 5.6
Department of State 4.1

How well informed do you believe the United States' elected leaders are about the U.S. military today?

5% Very informed
27% Somewhat informed
33% Somewhat uninformed
33% Very uninformed
1% Don't know

Do you believe that, other things being equal, a President of the United States with military experience will be more respected by America's soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines than a President without military experience?

31% Certainly more respected
33% Very likely more respected
22% Somewhat likely more respected
1% Somewhat unlikely more respected
1% Very unlikely more respected
11% No impact


I am somewhat disappointed in the provision of data. It would have been wonderful to cross tabulate years since service with perceptions of the strength of the armed forces today. More than 71% of the respondents retired eleven or more years ago. To ask them whether today's Armed Forces are stronger than it was 15 years ago runs the risk of unconsciously introducing nostalgia into the bias.

But given that these individuals will have maintained links to the wider military community their responses provide useful data on attitudes. Reading through the data one gets the sense the respondents think the country has asked the ground forces to do too much with too little. This is reflected in judgements about the Iraq campaign, where "not having more troops in Iraq at the start of the invasion" ranked as one of the worst perceived mistakes. It's also reflected in the assessment of the Surge, of which 88% have a positive view.

Much of this resentment is focused on the political leadership. Seventy percent think the country's elected leaders are uninformed about the military. Confidence in the Congress is 2.7/10 -- lower than the Department of State's 4.1/10, and far lower than the President's 5.5/10.

But interestingly the biggest identified constraint in prosecuting the War on Terror isn't the size of the Armed Forces, though that is certainly one of the respondent's top priorities. It's getting good intelligence, a desire supported by the sizeable number of respondents who thought it was a good idea to "increase the number of troops with foreign language skills. This from the data:

Below is a list of things that could potentially assist the U.S. military in winning the Global War on Terror. Please choose the TWO most important things you believe the United States government must do to win the war on terror.

31% More robust diplomatic tools
73% Improve intelligence
21% Increase the size of U.S. ground forces
19% Increase the number of troops with foreign language skills
38% Further increase the size of Special Operations Forces
13% Develop a cadre of operational, deployable civilian experts
14% Increase spending on economic development assistance programs

Perhaps the most significant piece of long-term strategic data was where the respondents thought the increase in strength was going to come from. From the response they had all but counted out expecting reinforcements from the national elites. In fact nearly 80% supported expanding "options for legal permanent residents to serve in exchange for citizenship." More twice as many believed it was more feasible to increase numbers by increasing the maximum age restriction than it was to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. I often wondered how Rome could have become dependent on "barbarian auxiliaries" for its defense. Now I'm beginning to understand.

Which of the following steps do you support to increase recruiting numbers in the U.S. military (choose all that apply):

58% Allow a larger percentage of those who have GED but not a high school diploma
38% Reinstate the draft
47% Increase enlistment bonuses
7% Increase use of criminal, health, and other "waivers" for service
22% Allow gays and lesbians to serve openly
47% Increase the maximum age restriction
78% Expand options for legal permanent residents to serve in exchange for citizenship

So how closely does the mainstream media coverage and political debate in Washington track the perceived state of the US military? I suppose the commenters on this site will have much to say in that regard. But in a recent interview, Gloria Steinhem, a long-time supporter of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, had these strategic pearls of wisdom to offer on national defense.

Steinem also told the crowd that one reason to back Clinton was because “she actually enjoys conflict.” ... McCain was, in fact, a prisoner of war for around five and a half years, during which time he was tortured repeatedly. Referring to his time in captivity, Steinem said with bewilderment, “I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so.” ... “I am so grateful that she [Clinton] hasn’t been trained to kill anybody. And she probably didn’t even play war games as a kid. It’s a great relief from Bush in his jump suit and from Kerry saluting.” To The Observer, Steinem insisted that “from George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT-109 we have behaved as if killing people is a qualification for ruling people.”




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8 Comments:

Blogger al fin said...

Quite a diversity of opinions, just like in the general public. Leftists look at the US military as being child-killing hitlers. The truth is substantially different.

3/03/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

Over 70% got out LONG before OIF or OEF.

Yet they can claim to say whether the military is stronger or weaker?

ALL of those repsonding were Officers with no enlisted.

Yet the survey claims to represent the view of the military where 9% of the soldiers are enlisted?

This survey stinks.

3/03/2008 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger gdude said...

uh, Gloria, you forgot about Whitewater . . .

3/03/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

The Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War would have been no match for the Union Army at the end. In spite of losing huge numbers, the accumulated experience was invaluable and the technology gains were substantial. More importantly, the leadership was profoundly upgraded and pragmatically re-focused on the real requirements of fighting a war.

I really despise the meme that says the fighting capacity of the US has been "stretched to the limit and beyond". The only aspect of our capacity that has been stressed is the will of the people and the support for funding. Now that the military leadership knows how to succeed, the American public is feeling a revived strength of purpose. McCain has been right at every step of the way. Petraeus has been a godsend. I only hope that the Democratic candidates are prevaricating on their professed desire to lose. I'm pretty sure Hillary wants to win. I'm not sure about the Big O.

3/03/2008 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

To The Observer, Steinem insisted that “from George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT-109 we have behaved as if killing people is a qualification for ruling people.”

You mean it isn't?

3/03/2008 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Tom the Redhunter said...

I'll take the survey as accurate.

The lesson for me then is to spend the money to build up the military. The president needs to request, and congress needs to approve, the required moneys. Whether we raise (or cut/supply side) taxes, and/or cut other programs does not matter to me.

The anti-war left will take another lesson; that we should pull out of Iraq.

To this I point out that once upon a time we fought two major wars opp opposite sides of the globe at the same time. During most of the Cold War we had a "two and a half" war strategy, which said that we could fight one war in Europe, one in the Pacific, and still have enough left over to protect the Panama Canal or let Fidel have it. This may have been stretching things, but at least we tried.

But today apparently we're such a weak nation that we can't fight two counterinsurgencies relatively close together at the same time.

3/03/2008 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

To The Observer, Steinem insisted that “from George Washington to Jack Kennedy and PT-109 we have behaved as if killing people is a qualification for ruling people.”

Perhaps it is semantics to most, but I've always had a problem casting POTUS as a 'ruler'. I've always viewed elected officials as persons who govern at the will of the of the people, as opposed to 'ruling people.'

Cascajun

3/03/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

I don't see how someone can say that the military is weaker at this point in time than five years ago. There is a VAST amount of practical experience and expertise that has been accumulated.

3/03/2008 08:24:00 PM  

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