A "broken" force

By Geraldine Sealey
January 5, 2005 7:07PM (UTC)
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At a time when too few are willing or able to speak openly and with candor about the harmful impact of this administration's policies, it is refreshing -- if disturbing -- to hear what Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, has to say. The Baltimore Sun reports today on a memo Helmly wrote to senior Army leaders about the health of his command, which "is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," in his view. The draining demands of overseas commitments, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the unwillingness of Army and Pentagon officials to change "dysfunctional" policies are exacerbating the problem, he wrote, and the Reserve is in "grave danger" of being unable to undertake any other missions.

Three weeks ago, Helmly told the Dallas newspaper that Reserve recruiting was in "precipitous decline" and if it didn't pick up, a national debate about the reinstitution of the draft could result. Part of the problem, Helmly said: The Pentagon is "much too sluggish" in implementing new signing bonuses for recruits. Surely, the Pentagon already knows how strapped the Reserves are, but perhaps Helmly's frank public comments and the news of his stern memo will make a difference in embarrassing senior leaders into action.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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