The November 7th edition of Navy Times has an editorial calling for an end to individual augmentee assignments for Navy personnel (subscription required). They point out that with the drawdown in Iraq (to zero), this means the total number of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will have declined by 102,000 from its peak. With the proposed removal of another 23,000 surge troops from Afghanistan by September 2012, that will leave only 70,000 troops on the ground, and a reduction of 125,000 Army troops from the two countries in 4 years.
With that kind of drawdown, why is the Navy still sending soldiers on IA's that cut into their career, disrupt families, and hurt retention? As Navy Times points out, the Navy's personnel rolls are expected to decrease by 2015, and the condition of ships is deteriorating, requiring all available manpower to keep them operational, not serve Army missions for which there are 100,000 people available to fill.
For the Submarine Force, as anyone who is on active duty will tell you, the single most pressing problem for the force is manning. We can not train and retain enough sailors to man sufficient watch bills, to develop future deckplate leaders, nor to keep submarines operational in an increasingly busy force with the rise of China's Navy and North Korean intransigence.
We compound this problem by telling sailors they may need to spend a year to eighteen months in an IA assignment, normally coming at a time when they would instead be on a shore, or near shore tour. This does little to help retention, and impacts recruitment and decisions to stay Navy after the first tour. For most guys, they joined the Navy, particularly submariners, and they don't expect, nor should they be asked anymore, to go pound sand with the Army.
In the reserve component, it is nearly impossible to bring LT's and junior enlisted into the ranks, because though they can get up to two years reprieve from being called for an IA, the near certainty of it at that point means they transfer to the Inactive Reserve, rather than disrupt their family life or a relatively new job.
When the Army was pressed, it made sense to have the Navy and Air Force pick up missions that could be done by any professional sailor or officer. Now that the Army has nearly 100,000 troops no longer deployed, does that need still exist? I say no, and I call on the Submarine Force leadership to say - we have problems of our own on our submarines, many of them attributed to manning issues, and we will no longer provide troops for IA's.