Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement concerning H.R. 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives today on a vote of 218 to 212:


            “I support this bill today because I am looking out for the American soldier.  For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about the readiness of the U.S. Army.  This supplemental appropriations legislation provides critical readiness funding which will help our Army begin to rebuild itself after years of strain on personnel and equipment.


In Iraq, our troops have been placed in an impossible situation. Early strategic failures caused by poor planning increased sectarian strife, fed the insurgency, and helped create a new cause for the radicals we are fighting around the world.  Our troops have done a magnificent job holding Iraq together to date, but after four years, through no fault of their own, they have not been able to hand off security responsibilities to the Iraqis.  Meanwhile, we’re fighting in Afghanistan, and the Taliban and Al Qaeda are rebuilding.  If we are, once and for all, to defeat those forces and their allies, the U.S. and our NATO partners must be prepared to devote everything needed to that fight.


But due to the demands placed on our forces today, I worry that we will not be able to deter or to counter the next threat when it emerges.  In the year 2000, two Army divisions weren’t ready to fight because some of their units were in Bosnia, and we considered it a disaster.  Today, every non-deployed Army combat brigade and every non-deployed Guard combat brigade will face significant challenges completing their assigned missions if they are called upon to fight.  Our stocks of prepositioned equipment are also in a worrying state, which adds to our strategic risk.


If past history is any indication, our country will face new military challenges in the future.  Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has been engaged in 12 conflicts, but few, if any, were predicted.  We have to bring our involvement in Iraq to a close so we can be prepared for whatever comes next. That is our responsibility and our solemn obligation to the men and women who volunteer for our military:  to never put our forces into a fight unprepared or under-equipped.


U.S. troops will accomplish any task put before them. I believe that our forces on the ground can improve stability while they are there.  But we must remember that only the Iraqis can win in Iraq.  Long-term security will only come through Iraqi political progress.  It is up to the Iraqis to make the compromises necessary to end the insurgency and decrease sectarian violence, and the Iraqis aren’t doing that. They are not passing laws to hold new elections or reform the constitution or bring the Sunnis back into the government.


The supplemental will hold the Iraqi government’s feet to the fire, sending a clear message that the Iraqis must do the hard work to ensure the stability of their country.  We should support them in that effort, but this is Iraq’s critical moment.  They have to understand that they can’t rely on us forever.


In four years of war, our troops have done a magnificent job holding Iraq together through their own blood and sacrifice and ingenuity.  It’s time we used our ingenuity here to get the Iraqis to step up to the plate and begin to end their own war.  Our troops deserve that from us.”