Thursday, September 16, 2004

Why Bush wouldn't have joined the National Guard today

Phil Carter has an excellent post on the radical changes to the US National Guard that have seen it go from an organisation you might join to avoid going to war - to one that certainly will send you to war. The US now has 168,915 reservists on operations overseas, largely due to reforms that transferred a large section of the army's rearward organisation into reserve units. This is similar to the British Army's hugely increased use of Territorials since the two Conservative defence reviews of the 1990s radically cut the support services, but there is an important difference. In the UK, reserve-isation went further while at the same time the Territorial Army was drastically altered - losing its larger formations and HQs, cutting down its combat arms, and reducing in size.

One of the ideas behind this has been that the TA's infantry units are less likely to be needed as whole battalions, and more likely to be used either as replacements or to backfill Regular units up to their war establishment strength. This has brought predictable problems - breaking up units (especially ones with traditional identity) has been bad for morale and recruitment. The USNG, for its part, has much more material (Harriers!) and even forms full divisions. Most TA members now deploy only in companies if they are lucky. But, at the same time, the Army has been depending on TA manpower more. Each relief of the British force in Basra requires a callout of around 1,100 [Edit: an error of fact crept in here. Sorry.] reservists, and the legal requirement that they cannot be mobilised again for a set period after completing a tour means that this source of soldiers is being used up. Just another great idea, especially as the prospect of even more frequent callouts is reportedly causing friction with employers...

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