DoD Workers Want More of Everything In Fight Against ISIS, Except Ground Troops

Iraqi anti-terrorism soldiers guard a graduation ceremony of Sunni tribal volunteers joining Iraqi security forces in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 8, 2015.

Hadi Mizban/AP

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Iraqi anti-terrorism soldiers guard a graduation ceremony of Sunni tribal volunteers joining Iraqi security forces in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 8, 2015.

Defense One/GBC Poll finds frustration but little appetite for boots on the ground.

The paradox of ISIS war frustrations is starkly revealed in a new poll of senior national security workers who want to do more of everything the Obama administration is already doing to defeat the terrorist organization, except send U.S. troops.

A vast majority of respondents — mostly senior Defense Department workers and some U.S. troops — say “not enough” is being done to defeat the Islamic State, or ISIS. But only one-third supported sending additional U.S. ground troops to do anything about it, according to a new Defense One/GBC survey.

The results of the poll, conducted May 7, shows that respondents are increasingly frustrated with the war in Iraq and Syria, but also that they reject the kind of U.S. military intervention whose support is rising among the broader American public.

Only 16 percent agreed that U.S.-led campaign against ISIS is doing enough to defeat that organization, but just 31 percent backed putting more “boots on the ground.”

In the past week, the war has delivered a victory and a loss. U.S. Army special operations forces entered Syria, killed a dozen enemy fighters including the purported head of finances for ISIS, captured his wife and a trove of intelligence information, and freed a captive Iraqi woman. But by Monday, ISIS fighters had captured Ramadi, the Iraqi city in Anbar province where thousands of U.S. troops fought and many died.

Obama administration critics have pounced on the fall of Ramadi, saying the president has not taken ISIS seriously enough and needs intervene more forcefully in Iraq.

For DoD workers, however, it’s not a question of whether ISIS is a threat; it’s what to do about it next. Of the survey respondents, 88 percent agree that ISIS presents an imminent threat to the United States. More than half of all respondents “strongly agree.”

When asked what else the U.S. should do to counter ISIS, the leading responses are actions the Obama administration already is taking. The top answers, and respondents were allowed to chose more than one, were: “pressure allies to take on more of the fight,” 69%; “increase airstrikes,” 52%; “increase military assistance to regional allies,” 51%; “amplify messaging to counter ISIS propaganda,” 49%; and “create and enforce a no-fly zone over Syria,” 34%. The option for putting more boots on the ground came in dead last.

Government Business Council, a division of Atlantic Media, the parent company of Defense One, polled a random sample of print and online subscribers to Government Executive, Nextgov, and Defense One. On May 7, 477 personnel representing the Defense Department and military service branches completed the survey, including those at the GS/GM-11 to 15 grade levels, active duty military personnel, and members of the Senior Executive Service. Of those respondents, 70 percent are ranked GS/GM-12 or military equivalent and above, 97 percent are Defense Department civilians, and 3 percent are active-duty military personnel.

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