The tooth-to-tail ratio (T3R), in military jargon, is the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support (“tail”) each combat soldier (“tooth”).
While both “tooth” and “tail” soldiers may find themselves in combat or other life-threatening situations, “tooth” soldiers are those whose primary function is to engage in combat.
What is It?
The ratio is not a specific measure but rather a general indication of an army’s actual military might in relation to the resources it devotes to supply, upkeep, and logistics.
An army’s tooth-to-tail ratio is often inversely related to its technological capabilities and subsequently its overall power. While an army with a high tooth-to-tail ratio will have more personnel devoted to combat, these soldiers will lack the support provided by the tail. Such support includes the supply and communication infrastructure on which modern armies depend. An army with a higher tooth-to-tail ratio may have more combat troops, but each will be less effective. The tooth-to-tail ratio of the US military has varied widely in its different conflicts.
The introduction of computer technology has made automation of the tail a possibility. One of the stated goals of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is increasing the tooth-to-tail ratio (reducing the amount of logistics and support personnel necessary in proportion to combat personnel) without reducing combat effectiveness.