Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon
From a Q&A session following a talk Monday by Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., at the American Enterprise Institute:
Questioner: Back in the '80s and '90s, when the country was debating the size of the defense budget, a phrase was heard all the time - tooth-to-tail ratio - and it's not heard at all now. And my question to you is: how does our current tooth-to-tail ratio compare to the past, and is that a way to approach where cuts should be maybe focused?
McKeon (to AEI moderator Thomas Donnelly): What is tooth-to-tail?
Donnelly: That would be the ratio of support troops to trigger-pullers, basically.
Bottom line: the questioner knows what it means, the moderator knows what it means, but the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee apparently doesn't.
UPDATE: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. over at AOL Defense answers the question the chairman of the armed services committee couldn't:
…the active-duty Army, despite having expanded to over 570,000 personnel, still has only about 56,500 infantrymen, less than 10 percent. (The Marine Corps, with 200,000 personnel total, adds about another 23,000 infantry).
So, using that yardstick, the tooth-to-tail ratio is about 10%, roughly where it was during the '80s and '90s.