Washington , DC – Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after today’s Full Committee hearing to receive testimony from the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Francis J. Harvey, and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter J. Schoomaker, on the FY 2008 budget request for the Department of the Army: 

“I’m encouraged that the fiscal year 2008 Army budget request of $130 billion, a substantial $20 billion increase over fiscal year 2007, goes a long way toward meeting the need to increase the size of the Army and support the Army’s requirements.  But we must look very carefully at whether and how this increase truly enhances our readiness and future defense capabilities, versus how much is simply being consumed in Iraq.

“In 1995, when demands on the force were significant but not as extreme as today, this committee received testimony calling for 40,000 more soldiers to help ease the strain on the Army.  I have believed for some time that additional Army personnel were long overdue to help meet our commitments at home and abroad, so I welcome the Administration’s proposal to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 over the next 5 years as a very positive step. 

“Army readiness issues, however, continue to concern me greatly.  Last July and again last month, I asked General Schoomaker if he was comfortable with the readiness of units in the United States.  His answer both times was ‘no’.  Frequent deployments and equipment shortfalls are having an impact on training, which has a real affect on our forces’ ability to respond should they be needed. 

“In the 30 years I’ve been privileged to serve in Congress, 12 significant military contingencies have occurred.  Each of them occurred in an unexpected place at an unexpected time. It will happen again, and right now we are not prepared. Funds provided last year and funds proposed in this year’s budget should go a long way toward repairing and replacing Army equipment, but it will take many years to restore readiness to acceptable levels.”