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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"Not Since the Vietnam Era ... Has the Army's Readiness Been So Degraded," according to Defense Experts

The National Security Advisory Group, an advisory group of defense and national security experts chaired by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, has released a disturbing letter and call for attention to a crisis in the ability of this country to meet its most basic self-defense obligations, as a result of the protracted war in Iraq, poor planning, and inadequate attention to support of the military--

This letter states:
Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army's readiness been so degraded. . . . The administration's willingness to put our nation at such strategic risk is deeply disturbing. And its failure to adequately support the soldiers who are risking their lives for this nation is unacceptable.
In response to this letter, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has said: "Under President Bush and the Republican Congress a large part of our Army could not respond to a crisis. Five years after the 9/11 attacks and with threats to our security evident around the world, this failure to maintain military readiness is unacceptable and dangerous."

And Senator Jack Reed said, "The men and women so bravely serving our nation should not have to worry about whether they have adequate equipment and resources to do their job."

From Today's American Progress Action Report:
TWO-THIRDS OF ARMY BRIGADE COMBAT TEAMS NOT READY TO REPORT FOR DUTY: In a letter to President Bush last week, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) warned that the Army is at dangerously low levels of military readiness. "The Army is showing the wear and tear of constant battle after nearly five years of war." Skelton explained, "Army readiness is in crisis. The administration has brought us here because of a lack of planning and a lack of funding. Today two-thirds of the brigade combat teams in our operating force are unready." These combat brigades would be the units, according to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), that "could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or any other country or region."

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush claimed that lack of military readiness should be considered a failure of the White House. "So let’s get something straight right now. To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that’s no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect," he said. A group of former defense experts released a letter today, warning, "Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army's readiness been so degraded."
Here is the full text of the Letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid from the Defense experts, dated August 1, 2006:
Dear Leader Pelosi and Leader Reid:

We are writing to express our deep concern about the U.S. Army's current state of readiness and to urge you to take immediate action to address this urgent problem. We have recently learned that:

-- Two thirds of the Army's operating force, active and reserve, is now reporting in as unready.

-- There is not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States that is ready to deploy.

The bottom line is that our Army currently has no ready, strategic reserve. Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army's readiness been so degraded.

This is particularly dangerous at a time when the United States is engaged in a global effort to counter terrorism and is facing numerous crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and North Korea. The lack of a ready strategic reserve in our Army weakens our ability to deter undesired actions by these nations, as well as our ability to respond effectively to such actions.

This degraded readiness condition stems from the heavy deployment of combat forces the Army has sustained these past four years. Predictably, this has resulted in accelerated wearout of large quantities of Army equipment, disruptions in training schedules, and strains on meeting recruitment and reenlistment goals. We called attention to this looming problem in an earlier report, "The US Military: Under Strain and at Risk," January 2006, but that report was met with indifference and denial by the administration. This problem can no longer be denied.

Restoring the Army's readiness requires additional funding, but, inexplicably, the administration is underfunding the Army. It has not requested funding adequate to support the roles and missions envisioned for the Army by the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, nor has it provided adequate funding to support the operational demands being placed on the Army today. Remarkably, the Office of Management and Budget recently cut the Army's request for FY06 supplemental appropriations by $4.9 Billion, undermining the Army's efforts to "get well" after substantial equipment degradation and losses in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. We believe this constitutes a serious failure of civilian stewardship of the military.

The administration's willingness to put our nation at such strategic risk is deeply disturbing. And its failure to adequately support the soldiers who are risking their lives for this nation is unacceptable. The readiness degradation that has already occurred could lead to a downward spiral that will take years to correct unless promptly addressed. Under these conditions, it is important for the Congress to step forward to exercise its oversight responsibilities for equipping and training the Armed Services.

Therefore, we call on you to take all necessary steps to address this situation on an urgent basis, including increasing funding to restore the Army's readiness to the levels needed to safeguard this nation's interests at home and abroad. The most immediate opportunity is the FY07 defense appropriations bill that will soon come to the floor of the Senate. We urge you to offer an amendment to increase funding to address the Army's readiness shortfalls. We also suggest that the Armed Services Committees hold hearings to determine the full depth of the readiness problems already manifested in the Army and possibly looming for the Marines.

Sincerely,

William J. Perry
Chair, National Security Advisory Group

Madeleine K. Albright
Graham T. Allison
Samuel R. Berger
Ashton B. Carter
Wesley K. Clark
Thomas E. Donilon
Michèle A. Flournoy
John D. Podesta
Susan E. Rice
John M. Shalikashvili
Wendy R. Sherman
Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall
James B. Steinberg
The National Security Advisory Group provides analysis and recommendations on long-term defense and national security issues to the House and Senate Democratic Leaders. Their letter of today builds on their report from earlier this year, "The U.S. Military: Under Strain and at Risk" released in January 2006, available here.

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