Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not? 

October 3, 2000

Comment: #390

Discussion Thread:  #s 347 & 113, and 169

#347  "Trip Report: Navy and Air Force Air Combat Training," (January 30, 2000)
#113 "Report on Staff Trip to Army Training Facilities" (distributed 12/11/97)


[1] "Staffer X," Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not?, U.S. Congress, September 26, 2000.
[2] "Staffer X", "Trip Report: Navy and Air Force Air Combat Training,", U.S. Congress, January 30, 2000.
[3] "Staffer X", Report on Staff Trip to Army Training Facilities, U.S. Congress, December 1997.

Much has been written and said about the deteriorating state of the military in recent months. The result has been a mindless consensus that throwing money at the Pentagon will solve the twin crises of modernization and readiness. (It is mindless in part because the Pentagon's accounting system is unauditable -- see Comment #169 and the Defense Department Inspector General's most recent disclaimer of opinion. If no one knows where the money has gone, how can they determine if more is needed?)

But mindlessness is not related only to the information breakdown of the accounting system. Lost in the debating flurry of thrust and parry is one of the central realities of Versailles on the Potomac: Data free analysis feeds analysis-free decision making, because almost no one doing the debating has taken the time to look first hand at the physical facts of the situation. Most of the people making the noise are merely repeating what they are told. Moreover, most of the people making the noise have made no effort to verify what they are told, which has the added advantage of making it far easier to fit any information into their pre-conceived conclusions, and then sell it to the sound-byte mentality of Versailles. This emptiness is particularly evident in the talking heads on TV and the heads of the so-called intellectuals in the thinktanks who are using the op-ed pages to posture for jobs in the new administration.

The result of this cacophony of fact-free BS posing as a policy debate does a gross disservice to the military and the American people but makes for great fun in the Hall of Mirrors.

Occasionally (see also Reference #2 / Comment #347 & Reference #3 / Comment #113), however, a breath of fresh air tries to force its way into the musty halls of Versailles, usually without lasting success.

The most recent waft is the attached trip report in Reference #1.

A professional member of the congressional staff had the originality (temerity might be a better descriptor) to go to Fort Drum in upstate New York to determine for himself whether reports of low readiness in the 10th Mountain Division were in fact true. This division is one of the Army's most active divisions, with elements having been deployed repeatedly to peacekeeping operations throughout the 1990s.

As he notes, low readiness in the 10th Mountain has also been featured prominently in the political debate over readiness, but no one has made an effort to determine if this is true. Nevertheless, some people insist it is combat ready, other insist it is not combat ready. What makes this report important is that this staffer took the unusual step to going to see the facts first hand.

His assessment of the readiness facts may be essentially correct (my view is that it is), or it may be wrong, but a larger fact about his report is beyond dispute: His attempt at a fact-based approach to understanding problems in the Post-Information Era is the kind of politically incorrect behavior that is totally out of touch with the virtual reality that is the Hall of Mirrors.

I urge you to read Reference #1 carefully.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]