Bensahel: Active-Reserve relations need to be overhauled — and the Army is in trouble

Bensahel: Active-Reserve relations need to be overhauled — and the Army is in trouble

Suddenly it seems like most of the smart thinking about the future of the U.S. military is being done by women. Today’s example is Nora Bensahel, who has issued a sharp critique of where the U.S. military is at, with some recommendations about how it can do better.

One of her major points is that the relations between the active-duty military and the reserves need to be overhauled, especially since “tensions between the two components continue to escalate.” She argues for revisiting the idea of blended active-reserve units. This is of course a touchy area bristling with political hot buttons, but that makes it something that OSD and Congress especially can address. Perhaps Defense Secretary Hagel could make this a project over the next two years.

One of Bensahel’s biggest concerns is the future of American ground forces. “Unfortunately,” she writes, over the last two years, “DoD and the Army have done little apparent work to determine the best way” to regenerate ground forces.

Here she reinforces something I have heard from Pentagon officials, which is that the Army today is perceived as the most troubled service. I suspect this is in part because it is the one that seems most reluctant to soberly review its performance in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the Army more-or-less subscribes to the view that it did everything pretty much right in our recent wars, but that the civilians screwed things up. There is no question that the Bush administration committed the primary errors, but there also are many things the Army could have done better, beginning with adjusting faster and seeing its strategic failings more clearly.

(More to come.)