As I’ve said previously, expanding the number of soldiers in the Army is a reasonable idea. But it’s also a very expensive proposition: “every 10,000 new soldiers add about $1.2 billion in personnel costs to the Pentagon’s annual budget. On top of that, equipment for 10,000 new troops would cost an additional $2 billion, according to Army statistics.” What’s more, we’re not talking about 10,000 new troops:
Instead, civilian and military officials said, they are drawing up tentative proposals that would make permanent the 30,000-troop temporary increase approved by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then add 30,000 more troops to the Army over the next five years, resulting in an active-duty Army with 542,400 soldiers by 2012.
So this is a $19.2 billion annual commitment that we should probably round up to more like $20 billion since unless you want standards to drop you’re going to have increased recruiting expenditures. Under the circumstances, I just can’t see the case for an increase of that scale in the defense budget which is already giant in a global context. You could easily find the money by cutting back other DOD programs, and that kind of shift in resources would be a good idea. It’s pretty clear, though, that the driving force behind embrace of this idea is mostly about politics and posturing rather than a serious effort to set priorities so I think pessimism is warranted.