Subject: Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not?

Date: September 26, 2000

During the week of September 5, the readiness of the 10th Mountain (light) Infantry Division was assessed on location at Fort Drum, NY. This division was selected because of the controversy generated by candidate George W. Bush's assertion that the 10th Mountain was one of two divisions that was "not ready for duty" (1) and the counter-assertions from the Army (2), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shelton (3), Secretary of Defense Cohen (4), multiple defense pundits (5), and Vice President Gore (6) that the 10th Mountain was fully ready.

The responses to candidate Bush's statement made a strong impression in the press that candidate Bush had used out of date information (7), was poorly informed about the current situation, and/or was ineffectually attempting to score political points. This impression was subsequently reinforced when Secretary of Defense Cohen (twice) declined opportunities to correct the public reports that followed his and others' retorts. (8) Based on this controversy, the 10th Mountain Division is an excellent candidate for review because it is reasonable to think that senior officials like General Shelton and Secretary Cohen would not enter such a political debate without having a solid factual base.

A hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 27 essentially reinforced the message conveyed above. Although readiness problems were repeatedly mentioned by the Joint Chiefs, the readiness, training, and manning of "first deployers" (specifically, the Army's 10 active divisions - including the 10th Mountain Division) were described as fully funded and not a major problem. These forces were described as "ready to go" by General Shelton. The problem areas were described as confined in non-divisional support units, airlift, and infrastructure.

Scope and Method of Inquiry

The travel to Fort Drum was done with an Army escort officer after transmitting in advance, in writing, questions for which responses were requested. (See attachment A.) This approach permitted 10th Mountain personnel to collect complete data and to fully consider the answers provided. At Fort Drum, these issues were discussed with division, brigade, battalion, company, platoon, and squad level personnel. Facilities, including officer, NCO, and enlisted barracks and family housing; training areas, and logistics facilities were toured. (9)

Transmitting the questions in advance and having an escort at the meetings might be the basis for concern that frank answers might be suppressed and the information collected could be biased toward an excessively favorable picture of 10th Mountain readiness. In retrospect, these concerns were alleviated. (10) Moreover, if the answers received were, indeed, biased in favor of 10th Mountain readiness, then the findings and conclusions stated below would reflect that bias. Thus, it is possible that the condition of the 10th Mountain is less positive than presented below.

Summary Findings and Conclusions

The character, enthusiasm, and professionalism of the officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted men and women in the 10th Mountain Division is impressive. The 10th Mountain Division is officially rated by the Army at a level that lends support to General Shelton and the other respondents to candidate Bush's assertion of non-readiness. (11) Strenuous efforts of the 10th Division's personnel are manifest to make it as effective a combat unit as resources permit. Various unit commanders expressed a willingness and readiness to take on and perform effectively any mission assigned, as has been the case in the past.

However, beneath the favorable overall readiness rating and an understandable - and professional - expression of confidence by various commanders, and despite all the hard efforts of the officers, NCOs, and enlisted personnel, the 10th Mountain is today experiencing multiple, serious shortages of people and material resources, training deficiencies, and other impediments to readiness, a large number of them resulting from policies imposed by Washington.

The issues include the following:

  • Incomplete manning in many combat and support units, sometimes to the extent that important secondary - if not primary - missions cannot be performed and/or primary mission performance is degraded. Moreover, because of Army force structure decisions, what is normally one-third of a US Army division's combat strength (an entire ground maneuver brigade) does not exist in the 10th Mountain Division.

  • Gaps in the leadership of the Division throughout its hierarchy, such that enlisted personnel are frequently doing the work of sergeants, lieutenants are doing the work of captains, captains of majors, and so on. Also, in cases where a position is occupied by an individual of appropriate rank, that individual may be less experienced than in the past or than experienced personnel - in and out of the 10th Division - deemed sufficient.

  • Training deficiencies that include less satisfactorily trained personnel received from Army training or personnel trained on equipment not assigned to the division, and incomplete opportunities to overcome these training inadequacies.

  • Non-availability of various equipment , training ammunition shortages, and funding shortfalls for facilities.

  • Various policy directives and allocation of resources from Washington (i.e.: from the civilian and military leadership of the military services and the Department of Defense and from Congress) that either impede readiness or that are ineffectual at addressing known deficiencies.

  • A lack of inquiry by various entities to collect on-the-ground, empirical information on the condition of the 10th Mountain to establish what basis candidate Bush may have had for his statements and/or to verify the statements of General Shelton, Secretary of Defense Cohen, Vice President Gore, and others.

From these findings and the data presented below, it is concluded that,

As stated by a 10th Mountain soldier at Fort Drum "There are two different armies; the one described in Washington, and the one that exists." And, from another, "There is a mind-boggling difference between the division that Washington DC describes and what exists in 10th Mountain." And from still another, "The [Division] only looks good on paper."

The body of this report follows.

Introduction

The 10th Mountain Division is a "light" infantry unit. It is not equipped with tanks or Bradley fighting vehicles. Its tactical mobility depends on trucks, "Humvees," and soldiers' legs. Some critics argue "light" divisions are little better than "speed bumps" against armored and mechanized forces; others reject this criticism. (12) Because it has lighter and fewer vehicles than a "heavy" division, the 10th Mountain is relatively easy to deploy inside the U.S. and abroad. As a result, the 10th is described as the most deployed division of the U.S. Army since 1992; major units of it have been to Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia and will be going to Kosovo, Bosnia (again), and the Sinai. It was also deployed for hurricane relief in Florida in 1992 and ice storm relief in New York in 1998. (13)

This frequent use means that the 10th Mountain is a prime instrument of the Clinton Administration's deployment policy. Therefore, it can be taken as a showcase for how well current defense policies support the military units that have been used to implement policy decisions time and again.

Fort Drum is near Watertown in northwestern New York State. It is the largest Army training facility in the northeast US, consisting of 103,000 acres. Many of the facilities there are relatively new, having been constructed in the 1980s.

Manning Issues

Beneath the 10th Mountain's generally "ready" overview rating, there are multiple layers of information that comprise grounds for moderate to more serious concern.

10th Mountain Division Is Missing at Least One Major Combat Unit: At the first level of analysis, the 10th Mountain Division is not a typical US Army three maneuver brigade division; the 10th has just two ground combat maneuver brigades. (14) The 10th is not simply a "more compact" division; missing a third brigade has negative consequences. Army operating doctrine is set up for three brigade divisions: not only does a third brigade permit more "combat power," it allows more back up for sustaining division operations. For example, one brigade might be deployed while another was recovering from a deployment, and a third was training to prepare for future deployments. In addition, a third brigade would permit a larger personnel base to support taskings imposed on the division. (This is discussed below under "Missing Personnel.") Headquarters personnel stated that having a third brigade would definitely help the division perform its missions. The absence of a third brigade was a force structure decision imposed by the Pentagon. (15)

Overall & Lower Unit Manning: As of August 2000, the 10th Mountain was "manned" at 96% for the entire two brigade division. (At the normal three brigade level [with roughly 13,300 soldiers] current manning would drop to about 64%.) That is, of the 8,847 officers, NCOs, and enlisted personnel required for the two brigade division, 8,460 were assigned to the division. (See Appendix B.) GAO has found such aggregate, overall manning data to "not fully disclose the impact of personnel shortages on the ability of the divisions' units to accomplish critical wartime tasks." (16) This is definitely the case at the 10th Mountain. (17)

For example, Appendix B shows the manning of the division to include an NCO "percent of fill" of 90%. Still a seemingly high percentage until one begins to look at individual units. As shown on page 2 of Appendix C, the "percent of fill" of senior NCOs for the infantry battalions of the 1st and 2nd Brigades (the heart of the Division's ground combat strength) ranged as low as 65%, and except for the 1st Brigade's headquarters unit, nowhere exceeded 77%. (18) GAO has found such shortages of NCOs to be "the biggest detriment to overall readiness because crews, squads, and sections are led by lower-level personnel rather than by trained and experienced sergeants." (19) 10th Mountain personnel strenuously agreed; officers characterized the division's senior NCO manning as "not where we want it to be," and the data of Appendix C was described as showing "a lot of pain."

Missing Personnel; What Is Required, Authorized, and Assigned Is Often Not on Hand: The number of personnel that will actually be present for duty with a unit on a given day is still a lower number than the "assigned" number on Appendix C. On the first full day of the visit at Fort Drum, 300-400 soldiers throughout the Division were unable to report to the units they were assigned to. (20) One infantry battalion was missing 72 (13%) of the 567 soldiers assigned. A Maintenance unit of 200 was missing 50 (25%). An artillery unit of 417 was missing 39 (9%). These shortages vary over time and the shortages are not uniformly distributed: the aviation unit on the day of the visit was short only 23 (6%) of its assigned 358 personnel, but when the unit returned from its deployment to Bosnia in 1999, it was missing 60% of its Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilots.

In some cases the number and nature missing people can make the unit non-functional; in other cases important, but not essential, functions must be dropped. One artillery commander explained that despite the missing personnel he was able to man all the artillery tubes in his unit, but with only 5 soldiers per cannon tube rather than the normal 7. However, he would be unable to provide perimeter self-protection for his unit in the field. Moreover, even were he to have the entire complement of 67 people he was authorized, it was his view that his unit would be best manned at a level of 85. With just 42 on hand that day, he was commanding a unit with 49% of the number of soldiers he believed his unit needed. Operating in this condition was a normal state of affairs in the multiple units visited.

Should the Division be called on to deploy operationally, some of these people will be reattached to the unit; some may not. In other cases, the empty slot will be filled with a new individual. The reattached person will likely not have been trained to the standard of others in the unit, and/or the soldier may be a new face to the unit, thus requiring integration into the unit. (See discussion on "Turbulence" below.) One unit commander described the manning condition throughout the division as "very bad and not getting better."

The missing people are not AWOL; they are on a plethora of temporary (in some cases semi-permanent) assignments elsewhere. Some were working on base operations: as lifeguards at the post pool; handing out towels at the gym, driving buses to deliver some of the over 800 personnel who live in off-base family housing, or maintaining training ranges. About 92-95 uniformed personnel were reassigned from their units on one day of the visit and performing base operations activities described here, but they were still carried on their units' rosters and missing training.

Many of the tasks these personnel were performing had in the past been done by civilians who the division was required to replace with soldiers because of various policies and resource decisions made in Washington. The Division's dilemma now is that to send these soldiers back to their assigned units means an end to the services they provide. While the borrowed military personnel were performing tasks that contributed to the quality of life for personnel in the Division, they were also not receiving training for their combat missions, and they were not integrating with the units they would face the stress of combat with.

On any given day, on average 100 soldiers are also performing funeral details for veterans who have passed away. (21) Each detail consists of seven to nine men. The division has 21 such teams, each derived from a combat or support unit. The number of teams performing this detail is dependent on the number of veterans' deaths in the northeast/New England area, which is the region served by the 10th Mountain for this service. Because of demographics, these details are likely to increase in the future. 10th Mountain personnel were anxious to point out that they believe this is important duty and that veterans richly deserve the funeral honor guards. However, because of the manner Washington imposed this mission, it has real consequences on the ability of the Division to train its personnel and to be ready for operational deployments. (22)

Still other personnel not with their units were at on-post or off-post schools (including college, specialist Army training, and leader development training that may take weeks or months), were on leave or temporary or special duty with other units on or off post, were in detention, were processing out of the division or the Army, or had family or other emergencies.

In sum, on any given day, the Division is not manned with the number of people required for a division, and the combat and combat support units are not fully manned with the people specifically assigned to the Division. On any given day, combat units are forced to train and operate with a number of soldiers that may be just 75% of the authorized level and may be only about half the optimum number. One group of officers believed that the "unforecasted taskings" were the biggest and most real problems for the Division. It should be noted that these problems are primarily the result of policies decided in Washington and are not the result of initiatives taken by the 10th Division.

On Hand Personnel May Not Be Appropriate: NCO shortages were especially severe in the infantry companies, platoons, and squads where NCOs were missing and/or replaced with junior personnel. For example, in 38 of about 60 platoons (~63%), platoon sergeant positions were filled by a lower grade -- in at least one case, and perhaps only informally -- by a private.

There are also shortages of captains and majors. To fill empty captain slots, the Division has 127% of its lieutenant requirement, but because there is no excess of captains, the problem for filling major slots is quite severe: in one case, the position was filled by a lieutenant; in others, existing majors and captains simply had to work harder and longer - a factor that exacerbates retention. The problem continues on up the command chain to Lieutenant Colonels; the Division is five LTCs (12%) short. The problem stops there; the Division has its full complement of Colonels.

In some cases, unfilled slots must be filled by more senior personnel: in one unit, 61 enlisted personnel were authorized, but only 39 were present on the day of the visit. This situation can require, for example, a sergeant to perform a corporal's or a private's function: an obvious, but unavoidable, misallocation of an already scare resource.

The effect of this problem is to require people to perform above, and below, their personal skill and experience level - a situation that can mean people receive less effective training and that can increase the stress experienced by the temporarily assigned leader. As an Army-wide problem, this can and has impacted retention.

Leaders' Experience Levels Less than Optimum: One of the important issues is experience levels, especially for unit leaders. For example, the optimum time for a lieutenant to lead a platoon was described as two years. However, because the Division is short of captains (above), lieutenants are promoted after - at most - 16 months of platoon command. This creates a captain, but one that is somewhat short on command and operational experience. Thus, where the captain shortage is addressed, it may be done with an officer who lacks complete experience at the previous grade.

At the captain level, the Division is maintaining Army policy of retaining company commanders for 18 months. The Division wants to extend company command tours to 24 months; this has begun in some units but not all. It would seem particularly important to do so because with more junior people promoted into captain more training appears to be needed.

The same issues pertain to majors; the Army is short of them, and captains are sometimes promoted to major with less than optimal experience. The same problem pertains to LTC. The comment was frequently made that the entire system is pushing people up too fast, and an aggregate officer cohort with too little experience is being developed. These issues also apply to the Army in general. (23)

Turbulence: A large body of research holds unit cohesion and esprit to be the key for combat effectiveness. (24) Policies that treat human beings as interchangeable parts and move them frequently in and out of units tend to unravel unit cohesion, or prevent it from emerging. Despite the awareness of the 10th's headquarters that unit cohesion is important, a high level of turbulence occurs because of circumstances imposed on the Division. Examples include soldiers changing stations (PCS), leaving the Army, being promoted to another rank in the unit or outside the unit, or assigned to other specialties or units for other reasons.

Overall, the Division has been experiencing a massive level of turbulence. Appendix D shows the monthly totals of turbulence in the division for the past two years; in the latest year, Division turnover totaled 85.3% for the twelve months listed; in the previous year it was 98.5%. While many positions changed personnel more than once in each period, these data show units constantly being churned, and unit cohesion, to the extent it exists, becoming a result more despite the system than because of it. A negative impact on unit effectiveness is unavoidable.

Retention is an issue that impacts turbulence. Fortunately, retention in the 10th is excellent and was described as the highest in the Army. Factors cited in favor of the Division's high retention rate, compared to the Army overall, were 1) Fort Drum and Watertown, NY are good places to live, 2) good morale and leadership in the 10th, 3) the frequent overseas deployments are attractive to some as a chance "to see the world," and 4) soldiers believing that they had an opportunity to train for and perform the tasks they joined the Army to do.

Consequences of Manning Policies Imposed from Above:

  • Training is not held, missed by individuals, or administered and supervised by less experienced personnel.

  • Units throughout the Division have less experienced and skilled leadership.

  • Unit leaders get less "rest cycle" and more stress; people are working above and below their skill level to fill holes; more people are worn out, potentially resulting in losing the most worn out, experienced people.

  • Less unit cohesion and effectiveness.

  • Manning Conclusions:

  • These consequences are especially negative for a unit that is frequently relied on for operational deployments.

  • These problems are not the result of 10th Division policies but of Army, DoD, and congressional decisions.

  • Many, if not all, of these issues may be Army-wide.

  • In the words of one senior officer, the division's "manning looks good but may not be."

Training, Experience, and Skill Levels

Preparing for JRTC Rotation: In preparing for the 1st Brigade's training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, LA, the Division had addressed some of the problems described in other reports: namely, brigades had been showing up there without previous training exercises at the brigade level. The 10th had performed not just brigade level exercises, it had also exercised at the division level. The 10th had taken strenuous efforts to prepare itself for and take full advantage of the training experience at Fort Polk. In addition, the brigade not going to Fort Polk received the same number of training exercises as the rotating brigade.

Training Ranges: At Fort Drum, ranges are available to enable the Division to engage in live fire training of almost all weapons in the Division's inventory. These include infantry anti-armor, aerial gunnery, and artillery firing ranges. Facilities also include three separate Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facilities to permit training in physical circumstances much like several of the Division's actual operational deployments (e.g.: Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mogadishu). The 10th is also attempting to develop for use on a "by case" basis its own Opposition ("Red") Force, complete with a cohort of "innocent civilians," to use for its own training and for visiting units. The overall impression is that the 10th takes training seriously.

Quality of Army Training Slipping: However, as with manning issues, the good news at the overview level comes with some less-good news at deeper levels of analysis.

Numerous unit commanders at multiple levels below headquarters noted that while the human quality of recruits coming to the Division from basic combat and advanced individual training remains good, the quality of their training has slipped noticeably and a smaller instructor base has meant less training opportunities. (25) Even though the quality of advanced skill training at off-base schools has deteriorated, the training is still needed. However, sometimes the Division was unable to access this training because instructors were not available or classes had already been filled. Also, because of the manning shortages in the 10th Mountain, the Division was sometimes unable to send students for advance skill training because people were assigned to temporary duty elsewhere.

Sometimes the Army training can be on the wrong equipment. Artillery training at Army schools was on a variety of howitzer/cannon types, but it was a matter of happenstance whether an artilleryman sent to the 10th Division was trained on the type of artillery assigned to the 10th. This is a matter of standing Army policy. Generic artillery skills would be transferred, but the graduate from artillery school may have to learn a different system from the one he was trained on. Making up any such gap is imposed on the 10th Division.

Limited Opportunities and Ammunition for Training: Experienced soldiers also believed troops had inadequate opportunity to train basic skills, and in some cases, Army standards were too low. For example, infantrymen were said to have too few opportunities to practice rifle marksmanship; they are required to achieve just 23 hits on 40 targets at ranges varying from just 50 to 300 meters. While a target at 300 meters is clearly a challenge; 50 meters is very much less demanding. In addition, the target displays were described as unrealistic. Such exercises were done only once each year. One officer commented that his unit needed at least three times the normal allotment of small arms ammunition for an adequate level of small arms training. (26)

Currently, the aging Dragon missile system is one of the Division's anti-tank systems. Each company of over 100 soldiers (where Dragon is deployed) gets just one or two missiles for live-fire training each year. Given the operating difficulties Dragon is known to have (large initial blast, demanding and long duration guidance control to target impact), one or two missile firings per year for only one or two soldiers out of over 100 is completely inadequate for training. The Division will convert to the new Javelin anti- tank system, but the number of live training rounds is not scheduled to increase. Because of Javelin's higher cost, training with live missiles may even decrease. In other situations, training was sometimes not held or was limited because of the shortage of NCOs to provide the training. Overall, several felt too little time was devoted to training and too much time was spent on what one NCO called "silly stuff."

These training issues are particularly important. A summary from an earlier Army Field Manual, concludes,"The duty of the men assigned to light infantry squads and platoons is to kill the enemy in battle. To do so requires excellence in training and leadership to develop an all-around professional soldier." (27) Units such as the 10th Mountain must rely on their human resources, more than on just technology, to operate in combat. The quality of training, in addition to the quality and experience of unit leadership (discussed above), can make the difference between mission success and failure, and between no, few, or many casualties in combat.

Expert Infantry Badge Training: Ongoing Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) training was demonstrated. This course was described as a rigorous, volunteer course to advance enlisted, NCO, and officer infantry skills to the "expert" level; only about half of those taking the course at a given time might pass. The course included a 2 mile run and a 12 mile road march and several training/testing stations for infantry skills.

There were grounds for some concern: First, the stations in the course were set and scripted; there were clearly going to be no surprise or unpredictable elements to the testing administered to pass the course. Second, several of the stations seemed to be teaching not expert skills but basic ones. For example, at the station for testing on the Division's standard infantryman weapon, the M-4 carbine, loading, unloading, clearing a jam in the gun and other basic operations were being tested. In another, the test was to hurl (from a lying down position) a training grenade into a large circle fairly close to the thrower, and two other seemingly undemanding grenade-employment scenarios. Another station was map reading where basic ground contour symbols on a map were to be identified. Other stations seemed to have more demanding skills; the procedures necessary for radio communications appeared to be extremely complex.

To make the tests more demanding, performing the skills was timed, and passing the course meant passing all tests. Moreover, as veterans point out, in combat even doing simple, basic things is difficult. However, this demonstration made meaningful the earlier comments that the quality of Army training had been wanting. It very much appeared that the 10th Division was frequently finding it necessary to focus on quite basic skills.

Training conclusions:

Training deficiencies impose a large burden on the 10th Mountain. On its own time and expense the Division is forced to bridge training gaps and, hopefully, to exceed Army training standards that numerous unit leaders, but not all, described as low.

Although some individuals have termed our Army the "best trained in the world," this assessment would seem worth serious, independent research.

As one soldier stated, there are "Too many people not training" or training to standards that should be higher.

Equipment and Facilities

Army Warfighting Equipment (AWE): During the visit, the Division's 1st Brigade was at the JRTC for training exercises with other light infantry units. In preparation for this, the 10th was provided with a family of new generation developmental command and control equipment, termed the "Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE). AWE is a broad range of equipment; the specific equipment provided to the 10th was new generation digital electronics to assist in mission planning, situation awareness, and overall communications. (See Appendix E.) AWE equipment was employed in Division level exercises before the JRTC rotation, and reports came from Fort Polk on how the AWE equipment was performing.

According to some, major problems were encountered. Some of the AWE equipment "fried" in heat; some could not withstand rain. Portions were "not able to operate," and when they did, personnel were not sure how to use them. Even "swarms" of civilian contractor support personnel in the Division's exercise could not make some equipment work properly, and regular "thinkpads" proved more useful for some functions. One officer commented, "even when the computer screens were working, people were playing the computer screens without really communicating." The AWE equipment was also manpower intensive; "every 'commo guy'" (communications operator) coming into the division in the last six months went to Fort Polk to support AWE for the one brigade training there. While some believed the equipment would ultimately help, others thought it was hard to tell how much, even whether, it would have helped if it did work.

On the other hand, more senior personnel were much more positive about AWE: "The [experiment] was in fact very successful and validated concepts and equipment for immediate procurement, further modification and testing, or for rejection." It was also - properly - pointed out, "the only failure would have been to not experiment, not to test new ideas and equipment, not to posture the Army for future possibilities." This would appear to be another area of different views among senior and - at least some - junior personnel. (28) Clearly, it is an area for ongoing close attention.

Facilities: There was a major expansion of facilities at Fort Drum in the 1980s to accommodate the newly assigned 10th; thus, many of the facilities are relatively new. Notable elements of the facilities include a large air deployment facility that can accommodate multiple large transport aircraft and thousands of troops for an air movement of the Division's personnel and some equipment to an overseas mission. There are also expansive and multiple training ranges.

Even though many facilities are relatively new, the harsh weather in upper New York State and a high use rate mean a lot of wear and tear. As a result, the budget for base repairs is seriously backed up. Not even a whole year's budget would fix all the problems; the current repair backlog is about $39 million, and it is growing at a rate of $1-2 million per year; the annual Real Property Maintenance budget is about $19 million per year.

Also, because much of the base was upgraded in the mid 1980s, there will be a need for block replacement of facilities in about five years. In sum, without a major increase in maintenance and construction funding, the future is bleak for the material condition of much of Fort Drum.

Equipment Issues: The Division presented readiness data on 56 hardware systems (e.g. truck types, aviation assets, electronic systems) in the Division. Of these, nineteen "fleets" of equipment were described as having more items operationally ready compared to the previous month; twenty-one were described as "no change;" seven had "dropped," and nine (16%) were "broken." The significance of these nine systems varied; one was the Division's fleet of OH-58 helicopters (because of fleet-wide engine problems), which could be a serious deficiency until effectively addressed.

As has been reported in the press, soldiers stated that some have been buying personal equipment from the private sector because better quality equipment is not available from the Army. (29) Items some soldiers are buying for themselves are "camelbacks" (a back-carried water bladder) and other gear to assist infantrymen on road marches.

In other cases, desired equipment is simply not available. For example, the standard tripod for a M-240 machine gun is quite heavy; on an exercise a machine gunner had seen a lightweight, titanium tripod that was much lighter and easier to carry. Even though such lighter equipment is very desirable for light infantry that relies heavily on human transport, these lightweight tripods remain in testing, and it is not known if a lighter tripod will be made available.

It is ironic that while the Army is spending large amounts of funds to acquire sophisticated, next generation communications gear which was described at the operator level as "fries in the weather" and "no one knows how to use" (see AWE discussion above), the Division is short of critical basics, such as road marching gear and light-weight machine gun tripods. Shortages of trucks and night vision goggles were also mentioned but not discussed at length.

Comment on Readiness Rating System

As noted above, overview readiness ratings for major units under the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS) may reflect an acceptable readiness rating that, according to GAO, "masks underlying personnel [and other] problems." (30) These data, known as Unit Status Reports (USRs) at Fort Drum, are understood there to "not tell everything" at the aggregate level. While it was described as a "useful tool" to collect monthly data routinely, it also misses qualitative assessments ("the art") of evaluating a military unit, and it misses measuring intangibles, such as unit cohesion. A commander can include such "art" in his comments accompanying a rating, but the overall system is described by some who are familiar with it as "a management science tool that relies on tangibles and has difficulty with intangibles."

Also, depending on the "command climate" at a unit, there may or may not be pressure to paint a more rosy picture than the facts merit. A unit commander is permitted to upgrade, or downgrade, a unit's rating using his own judgment. In the 10th Mountain, commanders have both downgraded and upgraded their unit's numerical "C" rating: in the past month, three unit commanders of about 17 upgraded their own unit's rating; on the other hand, during and after the Division's return from Bosnia in the fall of 1999, the commander gave the Division a publicly divulged C-4 (unready) rating because of what he regarded as serious problems. The 10th's current "C" rating and the commander's comments are classified. However, based on the information discussed in this report, whatever the 10th's rating as "ready" may be, there are beneath that rating a range of serious problems that are not revealed by the overview rating.

The 1999 C-4 rating of the 10th accompanied a similar one for the 1st Infantry Division also returning from Bosnia; it caused a significant controversy when it became publically known. Subsequently, the Army altered its rating standards to permit a commander to give his own unit a "ready" rating if the unit were able to effectively deploy in 120 days, rather than immediately. This can be regarded as a significant downgrading of the standards of the rating system, already widely known to not effectively address multiple important issues.

Comment: Washington's Lack of Perspective

Much of the discussion above demonstrates a Washington D.C. that is perceived in the field as out of touch:

  • While expensive advanced communications technology that some regard as unprepared for field conditions is provided at considerable cost, basics such as training ammunition, lighter machine tripods, and road marching gear are not provided. Also, a large facility still in good condition is allowed to fall far behind on upkeep.

  • Personnel policies are imposed that seriously degrade unit manning and readiness, and yet the unit is deemed "ready" without meaningful public caveat by senior civilian and military officials.

  • Training is allowed to deteriorate, but an intense deployment schedule is maintained.

During and after the controversy over candidate Bush's remarks and the subsequent rebuttals, no one is known to have contacted the 10th Mountain Division and traveled to Fort Drum to collect the data described here . Instead, statements from authoritative individuals were widely accepted; they were not apparently researched further and were widely distributed by multiple media as if there were no significant caveats. This was cited as an example for some at Fort Drum for the skepticism about whether decision makers in the Pentagon, the top of the executive branch, and the rest of government and the media know or care what is happening in the field.

Findings and conclusions are stated under the heading "Summary Findings and Conclusions" earlier in this report.

Endnotes:

1. "If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report - 'Not ready for duty, Sir." "Pentagon, Bush Differ on Readiness of Military," Philip Dine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 2000.

2. "The Army affirmed today that all 10 of its divisions are combat ready and able to answer the nation's call." "The 2000 Campaign: The Readiness Issue," The New York Times, August 4, 2000.

3. "As of today our Army divisions are ready and ready to carry out the missions that are demanded by our war plans." And, "But, the Army jumped right on top of that....That took about 60 days and was fixed fairly quickly-to be frank." Question and Answer Session, General Henry H. Shelton, U.S. Army, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Remarks to Town Hall Los Angeles at Beverly Hills Hotel, CA, August 4, 2000.

4. "We have the best trained, best led force in the world. There is no superior force to the United States military." and "But it is important to send a signal to all concerned that our military is ready to carry out their responsibilities. They will do so with great patriotism, professionalism and expertise." "Cohen Defends Military's Supremacy," The Virginian-Pilot, Jack Dorsey, and "Our forces are ready to fight. Anyone who suggests that they are incapable of carrying out their responsibilities is seriously miscalculating." And, "All I can say is we have the most capable force in the world. It's trained' it's ready and fully capable of carrying out its missions." News Briefing, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Friday August 18, 2000.

5. "In broad terms, Bush's effort to portray the military as hollow is basically wrong." by Michael O'Hanlon of The Brookings Institute as quoted in "U.S. Military Still Dominant, Effective Force," USA Today, Dave Moniz, August 23, 2000, and "Who is out there that is more ready than we are?" by Lawrence Korb as quoted in same article.

6. "That's not only wrong in fact, it's the wrong message to send to our allies and adversaries across the world." "Reluctantly, Cohen Joins Spending Dispute," Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times, August 23, 2000. And, "Our military is the strongest and the best in the entire world....As the United States Army reported just this month, all 10 of its divisions are combat-ready and able to answer the nation's call." "Pentagon Flags Concern on Personnel, Training, Equipment Readiness," Elaine Grossman, Inside the Pentagon, August 31, 2000.

7. In November, 1999, the 10th Mountain had been reported to be in a low ("C-4") readiness condition. For example, see "Up in Arms: Department of Defense," Bradley Graham, Washington Post, November 15, 1999.

8. On August 18, Secretary Cohen stated, "I think the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton, responded to that with great precision and professionalism." News Briefing, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), August 18, 2000. And, "We will keep it strictly on the merits. If there are statements made in error, certainly they will be corrected." "Cohen Defends Military's Supremacy," Jack Dorsey, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, September 6, 2000.

9. The names, specific unit, and other identifiers of the people spoken with have been deleted to protect them from any consequences for the responses to questions.

10. Samples of the data received have been confirmed with GAO, Army personnel familiar with the 10th Mountain Division and related issues, and official and unofficial reports available in Washington.

11.The readiness rating of the 10th Division is classified.; it is, however, among those that are deemed favorable.

12. Such light units are designed to fight heavier units in restricted terrain, such as mountains, jungles, cities, and forests. The history of combat shows that "light" infantry can defeat armored or other "heavy" units in such terrain depending on their training, equipment, leadership, and morale.

13. There has been a corollary to the readiness debate; analysts ask, "Ready for what?" meaning that the object of readiness is not likely to be a replay of Operation Desert Storm (i.e., "major theater warfare") but instead the indistinct and less predictable threats of terrorism, ethnic strife, civil war and other "operations other than war." Because of its frequent use for such contingencies, the missions of the 10th Mountain Division are real world examples of the "what" that analysts ponder.

14. Strictly speaking, this is not a "manning" issue; however, because it impacts the number of personnel available to perform missions assigned to the Division, it is included here.

15. Fort Drum was described as "stubbed" for a third brigade with many of the necessary facilities, water, sewage, power etc..

16. "Military Readiness: Observations on Personnel Readiness in Later Deploying Army Divisions," Statement of Mark E. Gebicke, Director, Military Operations and Capabilities Issues, National Security and International Affairs Division, General Accounting Office, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-126, p. 1.

17. It is also notable that, while an overall "fill" of 96% may or may not be a revealing number, it is also about the same percent of fill for the Division as in November, 1999 when it was reported to be in a "C-4" readiness condition. In the 1999 circumstances, the issue was the availability of units to recover from the Bosnia mission and re-deploy to another theater. In 2000, there remain availability issues as discussed in this report, but the Division is deemed "ready" to deploy for some operational missions.

18. Appendix C shows the number of personnel required for the two brigade division, the number the division's units are authorized to have, and the number actually assigned to each unit. 

19. GAO/T-NSIAD-98-126, op. cit., p. 8.

20. On that day, the 1st Brigade was at a training rotation at Fort Polk, LA. Thus, these manning shortages below unit authorizations were distributed through just the 2nd Brigade and the other Division units not deployed to Fort Polk.

21. Typically, this number would vary from 70 to 140.

22. Various methods have been suggested to provide veterans' funerals with honor guards. These include using active duty personnel not assigned to combat or combat support units, reserve or National Guard personnel, and contracting with veterans organizations. Funeral details were also pointed out as an example of how the division is hurt by not having a third brigade: the lower number of personnel in the 10th did not alter the number of funeral details assigned to it in the Northeast/New England region.

23. These issues were also described as more or less serious in different kinds of units. They were described as especially serious in highly technical units, such as signals (communications) units, where proficiency was developed only after long training and experience.

24. While there are many books on this, one old and one new classic are Men Under Fire, by S.L.A. Marshall and Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose.

25. This problem has also been reported in the press; see "Army Training Centers Get Failing Grades," Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, August 29, 2000.

26. In commenting on a draft of this report, Army personnel commented that "qualifying standards and frequencies are based on many years of experience. We are not surprised that some sergeants feel they want to 'fire more often' - we'd be surprised if they did not say this." Such comments seem to demonstrate a gap between the amount of training deemed adequate for units by Army policy and the amount desired by individual leaders in the units themselves.

27. Army Field Manual 7-70, Light Infantry Platoon/Squad, 10 September 1986. p. vii.

28. Both points of view were cited in "Bullets 1, Bandwidth 0, Old-Fashioned War Fighting Tops Army's Digital Battlefield Technology In Recent Test," By Stephen Trimble, Military.com, September 25, 2000.

29. See "Despite Billions for Defense, Lowly GIs Get Obsolete Gear," David Wood, San Diego Union-Tribune, August 30, 2000.

30. "Military Readiness: Observations on Personnel Readiness in Later Deploying Army Divisions," GAO/T-NSIAD-98-126, p. 5.

Appendices

Questionnaire (provided in advance of travel)............................................................A

10th Mountain Total Manning Percentage...................................................................B

10th Mountain Unit & Rank Manning Data...................................................................C

Data on 10th Mountain Turbulence.............................................................................D

Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) Materials ...........................................................E