military readiness intrinsically declines the longer a military encounter is prolonged due to the wear and tear exacted by war. As such, it is important to gauge a country's level of military preparedness at the outset of any martial encounter to truly assess its readiness for protracted combat situations. There are a number of sources that attest to the fact that at the end of the 20th century, the United States' military preparedness -- which would soon be tested in the new millennium by a number of martial engagements, the most eminent of which include Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, were insufficient. A thorough examination of the results of the former operation (which is still ongoing) and certain key factors relating to military size, personnel availability and training, equipment, and most saliently funding, as compared to those near the end of the 20th century in Operation Desert Storm reveals that the U.S. has yet to wholly usurp its military readiness woes.
It would be difficult to distinguish the level of preparedness of the United States military for the aforementioned operations from one of the most significant martial events of the 20th century -- the conclusion of the Cold War. Due to various military encounters during the Cold War, most notably that which took place in Vietnam and Korea, the U.S. military was of a substantial size in terms of equipment, personnel and funding. During the Clinton Administration, especially after the conclusion of the relatively short-lived Operation Desert Storm which spawned from 1990 to 1991, there was a concerted effort to reduce the military personnel and funding to levels that would be suitable for an epoch without the Cold War (Spencer, 2000). Thus, the resources of the United States military were systematically reduced during the majority of Clinton's tenure. The effect of this reduction is reflected in the results of the previously mentioned martial encounters. It is highly significant that Operation Desert Storm took less than two years to complete -- successfully, and that it occurred during the time period in which the U.S. was finishing the Cold War. The military's size, strength and combat readiness played a substantial role in this outcome. By comparison, after nearly a decade of de-emphasizing the military and reducing its equipment, personnel, and funding, Operation Iraqi Freedom took almost 10 years to finish. Although the U.S. largely succeeded in erecting a new political regime, insurgencies still abound in the region. And finally, it is worth noting that after the efforts of the Clinton Administration, Operation Enduring Freedom is still ongoing. These facts are a testament to the degree of inertia involved in military preparedness. It is more difficult to recrudesce than to maintain that active inertia.
It is also important to note the noxious effect that frequent deployments and a reduced military size had on the military preparedness for Operation Enduring Freedom. Prior to the operations enactment, there was a vast number of deployments of U.S. troops all over the globe in the final years of the 1990's (Ray, 2000). This fact, combined with the cuts in the size of the military, meant that enlisted soldiers were effectively working more with fewer personnel than before. As such, the exertion on the man power was formidable. One of the most significant aspects about these frequent deployments (which were primarily centered in Europe, especially in the Balkan area near the turn of the millennium) is that they were in non-combat situations and were essentially peace-keeping missions (Spencer, 2000). Thus, despite the fact that military personnel were deployed in various campaigns, they lacked the combat experience and the theater of war that was prevalent for soldiers who were involved in Operation Desert Storm. Those soldiers were deployed under conditions that were trained in and pertained to combat because of the Cold War. Additionally, they did not have to the cuts in personnel to contend with which adversely affected the military preparedness of those engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom. The end result is that the former troops were a lot less ready to perform the initial phases of combat than the latter troops were.
Another fairly huge distinction between the military preparedness during Operation Desert Storm and the lack thereof during Operation Enduring Freedom was the level of training in the troops. The degree of training enabled U.S. soldiers during the former encounter vastly surpassed that of the latter. In fact, one can say that the training in Operation Desert Storm was as close to ideal as can be expected, given the circumstances. U.S. troops had nearly half a year to train and prepare for their encounter with the forces of Saddam Hussein -- after they had landed on foreign soil. According to one source, "Iraq President Saddam Hussein's biggest mistake during the Persian Gulf War was to allow the U.S. forces five months to develop cohesiveness, which, in turn, allowed a much more competent level of readiness" (Ray, 2000, p. 18). Not only was the U.S. military able to effectively train its soldiers in the combat conditions in which it would eventually wage war, but the additional time also enabled it to fine-tune its tactics and strategies to enable what would eventually become a swift victory. Some of this training was adequately handled by non-commissioned officers, which helped the military achieve victory in this encounter.
In contrast, the military training that took place prior to Operation Enduring Freedom was substantially more haphazard. A large part of this fact pertained to the widespread deployments which preceded this encounter. Not only were deployments reducing the time that soldiers could have been training at home, but they also substantially impacted the non-deployed soldiers. The rapid deployments, combined with the aforementioned reduction in the military force, meant that on numerous occasions specialty operatives in the non-deployed forces would have to go away on missions. As such, those other non-deployed soldiers were bereft of some of their specialist operators, which negatively impacted their ability to successfully train with full personnel. In this way, the rapid deployments not only taxed the manpower of those who were stationed overseas during peace keeping missions prior to Operation Enduring Freedom, but they also taxed the manpower and the training prowess of the non-deployed soldiers who could not effectively train and harness themselves for battle accordingly. This particular trend of deploying specialists from non-deployed units placed a greater emphasis on NCO training. Additional issues that negatively impacted the training for this operation were "encroachment" issues in which civilians complained about military training next to civilian property (Paige, 2001)
It has been noted that there are essentially "three basic elements of armed conflict -- men, machines and munitions" (Ray, 2000, p. 18). In comparing two of these three elements, the machine and munitions which denote the equipment used in war, the comparison between Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom is again lopsided. The former had a huge arsenal to purvey its equipment. Additionally, due to the six months preparation time in the Middle East that preceded any armed conflict there, U.S. military officials had the best pick of all the equipment. This selection was largely aided by the fact that again, in 1991, aside from the monitoring of North Korea, there were relatively few other martial encounters to busy the U.S. military during the time period leading up to, and during, Operation Desert Storm. Thus, the Department of Defense could focus all of its resources solely on achieving victory in the Middle East. The equipment (and personnel) advantages that such an ideal situation fostered are alluded to in the subsequent quotation.
The planners of Desert Storm could draw on virtually the entire U.S. nonnuclear arsenal for the campaign, despite the existing two-war strategic concept, and more carrier battle groups and divisions were deployed than proved necessary for the stunning success of the United States and its allies including 10 Army divisions, 3 Marine divisions with their air wings, 11 or 12 carrier battle groups, 200 heavy bombers, and 20 Air Force fighter wings (Kaufmann, 1994, p. 26).
In comparison, the equipment used at the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom was not nearly as well kept, maintained, and as new as that used during Operation Desert Storm. Budgetary cuts had seen to that fact. Equipment was now being used longer than ever before, and rapid deployments were affecting the cycle of repair that is vital to maintenance. Equipment issues certainly affected the military readiness of the U.S. going into this military encounter in a way in which it was not encumbered during Operation Desert Storm.
In conclusion, the factors that most eminently affect military preparedness during Operation Enduring Freedom were budgetary cuts, which in turn drastically affected the size of the military and the personnel available. Availability was also impacted by too many rapid deployments going into the encounter with Afghanistan, which taxed the military's manpower and adversely affected those soldiers deployed in non-combat situations and those who were not-deployed. These factors in turn produced…