Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed opposition to the President’s plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq, citing concerns that such a move would further damage military readiness as well as troop and family morale.


            “I am deeply concerned by the President’s willingness to accept the level of strategic risk imposed by increasing the number of U.S. Combat Brigades in Iraq from 15 to 20.  A decision to commit more troops and equipment to Iraq has serious consequences that may reduce America’s ability to respond to other contingencies that threaten our national security.  As a result, if we have to fight in the future, it may take our forces longer to reach the places they must go and they may risk taking greater casualties than they would have otherwise.  Because I am convinced a 20,000 troop increase is too little far too late to make a difference in Iraq’s security, this is a trade-off I cannot support.     


            “Last year, the House Armed Services Committee was alerted that the strains imposed by the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan were affecting military readiness, particularly among units in the continental United States.  This latest plan promises to add even more stress on our troops, on the equipment they depend on, and most importantly, on their families, whose support makes their service possible.  The costs of this troop increase in terms of money, troop and family morale, and degradation of training and equipment is unacceptable when the potential gains to American national security are so uncertain.     


            “As General Schoomaker testified today, any time you increase deployments you pay a price.  Accelerated deployments decrease the amount of time available for forces to recuperate, train, and replace equipment.  Units in the United States often give up equipment to deploying units, which in turn affects the ability of these troops at home to train and impacts their readiness to deploy for any required contingency.  There is no doubt that the  President’s plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq will have broad affects and will limit our ability to fight the war on terror in Afghanistan and to deal with other strategic priorities.


            “Along with other Democrats, I have long advocated for an increase in Army and Marine Corps end strength and I am pleased that the President has recently indicated that he too favors increasing the overall size of the military.  This change in course will yield benefits over time; however, taking this step now comes too late to reduce the burdens on the force resulting from the proposed troop escalation in Iraq,” said Skelton.