The "non-partisan" Congressional Budget Office claims that the actual size of the troop surge in Iraq may be much higher than estimates provided by the White House. According to the CBO, the number of additional soldiers and Marines going to Iraq may be as high as 48,000, when support units and their personnel are factored into the equation.
Our response can be summed up in one word: Duh.
Even the folks at the CBO should understand that any "trigger-puller" formation requires extensive support from medical personnel, finance types, maintenance specialists, cooks, transporters, intelligence analysts, communications technicians and a host of other support branches. A combat brigade may have limited capabilities in some of these areas (such as intel and maintenance), but providing the full range of support services requires the deployment of support units.
During World War II, there were 6-7 support troops for every soldier at the front; if the Pentagon can pull off the surge with only 48,000 soldiers and Marines (a 1.-1.3 shooter-to-support ratio), that's a fairly lean operation. Of course, there are large numbers of support troops already in Iraq, meaning the 28,000 non-combat personnel will largely augment--and expand--the extensive support structure already in place.
Critics will claim that the Bush Administration deliberately excluded the support troops from its surge total, hoping to make the deployment look "smaller," and gain support for the plan. On the other hand, you could also say that this "revelation" is another example of a MSM that knows virtually nothing about the military. Here's a transcript of the 11 January Pentagon press conference that covered the troop surge. You'll note that only one question covered the size of the deployment, and there were no queries about the number of additional support personnel required to support those combat brigades. Such is the state of military reporting in the MSM. Thank God for the blogosphere.
On a related note, the departing U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, told the Senate Armed Service Committee that securing Baghdad could be accomplished with "fewer than half" the troops that will be added in the surge. General Casey made the comments before the Senate panel this morning, during hearings on his nomiation to be the next Army Chief of Staff.
Asked by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., why he had not requested the full five extra brigades that Bush is sending, Casey said, "I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission."
With many in Congress opposing or skeptical of Bush's troop buildup, Casey did not say he opposed the president's decision. He said the full complement of five brigades would give U.S. commanders in Iraq additional, useful flexibility.
"In my mind, the other three brigades should be called forward after an assessment has been made on the ground" about whether they are needed to ensure success in Baghdad, Casey said later.
Casey and the outgoing CENTCOM commander, General John Abizaid, have long insisted that Baghdad could be secured without a larger troop build-up. General Casey's replacement in Iraq, Lt Gen David Petraeus, has voiced strong support for the planned surge, and a more aggressive approach in securing Iraq's most violent districts.
Some members of the Senate have openly questioned whether Casey should be the next Army Chief of Staff, given the escalation in violence during his tenure in Iraq, and his apparent disagreement with the troop surge. But the the Army CofS does not manage combat campaigns; his job is to organize, train and equip forces for combatant commanders. By most estimates, Casey did an excellent job in his last job before the Iraq assignment, when he served as the Army's Vice Chief of Staff.
General Casey seems to have the right skills to be an effective Chief of Staff, a job that will be even more important as the U.S. begins to drawdown in Iraq. In the aftermath of that conflict, the Army will have to spend billions on recapitalization, to repair or replace equipment that was damaged or destroyed in Iraq. Casey will also face the task of keeping qualified soldiers in uniform, and adding another 65,000 troops to the Army's ranks, part of the force expansion recently announced by President Bush. Meeting the recapitalization and recruiting requirements are the two most important challenges facing the next Army Chief of Staff, and General Casey is, arguably, the best man to handle those assignments.
One final thought: Casey's nomination for CofS may also reflect the administration's continued dissatisfaction with the current "crop" of Army leadership. Former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld fought pitched battles with Army generals over plans for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and (in an obvious slap at the service's senior military leaders) he brought General Peter Schoomaker out of retirement to serve as CofS in 2003. With Schoomaker now ready for his second retirement, it's doubtful that the Senate will reject Casey's nomination as Chief of Staff. But it will be interesting to see how Casey fares in his full Senate vote. One thing's for certain; he will not get the unanimous support that David Petraeus received when he was approved as Casey's replacement in Iraq.