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THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Army report evidence of breakdown in command

The conclusions reached by a consultant — that the Army is stretched to the breaking point — come as no surprise. The surprise is who had to hire Andrew Krepinevich for that nugget of information.

The U.S. Department of Defense hired Mr. Krepinevich, a retired Army officer, to conduct the study. In concluding that demands in Iraq have left the Army on the brink of institutional disaster, the consultant labeled one chapter of his report, "The Thin Green Line."

The Army is under the direct control of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Krepinevich did not just tell the Pentagon that its own troops are deficient, he relied upon unclassified information to arrive at the conclusion. Recruiting shortfalls and increased enlistment bonuses, he explained to the Pentagon, suggest the Army is aware of the problem.

The question is, why does the Pentagon have to hire an outsider to conclude that its own Army is deficient? Why does Mr. Rumsfeld have to hire someone to track down publicly available evidence of the Army's deficiencies?

The existence of the consulting contract and its conclusions suggest a catastrophic breakdown in communications between Mr. Rumsfeld and Army officials. In a healthy organization, Mr. Rumsfeld would have a sit-down with Army commanders. "Do you have enough troops?" he might ask. "Can we continue the war in Iraq at current levels without letting other commitments slip through the cracks?"

In a healthy organization, the commander would tell his boss, "No we don't have enough troops," or "Yes we have enough troops, sir."

Mr. Krepinevich's conclusions are alarming, but they merely confirm what anyone who reads the newspaper already knows.

The revelation is not that the Army is short on troops. The revelation, rather, is that the chain of command is in such disarray that the only way the Pentagon can get a straight answer is by hiring an outside consultant to do the digging.

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