WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness , chaired by Solomon P. Ortiz (TX), today heard testimony from Administration officials on the Fiscal Year 2008 defense budget request for operations and maintenance accounts, including funding for training, equipment and public service depots.
This week Subcommittee Chairman Ortiz and other members of the Readiness Subcommittee are exerting long-overdue oversight on a number of levels to ensure the nation is always prepared, or “ready,” to fight. “Many of us have said for the past year that the readiness shortfall is on slow burn, and that is where it remains,” said Ortiz. “We have to move carefully, but with great speed and focus, to try to fix the damage to military readiness caused by the Iraq war. This crisis is evolving, and will not be solved by throwing more money at the services. We have to fix it at all levels.”
“The Congress has provided significant funding beyond what has been requested by the Department of Defense to try to mitigate the decline. But the high tempo of operations and the constraints of the defense industrial base are making it difficult for the services to turn the decline around,” Ortiz said. “By far, the Army has been the service most affected by the Global War on Terrorism and the war in Iraq. The Army’s planned commitment of 21 of its 42 Brigade Combat Teams to combat operations is stressing both Soldiers and equipment and reducing the readiness posture of units not deployed to combat.”
“To meet wartime needs, the Army has pooled equipment from across the force to equip Soldiers deploying into harm’s way,” Ortiz said. “General Cody himself notes this practice increases risk for the next-to-deploy units and limits the Army’s ability to respond to emerging strategic threats. Because of time and equipment constraints, commanders are being forced to seek efficiencies in completing required pre-deployment training. Rotations at the National Training Center for the last two Brigade Combat Teams headed to Iraq were eliminated, with the units conducting home-station training in Washington and Georgia instead of in the desert at Fort Irwin, California.”
“The problems in the Marine Corps are not as severe as in the Army, but they are affecting training and the overall readiness posture of the service,” Ortiz said. “We will be interested in hearing how confident the Navy is that an increased reliance upon the use of simulation exercises and improvements in training methods can ensure the readiness of the Navy’s non-deployed forces. Likewise, we will want to hear how much non-deployed aircrew readiness the Navy has sacrificed to fund an average T-2.5 aircrew readiness level, as supported in the FY08 budget request.”
“The Air Force flying over 200 sorties per day in the Central Command theaters of operations, committing more than 350 aircraft to support combat operations has resulted in high use rates on aging Air Force assets. This increased use on a smaller, older fleet has resulted in readiness rates that are 17 percent below unit operational readiness rates prior to 9-11 and below last year’s all-time low levels. General Cody’s says that addressing readiness will require a; ‘national commitment to sustained predictable resourcing’ – I agree, but we need a national commitment to our military and to providing for our national defense. The only people now carrying that load are our troops and their families.”
Witnesses before the Readiness Subcommittee today included:
General Richard Cody, USA, Vice Chief of Staff, Department of the Army
General John D.W. Corley, USAF, Vice Chief of Staff, Department of the Air Force
General Robert Magnus, USMC, Assistant Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
Admiral Robert F. Willard, USN, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Department of the Navy
The Readiness Subcommittee will soon begin marking up its portion of the annual defense authorization bill, which will be perfected and included in the full committee bill before it goes to the House of Representatives. Traditionally, the House Armed Services Committee marks up its annual authorization in the spring.