Senate Democrats

DEMOCRATIC DEFENSE EXPERTS CHARGE ADMINISTRATION WITH DEGRADING ARMY READINESS TO LEVELS NOT SEEN SINCE VIETNAM ERA

Not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States is ready to deploy to war, Experts say

Washington, DC–Democratic Senators Jack Reed and Christopher Dodd today joined to release a troubling letter from the National Security Advisory Group, a group of defense and national security experts chaired by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, sounding the alarm over failed Bush Administration policies that have strained the Army and Marine Corps’ budgets. The Defense experts sent the letter to the Democratic Leaders of the House and Senate, charging the Bush Administration with underfunding the Army and “a serious failure of civilian stewardship of the military.”

The Group stated that two-thirds of the Army’s operating force, active and reserve, is now reporting in as unready, and that there is not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States that is ready to deploy.  The Group said “the bottom line is that our Army currently has no ready, strategic reserve.  Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army’s readiness been so degraded.”

The experts said “the administration’s willingness to put our nation at such strategic risk is deeply disturbing” and recommended that Congress exercise its oversight responsibilities more effectively and increase funding to restore the Army’s readiness to the necessary levels, beginning with amendment to the fiscal year 2007 defense appropriations bill soon to be debated on the floor of the Senate.

Speaking of these disturbing revelations, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said: “President Bush ran for president by criticizing the state of Army readiness, promising that ‘help is on the way’.  Six years later, the Bush Administration has created a readiness crisis far worse than anything we have seen since the Vietnam era.  The Bush Administration’s leadership is failing our men and women of the military, and it is time for a new direction.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said: "Under President Bush and the Republican Congress a large part of our Army could not respond to a crisis.  Five years after the 9/11 attacks and with threats to our security evident around the world, this failure to maintain military readiness is unacceptable and dangerous."

Releasing the letter today, Senator Jack Reed said “The men and women so bravely serving our nation should not have to worry about whether they have adequate equipment and resources to do their job. The Administration must provide necessary funding to the Army and the Marine Corps to reset and recapitalize their equipment before the readiness of these forces are decisively compromised. And, they must do this without the budgetary gimmicks that they have consistently employed to avoid the hard choices of funding our soldiers and continuing to support our domestic needs.”

The National Security Advisory Group provides analysis and recommendations on long-term defense and national security issues to the House and Senate Democratic Leaders.  Today’s letter is an update to their last report, “The U.S. Military: Under Strain and at Risk” released in January 2006, available here

The group’s members are:

William J. Perry, Chair (former Secretary of Defense)

Madeleine K. Albright (former Secretary of State)

Graham T. Allison (former Assistant Secretary of Defense)

Samuel R. Berger (former National Security Advisor)

Ashton B. Carter (former Assistant Secretary of Defense)

Wesley K. Clark (former Supreme Allied Commander Europe)

Thomas E. Donilon (former Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State)

Michele A. Flournoy (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense)

John D. Podesta (former White House Chief of Staff)

Susan E. Rice (former Assistant Secretary of State)

John M. Shalikashvili (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Wendy R. Sherman (former State Department Counselor)

Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense)

James B. Steinberg (former Deputy National Security Advisor)

The text of the letter is below.

August 1, 2006

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Democratic Leader

United States House of Representatives

The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Harry Reid

Democratic Leader

United States Senate

The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Leader Pelosi and Leader Reid:

We are writing to express our deep concern about the U.S. Army’s current state of readiness and to urge you to take immediate action to address this urgent problem.  We have recently learned that:

  • Two thirds of the Army’s operating force, active and reserve, is now reporting in as unready.
  • There is not a single non-deployed Army Brigade Combat Team in the United States that is ready to deploy. 

The bottom line is that our Army currently has no ready, strategic reserve.  Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army’s readiness been so degraded.

This is particularly dangerous at a time when the United States is engaged in a global effort to counter terrorism and is facing numerous crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and North Korea.  The lack of a ready strategic reserve in our Army weakens our ability to deter undesired actions by these nations, as well as our ability to respond effectively to such actions.

This degraded readiness condition stems from the heavy deployment of combat forces the Army has sustained these past four years.  Predictably, this has resulted in accelerated wearout of large quantities of Army equipment, disruptions in training schedules, and strains on meeting recruitment and reenlistment goals. We called attention to this looming problem in an earlier report, “The US Military: Under Strain and at Risk,” January 2006, but that report was met with indifference and denial by the administration.  This problem can no longer be denied.

Restoring the Army’s readiness requires additional funding, but, inexplicably, the administration is underfunding the Army.  It has not requested funding adequate to support the roles and missions envisioned for the Army by the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, nor has it provided adequate funding to support the operational demands being placed on the Army today.  Remarkably, the Office of Management and Budget recently cut the Army’s request for FY06 supplemental appropriations by $4.9 Billion, undermining the Army’s efforts to “get well” after substantial equipment degradation and losses in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.  We believe this constitutes a serious failure of civilian stewardship of the military.

The administration’s willingness to put our nation at such strategic risk is deeply disturbing.  And its failure to adequately support the soldiers who are risking their lives for this nation is unacceptable.  The readiness degradation that has already occurred could lead to a downward spiral that will take years to correct unless promptly addressed.  Under these conditions, it is important for the Congress to step forward to exercise its oversight responsibilities for equipping and training the Armed Services.

Therefore, we call on you to take all necessary steps to address this situation on an urgent basis, including increasing funding to restore the Army’s readiness to the levels needed to safeguard this nation’s interests at home and abroad.  The most immediate opportunity is the FY07 defense appropriations bill that will soon come to the floor of the Senate. We urge you to offer an amendment to increase funding to address the Army’s readiness shortfalls. We also suggest that the Armed Services Committees hold hearings to determine the full depth of the readiness problems already manifested in the Army and possibly looming for the Marines. 

Sincerely,

William J. Perry

Chair, National Security Advisory Group

Madeleine K. Albright     Graham T. Allison     Samuel R. Berger    Ashton B. Carter

Wesley K. Clark    Thomas E. Donilon    Michèle A. Flournoy    John D. Podesta

Susan E. Rice    John M. Shalikashvili    Wendy R. Sherman

Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall    James B. Steinberg

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