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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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264,000 Trucks

Bet you didn’t know that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is an English major.  Well, he is – and he’s prepared to talk semantics just as easily as the strength of our armor.

Speaking earlier this month at Duke, where he earned an MA in English, Dempsey confirmed that “we’ve taken that [two-war construct] language” out of the strategy but maintained that “the nation needs a military that can do multiple things at the same time.”  Then, with the linguistic finesse only an English student can have, Dempsey explained that dropping the two-war construct without foregoing our ability to multitask frees the Department from the “tyranny of language.” 

So we had this two-war construct that said: Thou must fight two wars simultaneously… Remember now, tyranny of language, so not much wiggle room.. By the time you were done with the accounting rules, the Army ended up with – and I’m not making this number up – 264,000 trucks. And you might say, that’s absurd; how did you end up with 264,000 trucks? …It was a mathematical drill.

Dempsey seems to be talking about saving money – a leading motive behind this strategy – by changing how the military builds its force around planning scenarios, not by limiting the scenarios themselves.  Formulas would interfere less with our military’s dynamism as a result – a tremendous benefit if it worked.  We may need an enormous fleet of trucks in Afghanistan, for instance, but wouldn’t need them in North Korea even if conflict broke out right now since we would fight predominantly with air and naval forces there.  No need to double-order trucks.

But will the distinction that Dempsey’s found make a difference in the real world?  The military services build our defense budget – are they going to have the breadth of perspective to scale back their role in particular scenarios so that we can generate a joint economy of force?  Remember, the truck count ended up at 264,000 not just because of the math but because the Army liked the idea of having 264,000 trucks.  If the Army still wants 264,000 trucks, what keeps it from getting them?