Friday, January 12, 2007


MORE SOLDIERS, MORE MARINES January 12, 2007 -- Ralph Peters New York Post YESTERDAY, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made it clear that we've finally got a Pentagon chief who understands the global threats we face and the enduring need for more grunts. In a press conference with the secretary of State and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gates announced that the administration will seek a permanent increase of 92,000 soldiers and Marines. At last. Upping Army numbers by 65,000 troops and the Marine Corps by 27,000 is the best news for our national defense in 20 years. Vitally, the increases will concentrate on providing more combat forces - those who serve at the forward edge of the fight. To his further credit, Gates listened to the military about the smart way to grow the force: First, the temporary increases now in effect would become permanent; thereafter, the Army and Marines would increase by 7,000 personnel per year. This measured pace allows the services to methodically train, equip and integrate new recruits while standing up additional combat battalions and brigades. Given the current pressures on our under-strength ground forces, it's tempting to beef up the numbers more rapidly - but "you want it bad, you'll get it bad." It's essential that we don't compromise our unmatched standards of professionalism and that units don't have to scrounge for equipment as they head off for war. The proposed end-strength increase is a big victory for the common soldier or Marine - quietly disdained by Washington bigwigs - over the defense-industry aristocrats who push platinum-plated junk on the Pentagon to subsidize their fifth or sixth retirement homes. To someone who's watched the corruption, Capitol Hill shenanigans and culture of lies in defense procurement for decades, it's a great feeling to see real support for G.I. Joe (that guy John Kerry dismissed as so stupid he ended up in Iraq). And Secretary Gates went even further. Tearing up the destructive Rumsfeld-era rule book, he announced a common-sense policy for mobilizing reserve-component units. The bonds between soldiers and Marines at the small-unit level are critical to morale and combat effectiveness. Yet, in recent years, units around the country were pulled apart in ad hoc attempts to flesh out ill-planned deployments. Men and women who'd trained together were thrust into war beside relative strangers. Now units will maintain their home-station integrity and go to war together. Initially, this will mean the early remobilization of some individuals as their units are called up, but it will be far more humane in the long run - making life more predictable for our citizen-soldiers and assuring them that, following one-year mobilizations, they really will be guaranteed at least five full years back in their communities. Congress also should fully fund re-equipping those Reserve and National Guard units, whose inventories - never full - have been picked to pieces during our current conflicts. It's up to Congress to stop the phony gushing about how its members all "support our troops." Put some cash on the barrelhead, Madame Speaker: Fund this vital increase in troop strength promptly. But wait: According to Leftie, those cradle-robbing recruiters won't be able to find enough young patriots to expand the force without a draft. And who wants to serve in uniform, dude? Gates addressed that, too. It was a fine thing to watch our defense secretary announce with visible pride that all of our armed services exceeded their recruiting goals for December - with especially strong enlistment numbers for the Army and Marines. In 2003, we went to war in Iraq with a flawed plan rigged to show that technology alone could win future wars and that "wasteful" soldiers and Marines could be given the boot. Didn't turn out that way, did it? Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."

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