Archive for the ‘overstretched’ Category

Defense Trade Currents

March 16, 2008

By William Hawkins
The Washington Times
March 16, 2008

The legacy of the draconian cuts in military force levels and procurement during the 1990s continues to cast a pall over U.S. national security planning. That American soldiers and Marines have been overstretched by repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan is well-known, and steps are being taken to expand their strength.
It is not just the combat forces, however, but the defense industry upon which they depend for arms and equipment, that also needs to be reconstituted.
The “procurement holiday” of the Clinton administration cost the defense industrial base a million jobs. The Pentagon promoted a consolidation of firms and elimination of “excess” capacity. This reform was supposed to improve efficiency but it also reduced domestic competition. Now, to stimulate competition, or even just access sufficient capacity, foreign firms are invited to supply U.S. forces with hardware.
The most recent example is the awarding of a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract for 179 new KC-45A aerial refueling tankers based on the Airbus A330 airliner built by European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS). Boeing has built every previous USAF tanker and has won contracts for its KC-767 tankers from Japan and Italy. But it lost the military competition at home to the foreign firm that is also its main global rival in the commercial airliner sector.
The USAF contract comes at a critical time for EADS. Its A380 “superjumbo” airline project is well behind schedule, and there have been problems in the Airbus A350 midsized airliner project (crucial to its future battles with Boeing), and in its A400M military airlifter.
EADS is Europe’s largest defense contractor yet is much smaller than Boeing because Europe went on an even deeper disarmament slide after the Cold War and has done little to reverse course.
The once-mighty NATO armies deployed to stop a Soviet blitzkrieg across Germany have melted away to where they can hardly maintain a few brigades in Afghanistan to fight lightly armed insurgents. European firms are desperate for American taxpayers to bail them out with military contracts. .
The question is: Can the United States depend on a steady supply of production, including decades of space parts and upgrades, from foreign industries in decline — and where military investment and research are funded at only a fraction of what America devotes to defense?

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UK: Military “Cannot Go On Like This”

November 19, 2007

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
The Telegraph (UK)
November 18, 2007

The head of the [UK] Army has warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling “devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue”, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, reveals in a top-level report that the present level of operations is “unsustainable”, the Army is “under-manned” and increasing numbers of troops are “disillusioned” with service life.

Gen Dannatt states that the “military covenant is clearly out of kilter”, and the chain of command needs to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.

“We must strive to give individuals and units ample recuperation time between operations, but I do not underestimate how difficult this will be to achieve whilst under-manned and with less robust establishments than I would like.”

The report, a copy of which has been seen by this newspaper, reveals for the first time the general’s concerns on virtually every aspect of the Army, from levels of pay to the quality of food in canteens.

Gen Dannatt came to public prominence last year when, within weeks of taking over as head of the Army, he said the Iraq war was causing security problems in Britain.

In the new report, he says that operations on the two fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan are putting soldiers and their families under “great pressure”, and that the long-term impact of operations is “damaging” and is “mortgaging the goodwill of our people”.

In terms of “overstretch”, the report says, “the tank of goodwill now runs on vapour; many experienced staff are talking of leaving”.

Last week, Lt Col Stuart Tootal, 42, who commanded the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, resigned from the Army over the “shoddy” treatment of injured troops. In a letter to defence chiefs, he was reported to have criticised levels of pay, a lack of training equipment and the appalling housing – all issues raised in Gen Dannatt’s report.

The report lays bare how a lack of funding, resources and manpower are forcing defence chiefs into making decisions once considered unthinkable.

One such move includes sending “medically downgraded” or injured troops and soldiers as young as 17 to guard the Falkland Islands to release fit troops for operations – a move Gen
Dannatt says he wholly supports.

The report adds:

• Delays to military inquests are a disgrace

• Military housing estates are unsafe and being overrun by immigrant families

• Poor food quality is creating a “pot-noodle and sandwich” culture among junior soldiers

• Work-life balance is an increasing concern

• Soldiers are “going sick” to get out of the Army

• Leave is often cancelled or constrained because of operational overstretch

• Harmony guidelines – the time between operational tours – are becoming meaningless

• The Army is no longer fun

• Fitness in the Army is tailing off and more soldiers are medically downgraded

The report’s findings follow months of interviews with thousands of soldiers and their families from 47 units.

Entitled Chief of the General Staff’s Briefing Team Report (2007), the findings are described by Gen Dannatt as a “comprehensive, vivid and accurate” picture of Army life.

He writes that “improvements need to be made in accommodation, pay and medical services” and that the “chain of command must still improve things” if more soldiers are to be recruited.

The general accepts the view that delays in holding military inquests are a “disgrace” and writes: “I share the frustration and know that many families feel let down by the process. The delays are unacceptable and I will continue to press for improvements.”

Military housing is an area singled out for criticism. “Estates are becoming less safe and more run down. Some are degenerating – in Germany it is reported that many of the neighbouring areas are occupied by immigrant families with hordes of children.

This is of particular concern for wives when their husband is deployed [on operations].” In Britain, some service families’ accommodation areas have “ex-married quarters owned by housing associations, and disruptive civilian families have moved in, causing concerns over vandalism and theft”.

The report strongly criticises the “Pay As You Dine” policy of making soldiers pay for what they eat, which many in the Army call a “disaster”.

It says: “There are real concerns about the new eating habits of some soldiers due to Pay As You Dine. A “pot noodle and sandwich” culture is being created and soldiers are cooking rations over gas burners in their rooms. There are apocryphal stories of soldiers flaking during PT sessions from a lack of nutrients”.

The report adds: “Pay As You Dine was sold as a strap line of new restaurants, better choice and good quality. The reality is very different – for most, the only investment has been a till.”

There is a growing problem of troops “going sick” to get out of the Army.

There is a lack of “training areas, range availability, shortages of ammunition, spares and manpower – which is limiting the amount of meaningful training that can be undertaken. There are insufficient serviceable aircraft for parachute training. Apache flying hours are limited by lack of serviceable aircraft”.

Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former infantry commander, said: “These problem areas existed 10 years ago. Now we have a crisis and it is a disgrace that senior officers and ministers have allowed this to happen. I am staggered that the head of the Army thinks it acceptable to send kids and those medically unfit for war to guard the Falklands.”