WASHINGTON, DC – In a joint hearing today, House Armed Services Subcommittee Chairmen Solomon Ortiz (Readiness) and Neil Abercrombie (Air and Land) began the arduous task of assessing damage to the armed forces of the United States – particularly equipment – from sustained operations in two wars and its impact on overall readiness. Readiness has suffered in the past six years from inadequate planning, dubious civilian leadership and little or no congressional oversight.
“Military readiness is the foundation of U.S. military policy,” said Readiness Chairman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX). “The readiness crisis facing the nation today means the United States is really rolling the dice. We are engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we face potential threats from Iran and North Korea. The damage done to our Army and the readiness of our force would prevent us from responding efficiently should threats from other nations that may materialize. We simply are not ready. Our Army is broken.”
“Extended and continued deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, with nearly constant combat under unbelievably harsh conditions, has wreaked havoc on billions of dollars of warfighting and support equipment, and put terrible stress on our men and women in uniform,” said Air-Land Chairman Abercrombie (D-HI).
“The Army’s readiness in particular has dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s and will continue to be stressed by the combat in Iraq which falls most heavily on the Army and Marine Corps,” Ortiz said. “Nearly all of the Army units – including those in the National Guard that aren’t currently deployed – could not complete their assigned wartime missions if called for contingency operations today. The testimony before our committee on these matters has been woefully incomplete.”
“This readiness crisis comes into particularly sharp focus now, with Congress being asked to approve a $100-billion emergency supplemental appropriation request, which includes operational funds for President Bush’s troop escalation,” said Abercrombie. “Yet, the Armed Services Committee heard testimony last week that many of the additional troops being sent into combat may not have all the proper equipment they need.”
“Our Committee’s job is to ensure our forces have the resources, equipment and training to do their jobs,” Ortiz said. “The glaring shortfalls in equipment readiness that exist today prove this responsibility has been ignored. That’s about to change. DoD must now come up with a real estimate of cost and put it in their budget so our committee – and the Congress – will know precisely what the money is for and where to follow it.”
“Pay-As-You-Go is now the rule for all other discretionary government expenditures—we have to have the money to spend it. There is no reason for the Defense Department to be exempt,” Abercrombie said. “The fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been paid for through emergency supplemental requests—year after year—show how this Administration is determined to hide the real costs. That practice has led to critical repair and reset needs going unfunded, and has brought us to this sorry state of affairs.”
Equipment shortages – combined with the historic under funding of the Guard, the reorganization of Guard brigades, and the U.S. border mission – leaves Guard units here with just 40% of their equipment and leaves the U.S. vulnerable in the event of an attack or disaster in the U.S. It cripples our ability to respond to other contingencies that may arise in the next several years until this problem is fixed. These urgent equipment shortages hit especially hard on the military’s ability to train.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports offering information on military readiness:
· Biennial suggestions for Congressional oversight ( http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07235r.pdf )
· National Guard readiness: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06170t.pdf )
· Equipment shortfalls at critical levels ( http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06141.pdf )
· Recruitment challenges ( http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06846.pdf )
· Securing, stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq ( http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07308sp.pdf )
· Need for greater oversight on DoD ( http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07359t.pdf )