All the Rhetoric About Military Families …

Tonight, on the first night of the Democratic party’s national convention, Michelle Obama has continued her appeal to the families of people in the military service as well as those service members themselves for votes.

There is no doubt that military families are now under a lot of stress. Since Congress began reaping it’s “peace dividend” in the early 1990’s, the military, as far as it’s human component is concerned, has been downsized and, to a large degree, neglected.

Michelle Obama has made a lot to do over the plight of military dependents, expressing concerns for their situation and pledging that she and her husband will do everything they can to improve their conditions.

One thing that will do more to relieve the current and recent past conditions of military families hasn’t been mentioned by the Obamas or John McCain that I know of. It is also one of the major blunders of the current Bush administration.

During World War II, the combined manpower of the military services was about 11 million active duty personnel. During the Korean Conflict it was about 3.5 million servicemen and women. During the Vietnam era, military manpower peaked at about 3.2 million members. After the official end of the Vietnam war, the military was downsized to about 2 million members and stayed at this size until the end of the first Iraq War. After the first Iraq War, military manpower was downsized to about 1.5 to 1.6 million members. Currently, and during the extent of the current Iraq War, military manpower has stayed in the range of 1.375 to 1.4 million members.

Insufficient manpower is the major cause of the stresses being placed on military families. Active duty members have had to serve as much as 15 months in the war zone with very short reassignments outside of that area. The United States is unable to adequately man two war zones in Iraq and Afganistan, adequately fulfill its other world wide obligations and has been unable to give an adequate or appropriate response to the recent Russian invasion of the country of Georgia.

Although President Bush called for a significant increase in the number of combat brigades in his last State of the Union speech, review of current manpower statistics show no response to that call for increasing military manpower with an actual decline for several months in the number of active duty personnel after the speech.

I have a daughter whose spouse is currently serving on active duty. One of his major complaints is the lack of adequate personnel to get jobs done, feeling like he is having to do the work of three people.

One of the things that I have noticed living in a community that has had a large military presence over the years, is the fact that, upon talking to various people, many jobs that were once filled by active duty personnel, during my time of military service, are now filled by civilian employees or civilian contractors. My daughter and her husband have noted that these people are frequently uncaring and unresponsive to the needs of the active duty personnel. There is no substitute for having an onbase position filled by a person who can understand and sympathize with the needs of the active duty member and his family and no one can appreciate those needs better than another active duty person or a member of a dependent family.

All of the sophisticated weaponry is no better than the individuals who man and maintain them and the wellbeing of these people should be the number one priority of the government. Adequate manpower can improve the perception of wellbeing among active duty personnel and their families and no amount of improved benefits or improved living conditions will be adequate if the active duty personnel are understaffed. All of the rhetoric and even some fulfilled promises will be to no avail if the working conditions of the military personnel are compromised and made difficult or impossible by a manpower shortage.

The first thing that any administration has to do to improve the conditions of military personnel and their families is to re-establish a reasonable size in manpower to the military, one that will address all of the current needs as well as an adequate number to provide an adequate buffer for unanticipated emergencies.

After all, this is the purpose of having a military force. Having a military which is understaffed and undermanned defies the logic of having a standing military force in the first place.

The United States should, at least return to its manpower of the 1980’s of about 2 million active duty personnel, and, with the current world threats as well as trying to conduct two wars, Congress and the executive branch should strongly consider enlarging the military to even greater numbers.

The lack of NATO support both in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the current reluctance of its members to stand up to Russia should show that it is only wishful thinking if not a grave and serious blunder to count on others to fulfill our shortfalls in manpower. This only emboldens and encourages adversaries of the United States like Russia is currently showing herself to be.

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