Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) praised the Administration’s proposal to increase the size of the Armed Forces, but expressed continued concern about the plan to increase the number of troops in Baghdad.  Skelton made his comments after receiving testimony from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General Peter Pace regarding the President’s defense budget proposals.

            “I am gratified that the Administration has finally recognized that a permanent increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps is necessary so that we may begin to ease the strain our service members and their families are experiencing and the strain on overall military readiness due to the pace of current operations.  Increasing the size of the force is long overdue, and it is the right thing to do. 

            “However, I remain very concerned about the Administration’s plan to send 21,500 combat troops to Baghdad.  First, the odds are slim that this change in tactic will improve the security situation in Iraq.  Second, even though troops are already being sent to Baghdad to implement the President’s strategy, I am not convinced that the Administration has a plan in place to provide the number of support troops required to give our combat troops a chance to succeed. 

“Officials recently have said that support for additional troops will come from support personnel already in theater.  Today, General Pace testified that the number of additional support troops may be in the 2,000 to 3,000 range.  This may be sufficient if the surge is short, but I am concerned that the Pentagon’s assumptions call for far fewer support troops than accepted formulas would suggest and may not be realistic. 

            “We are engaged in two wars and face many other potential challenges around the globe, but I am still not sure we have a winning strategy for Iraq.  By placing so many of our resources in Iraq, I fear we are eating our seed corn.  It must be understood that the strategic risk we are accepting may limit our ability to respond effectively to other events that demand attention,” said Skelton.