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Study: Reserves Undercut Army’s Ability to Fight on Multiple Fronts

May 8, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army’s growing reliance on reserve units is undercutting the ability of the U.S. military to fight a multiple-front war, according to a study released today.

″Because so many assets are in the reserve components, it is not in particularly good shape to execute a worldwide ‘strategic concept’ of multiple contingencies,″ said a report written for the Brookings Institution by Martin Binkin and William Kaufmann.

Under current plans, 40 percent of Army forces to be deployed in the first month of a European war would consist of reserve forces, said the 162-page report, ″U.S. Army Guard and Reserve: Rhetoric, Realities and Risks.″

Reserve and National Guard units would make up 50 percent of the service’s force structure under the proposed Bush administration budget for the 1990 fiscal year, Maj. Gen. Merle Freitag, director of the Army budget office, told reporters on April 25.

Binkin and Kaufmann wrote that ″the military operations the Army could conduct without involving its reserve components appear to be extremely limited.″

″The Army reserves of the late 1980s bear unprecedented levels of responsibility for the defense of the United States,″ said the report by Brookings, a liberal Washington think tank.

But the Army maintains that ″the reserve component question is not directly related to our ability to fight on multiple fronts,″ said Army spokesman Lt. Col. John Chapla.

The Army has acknowledged that ″we do not have a force capable of doing everything in the world that we might face, so the ability to fight on multiple fronts is a different issue,″ Chapla said.

In an era of fiscal restraint, the Pentagon budget is expected to shrink rather than expand, and the Army anticipates no reversal of its growing dependence of reserve units.

″Our general position has been that the reserves play a very vital role in any future contingency planning,″ said Chapla. ″Our policy has been to equip units on a first-to-fight basis. In some cases, that means that reserve units get equipment modernization before some active units″ if the reserves are slated to go into battle before the regular units.

″Of those divisions stationed in the United States slated for deployment overseas, all of them have some kind of reserve compoent round-out,″ said Chapla, explaining that one brigade, or about one-third of the maneuver units in those divisions, consists of reserves.

Of the divisions that would be mobilized quickly in the event of war, he said, the following front-line divisions have reserve components: First Cavalry, Fourth Infantry, Fifth Infantry, Ninth Infantry and 10th Mountain.

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