Last June, Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton asked Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, “Are you comfortable with the readiness level for the non-deployed units that are in the continental United States?” Gen. Schoomaker answered, “No.” Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, has “upgraded to ‘significant’ the risk the military faces this year in carrying out its full national security mission…The chairman's risk assessment is based on hard facts: numbers of troops deployed in combat zones, recruiting successes and shortfalls, armored vehicles to be replaced or repaired or drawn out of emergency depots to fulfill the Iraq mission, availability of transport planes, aerial refueling tankers, remotely piloted surveillance vehicles.”
The Army’s readiness has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970′s. As Chairman Skelton explained last fall:
Let me be blunt — Our ground forces and their reserves face a crisis with manpower and equipment shortages and will be challenged to complete their missions should they be called to respond to an emergency. The most striking example of this problem is with equipment. Over 40 percent of the Army and Marine Corps' ground equipment is now deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is wearing out as much as 9 times faster then normal. Only 3 years in Iraq has placed as much as 27 years of wear on our equipment, forcing the DOD to cannibalize the equipment of non-deployed units and the National Guard. This cannibalization of equipment has left the Army without a single combat brigade in the continental United States ready for all of their wartime missions. Simply put, the war in Iraq is sapping our strategic base and leaving us with a broken Army.
As National Guard troops are being deployed to meet the demands of President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq, units in Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma and Ohio could be called up sooner than previously scheduled, even as some units lack the equipment they need. ABC reported over the weekend that “more than 14,000 National Guard troops are on notice that they’ll be heading to Iraq for a second or third tour, but they’re scrambling to find the equipment they need to train on.”
With the Army, Marine Corps and National Guard all facing severe strains on personnel and equipment shortages, the President’s escalation plan continues to add to the mounting readiness problems. Democrats will ensure legislation funding the escalation of the war in Iraq provides our troops with the equipment they need and the training they deserve.