ARLINGTON, Va. — House legislators want U.S. military leaders to beef up end strength in the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force in the next five years with a stop-gap measure to relieve strain on both active and reserve element forces.

The lawmakers are not calling for a boost in the Navy.

U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D- Calif., introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, calling for an 8 percent increase in troop numbers across the three services.

The measure would increase the Army’s active force end strength from 482,400 to 522,400; the Air Force from 359,300 to 388,000; and the Marine Corps from 175,000 to 190,000.

But the military leadership isn’t clamoring for more troops, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday during a press briefing.

“If at any moment there was an analysis that suggested one of the services was too small, obviously we would recommend an increase in it,” Rumsfeld said. “We just don’t have that kind of analysis at the present time. And I don’t believe anyone else does.”

Four of the Army’s 10 active duty divisions will be rotating back from Iraq next year, and sticking to reconstituting timelines, would not be combat-ready for roughly six months.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Rumsfeld’s assessment that no more troops are needed. When asked if the military would be ready to handle another conflict, Myers said: [T]hat’s an unqualified yes.”

The Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed the anticipated cost, but the Army portion alone would cost roughly $1 billion a year, said Tauscher, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “We understand it’s expensive, but frankly, it’s about priorities.”

The military should brace itself for a possible mass exodus of disenchanted guard and reserve forces, she said, and more active duty forces could mitigate the blow.

“We are deeply, deeply concerned, not only for the readiness of troops rotating out of Iraq and Afghanistan … but we continue to be concerned, and frankly deeply worried, that we are creating irreparable harm to our guard and reserves by these extended deployments.”

The increase of forces also would provide “the cushion we need in number and readiness should we find ourselves in a situation” of another conflict, she said.

Tauscher’s bill is co-sponsored by 25 House Democrats, but the lawmaker said she anticipate gaining bipartisan support when Congress returns Jan. 20.

Deployed commanders don’t want more soldiers on the ground, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said during a Dec. 3 conference at which he and other top military’s leaders spoke.

“There is no commander in Iraq or Afghanistan that is asking for more people,” Schoomaker said. “We constantly are in dialogue about what the requirements are over there, and there’s nobody who’s asking for a bigger force over there; they feel they have the force that’s required.”

Under the presidential directive, 1 million reservists can be mobilized for up to two years; “and we’re not anywhere near that,” Schoomaker said. “Right now, we’re mobilizing 40 percent of the reserve component.”

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee said before adding more forces, U.S. leaders should consider the long-term picture.

“The way I look at the battlefield … is this what we’re going to be doing five or 10 years from now?” Hagee asked. “In other words, have we arrived at a point where we’re going to have forces … spread throughout the world [in] the Sinai, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan?”

Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of Naval Operations, said he is pursuing less end strength. “I’m going after less end strength [because] that’s where I’m going to get resources to recapitalize” the Navy, he said.

“Two dynamics are at play,” said April Boyd, a Tauscher spokeswoman. “The reason for no Navy increase is that they are trying to reduce their number of ships; less ships equals less people. Also, there are pilot programs under way to further reduce manpower requirements on ships.”

However, the Army “has a more immediate problem” than adding end strength: finding ways to tap all of its personnel for deployments before it tackles the large job of adding more, Schoomaker said.

“One of the major things that we’re doing right now is mining the structure that we have and mining it to get it in balance so we can access to the force structure we’re paying for, and making sure it’s ready and available to us,” he said, calling the current Army personnel structure “bankrupt.”

If the Army can’t find ways to get full use out of the reserves, “we’re going to have to spend a premium on the most expensive option,” adding more end strength, he said.

“We may end up coming up having to ask for more force structure,” Schoomaker said. “But I am not prepared at this time to give up on the fact that we’re making quite a bit of headway right now” in finding ways to better manage the force.

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