Recent events continue to demonstrate that we live in a dangerous world. No matter what we would like to believe, no matter what some would tell you, evil (or psychotics) do exist in this world and too often they attain the reins of power. Prophecies often fall short, such as the War to End all Wars (WWI) and the "Peace Dividend" (Fall of the Wall/Defeat of Communism/Cold War).
We have been at war for more than 9 years now, but it is not like the wars of centuries past. The Korean Peninsula continues to be a powderkeg threatening to explode 60 years after an armitice was signed. Our economy continues to be in shambles, as Europe's declines even faster and China's economy allows them a massive build-up in new military capabilities. Africa's numerous civil wars continue to the point that it's difficult to name 5 countries not at war in Africa.
Other politicians (Rangell, Jesse Jackson) call for a return to the draft, not because they want to bolster Troop strength, but in order to fuel the ranks of anti-war protestors. The goal is to involve the unwilling in the war in order to enlist draft-dodgers and families in the outrage of a war they don't want to fight.
Meanwhile, the Military is raising the standards of recruits, in a Nation where only 25% are qualified to apply and less than 1% do serve. In an environment where polticians (Webb) say the Military shouldn't be paid more, because the economy doesn't make it necessary, qualified GED recipients are being turned away while Troops are spending as many Holidays in combat as they do with their wives. While the same politicians complain about PTSD induced by multiple rotations, Congress refuses to increase the number of authorized strength to decrease that burden.
Instead, the politicians want to lean more on the most deployed Troops, Special Operations, and increase reliance on unmanned drones, while not increasing the pool of Troops from which Special Operations recruit from. Multiple times in the last decade, politicians have called for doubling the size of Special Operations. It should of course be noted, that Special Operations has as a central tenet that their men can not be created with cookie cutters on a whim, i.e. after a crisis has occurred. A Special Forces Soldier can take 1 to 2 years to train, after becoming a qualified Army Soldier. Moreover, most Troops cannot attain the skills to enter Special Operations, even in those two years.
In 2005, the United States was only spending 4.06% of GDP in the DoD budget, compared to 9.4% in 1968 (Viet Nam War), 14.2% in 1953 (Korean War) and 37.8% in 1944 (WWII). This is not significantly higher than the 3% levels which proved an invitation to attack instituted by Clinton that lasted from 1999 to 2001. Never in our history has war been conducted on the cheap side as is current policy.
In terms of 2003 dollars, we spent $445 Billion on defense in 1984, we were spending $430.5 Billion on defense in 1968, and $470.5 Billion in 1951 compared to $427.5 Billion in 2007, but it also matters on what we were spending that money. The 2010 budget increased the "construction" portion (read stateside, unoccupied housing) of the budget by 20% to cover for cuts elsewhere.
In terms of constant dollars, this may seem somewhat equivalent to other wars, but an M4 costs considerably more in constant dollars than did the M14 or M1 Garand, and the accessories on it cost more than does the weapon. The technology inside an F-35 costs more than a fleet of P51 Mustangs, even in constant dollars. In the 80's, the Military issued each Troop a couple hundred dollars of basic equipment. Today, body armor alone costs more and the individual gear runs into thousands of dollars.
We could probably build the old wooden barracks for as little, in constant dollars, as we did in WWII, but we're not. We're building brick structures that last longer and are fire resistent, with HVAC, electricity, phone and LAN lines, not to mention indoor plumbing in semi-private rooms compared to open bays with wood burning stoves. Those old barracks were put up in a day. Today's union labor would take weeks to do the same.
Consider that in 1991, Congress authorized 2,002,000 Active Duty Troops (all services) which had fallen to 1,384,000 by the end of Clinton Administration. By May 2009, that had increased only to 1,445,000. The 2011 budget calls for only 1,406,000, which they somehow market as an increase. 40,000 Troops are non-citizens. 203,375 were female. Of course, Rep Barney Frank is calling for cuts.
One might divide the 1.4 Million active troops by the 150,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan and conclude it would be a rotation every 10 years, but only 548,000 of those are Army and a good percentage of the Army has never deployed to combat. 203,095 are Marines and many of those have never deployed to combat. The Navy's 332,000 are already stretched in protecting the shipping lanes.
There are more Troops stationed in Germany than Iraq. And the 28,500 Troops in South Korea may feel a bit daunted facing down a Million Man NoRK Army, but they still outnumber the Marines in Afghanistan.
It is time to increase Troop Strength considerably, not cut it. A High School diploma may demonstrate a greater commitment to completing goals than does a GED, but it does not inherently mean greater intelligence. In a time of economic uncertainty, turning away unqualified recruits for moral or physical reasons is not the problem, but denying needed qualified recruits is not the answer. Adding government bureacrats while cutting authorized Troop Strength and their needed equipment is the problem.
While some would say we spend more money on the Military than does China, the fact is that they have a conscript Army paid pennies in comparison. They are catching up fast in technology and capability, even while their rifles cost a fraction of the cost of ours.
We may wish that we weren't "the World's Policeman," but the fact is that if we don't maintain a Military capable of protecting our interests, the shipping lanes, Our Citizens, no one will, Europe will not unilaterally look out for our best interests and Asia actively challenges our interests, while there exist few instances of anyone defending ships at sea from pirates.