Senate Democrats

Overstretched and Under Strain: Bush Administration Mismanagement of Our Military Leaves Us Less Capable of Responding to Threats at Home and Around the World

The Bush Administration’s flawed Iraq policies, including its failure to send in enough troops to secure the peace, its failure to advance a comprehensive strategy for victory, and its failure to anticipate and plan for a protracted conflict, along with its inadequate funding of our military – have dangerously overstretched our armed forces.  The Administration’s record of mismanagement has resulted in critical equipment and training shortfalls; forced repeated deployments and extended deployments for U.S. forces; led to recruiting and retention challenges; and left our country without a strategic reserve.  Today, many Army units are on their third or even fourth tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, while non-deployed units face significant shortfalls in readiness.  Military leaders warn that the current pace of operations and reduced readiness of U.S. military forces is limiting our ability to respond to threats to our security and crises that may emerge both at home and around the world.

U.S. military forces are being pushed to a breaking point

The Army is being stretched to its limit: all “combat ready” active-duty and reserve combat units are now deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.  Currently, 21 of the Army’S.39 available active-duty combat brigades are deployed, while the rest are actively preparing for deployment. Colonel Charles Hardy of the Army Forces Command recently reported that his forces “are fully committed right now;” and that there is no fully-trained brigade prepared to deploy to the combat zone. (New York Times, 3/20/07)

  • The pace of operations is requiring repeated deployments for U.S. forces, including two Army brigades that are on their fourth deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.  According to a report prepared by the Center for American Progress, of the Army’S.44 combat brigades, all but the one permanently based in South Korea have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.  Of those 43 brigades:

–       12 have been deployed once;

–       20 have been deployed twice;

–       9 have been deployed three times; and

–       2 have been deployed four times: the 10th Mountain Division, 2nd Brigade (including components to Afghanistan) and the 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Brigade (six deployments including components to Afghanistan)

 (“Beyond the Call of Duty, A Comprehensive Review of the Overuse of the Army in the Administration’s War of Choice in Iraq,” Center for American Progress, 3/6/07)

  • Eighty-eight percent of non-deployed Army National Guard units are rated as not ready.  General Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, testified earlier this year that the readiness of National Guard forces is at a historic low.  In testimony before the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, General Blum stated that, “88 percent of the forces that are back here in the United States are very poorly equipped today in the Army National Guard.  And in the Air National Guard, for the last three decades, they have never had a unit below C2 in equipment readiness.”  Further, he testified, “Those units are needed here at home, and they’re leveraged every day.” (General Steven Blum, testimony before the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, 1/31/07)

Military leaders have been forced to compress training time to meet the pace of deployment. Army officers have told reporters that the current tempo of operations has forced them to abandon specialized courses and practice exercises on firing ranges for shortened classes and training on weapons simulators.  They also report that equipment shortages at home have left many troops unable to train on the same equipment that they are using in Iraq.  As a result, some fear that troops are being sent into battle unfamiliar with critical equipment and that their performance on the field will be compromised.  The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division faced such a short time between deployments that it was forced to fit a year-long training regimen into four months.  Troops were left to train on outdated equipment and some only had a few days to learn how to use their new rifles before they were deployed. (New York Times, 3/20/07; San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4/07)

U.S. military forces face equipment shortfalls: poor planning, high combat losses, and excessive rates of equipment use are leaving troops without key equipment they need on the battlefield and at home.  According to experts,the Bush Administration’s failure to anticipate a protracted war in Iraq, along with the dramatic rise in the cost of equipment and training in recent years, has left equipment procurement rates lagging behind military needs.  Further, as military officials have testified, the nature and pace of operations is wearing out critical equipment at a pace much faster than expected.  In some cases, equipment is being used as much as nine times the intended rate. (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4/07; Washington Post, 2/16/07) 

  • The Department of Defense Inspector General has concluded that U.S. troops are being sent into combat without necessary equipment.  According to an unclassified summary of a recent Department of Defense Inspector General Report, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan lack key equipment, including up-armored vehicles, communications equipment, electronic jammers used to detonate roadside bombs, and heavy machine guns.  As a result, troops are at times forced to delay operations while they wait for the right equipment to become available. (DoD/IG, Equipment Status of Deployed Forces, 1/25/07)
  • The Army National Guard has just 40 percent of its equipment stock.  According to the National Guard Bureau Chief Steven Blum, the Army Guard has only 40 percent of its equipment stock, which, he says, is compromising the quality of force training and limiting the Guard’s ability to quickly respond to domestic disasters.  Even if the Army fulfills its pledge to provide $21 billion to upgrade Guard equipment, General Blum says that equipment accounts will still be short by $41 billion. (Congress Daily, 3/28/07) 
  • Improved humvees capable of protecting U.S. troops against roadside bombs will not reach Iraq until the end of this year.  Today, our troops continue to wait for newer humvees that can better-protect against roadside bombs which, are currently causing about 70 percent of all U.S. casualties in Iraq.  The Marines issued their first urgent request for these new “mine-resistant, ambush-protected” vehicles, or MRAPs, fitted with V-shaped hulls to deflect the bomb blasts in May 2006.  Although the military has made these a procurement priority and is planning to purchase thousands of MRAPs to meet military demands, officials do not expect the first shipment to reach our troops in Iraq until the end of the year. (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4/07; USA Today, 3/28/07)
  • Army units heading to Iraq are short up-armored trucks.  Lt. General Stephen Speakes, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Force Development told reporters earlier this year that there is an equipment shortfall – of up-armored trucks, in particular – for units coming into Iraq.  He stated that “we don’t have the [armor kits], and we don’t have the trucks,” forcing troops to “share trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance.”  General Speakes anticipated that it would be months – likely not before this summer – until the Army can supply and outfit new trucks. (Washington Post, 1/30/07)
  • The Air Force is short of unmanned aircraft needed to provide battlefield surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to reports from military officials and experts, the Air Force has lost about 40 percent of its Predator unmanned aircraft and also is short of trained crews necessary to meet the demands for battlefield surveillance.  Experts say that Predator surveillance has been critical to the U.S. mission in Iraq, serving to identify insurgents who are planting improvised explosive devices, which are currently the biggest threat to U.S. troops in Iraq. (USA Today, 3/29/07)
  • Non-deployed troops face a shortage of equipment necessary for training.  In February, General Peter Pace testified that “about 40 percent of our equipment is either currently in combat zone or being repaired,” leaving units at home with “less than a full complement of equipment, and it means that in some cases, where we have our best vehicles, like the manufactured up-armored Humvees that are all forward-deployed, that the troops who are training to go, train in normal Humvees instead of up-armored Humvees.” (General Pace, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 2/7/07)

Bush Administration policies are expected to increase the strain on U.S. forces and exacerbate current readiness problems

The military is already struggling to meet the Bush strategy’s growing demands on our forces.  Military officials warn that the Bush Administration’s call for an additional 32,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is imposing an increasing strain on U.S. forces.  In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Schoomaker described the escalating challenge of meeting the requirements of the President’s troop surge strategy.  He stated that, “we are having to…go to some extraordinary measures to make sure that we have the ability to respond properly.”  General Speakes voiced similar concerns in a recent interview and also warned that the strain is weakening our capacity to respond to other threats.  He told reporters that, “We can fulfill the national strategy, but it will take more time and it will also take us increased casualties to do the job.” (General Schoomaker, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/15/07; Washington Post, 1/30/07)

Officials anticipate that demands on the military will continue to grow in the near future, and that the readiness of units therefore will continue to worsen.  Before Congress in February, General Schoomaker stated that, “Since the last time I testified, we knew that we were going to have five brigades that were so-called ‘surging’ into Iraq.  And, of course, we’ve worked that very carefully.  In addition to that, since that time, we now have an additional brigade going into Afghanistan.  We have an additional – some 2,500 embedded trainers – over and above what we had before.  And we now are getting requests for combat-service support components to support this surge.  …The five brigades is only the tip of the iceberg.  There’s a lot below that that we have to do.  And we’re, even today, getting additional requests for forces that continue to stress us in terms of what we have to do.” (General Schoomaker, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/15/07)

  • The current readiness crisis in National Guard and Reserve is expected to increase. Although the readiness of National Guard and Reserve is at a historic low, with nearly 90 percent of units rated as “not ready,” the Pentagon is reportedly planning to rely on these forces to help meet surge requirements.  According to military officials, National Guard combat brigades are going to be called upon increasingly in the next year to relieve active-duty troops in Iraq: officials report that the Army Guard and Reserve are anticipated to grow from 20 percent to 30 percent of the deployed force. (Washington Post, 3/19/07)
  • Extensions of tours of duty and abbreviated periods between deployments are anticipated to increase.  The Pentagon recently announced that, for the second time since the war began, the Army is planning to send large units back to Iraq without a full year at home between deployments.  The 4th Infantry Division is now scheduled to head back to Iraq after only about seven months at home and the 1st Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division will return to Iraq after ten and a half months at home.  Further, under these new deployment plans, the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii is now scheduled to stay in Iraq 46 days beyond its year-long tour in Iraq. (Associated Press, 4/2/07)

Plans to increase the end-strength U.S. forces will not alleviate the current crisis.  Although General Pace has endorsed the plan to permanently add 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine Corps, analysts say that this strategy will not provide relief to current challenges in sustaining higher troop levels in Iraq.  Experts report that it will take about five years to achieve this end-strength. (Washington Post, 3/19/07)

The reduced readiness of U.S. military forces is limiting our ability to respond to threats to our security and crises that may emerge at home and around the world

The troop surge is draining the Army’s pre-positioned stocks – critical equipment that is stored overseas for contingency operations.  While the Army is supposed to have five brigades worth of equipment overseas should there be another conflict, military and government officials report that only one of these five stocks is near complete.  According to media reports, the Army has been forced to pull from these critical reserves to accommodate the troop increase in Iraq.  As the Army Chief of Staff, General Schoomaker, recently testified, “without the pre-position stocks, we would not have been able to meet the surge requirement…It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks.  That’s part of my concern about our strategic depth.” (Washington Post, 3/19/07; General Peter Schoomaker testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 3/15/07)

Troops are not being provided with the training necessary to respond to other threats.  Military leaders have expressed concerns about shortcomings in current training programs, which they say are narrowly focused on preparing for the counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving our troops without critical skills to effectively respond to other contingencies that could arise.  In testimony earlier this year, General Richard Cody stated that “We have the best counterinsurgency in the world, but they’re not trained for full-spectrum operations.”  General Conway also raised this issue at a Senate hearing recently, stating that, “I think my largest concern, probably, has to do with training.  When we’re home for that seven, eight, nine months, our focus is going back to Iraq.  And as I mentioned in the opening statement, therefore, we’re not doing amphibious training, we’re not doing mountain-warfare training, we’re not doing combined-arm fire maneuver, such as would need to be the case, potentially, in another type of contingency.” (General Cody, Testimony before the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, 3/13/07; General Conway, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/15/07)

Bush Administration policies have left our country without a strategic reserve, raising concerns about our ability to carry out critical missions.  In February, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, reportedly sent a classified letter to Congress which raised from “moderate” to “significant” the level of risk the military is likely to face this year in carrying out its missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of conflict that could arise.  And in a more recent interview, General Pace stated that, “there is no question that we would prevail against an adversary, but we would probably not be able to do it as quickly and as efficiently as our own plans call for.” (New York Times, 3/20/07; Associated Press, 3/21/07)

Other top military officials, including Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker and General Richard Cody the Army vice chief of staff, have testified before Congress that non-deployed active-duty U.S. forces are not sufficiently equipped and that equipment shortfalls affect their ability to train and respond to new threats.

  • General Peter Schoomaker:  Since June 2006, General Schoomaker has raised concerns about the readiness of our non-deployed forces in testimony before Congress.  Last month, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he stated: “I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces.  And I would say that, you know, the level of operations that we are now committed to further aggravates that.” (Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/15/07)
  • General Richard Cody:  Last month, General Cody told Congress that “the readiness continues to decline of our next-to-deploy forces…  And those forces, by the way, are…also your strategic reserve.  And there are shortages in the light tactical vehicles, medium tactical vehicles, heavy tactical vehicles; some shortages in weapons, shortages in radios, and shortages in night vision devices that we’ve had to flow to the force forward.” (Testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, 3/13/07)

National Guard and Reserve officials testify that our forces are not sufficiently prepared to respond to a crisis that could emerge at home.  The Chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, General Arnold Punaro recently told the House Armed Services Committee that the lack of readiness of Guard brigades here at home is “unacceptable.”  He testified that, “Nobody’s paying attention to the fact that we’re unready to deal with missions here at home.”  While deploying troops have mobilization time to train and to bring in needed personnel and equipment, the general highlighted that, “That’s not the case here at home.  Homeland scenarios, it’s come as you are.  It’s be ready here now.  And the fact that we have the first three Guard brigades that went to Iraq and have been back since 2005 – two years later, they’re still C4 for equipment…the get-well figure for combat for the Guard is 2015.  The get-well for their combat support is 2020.  I don’t think that’s acceptable in – with the kind of threats we deal with here at home.” (General Punaro, Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 3/23/07)

The strain placed on troops is undermining morale and leading to recruitment and retention challenges

The Army has been forced to lower standards to meet recruitment goals.  Department of Defense records show that the number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has increased by about 65 percent in the last three years (from 4,918 in 2003 to 8,129 in 2006).  At the same time, medical waivers also have increased by 4 percent, reaching 12,313 in 2006.  Further, since December 2005, the Army has raised the maximum enlistment age of recruits from 35 to 42, in an effort to meet recruitment goals. (New York Times, 2/14/07; Reuters, 6/12/06)

Fewer veteran Reserve officers are volunteering to remain enlisted and risk mobilization.  According to an Army survey of 10,000 officers in its Individual Ready Reserve who have fulfilled their obligated term of service, only about one-fifth (2,123) expressed willingness to remain in the Army and risk being deployed overseas.  Nearly half of the officers did not respond to Army letters requesting firm commitments on their willingness to remain in service, and of the 4,500 officers who did respond, more than half opted to quit or retire from the Army.  Since 9/11 approximately 11,000 of the Ready Reserve’s force of 87,000 have been called to active duty.  More than 200 enlisted soldiers have reportedly refused orders to serve. (USA Today, 3/19/07)

Army desertion rates are on the rise.  According to Army statistics desertion rates among its active-duty forces rose by eight percent in Fiscal Year 2005 and then rose by 27 percent in Fiscal Year 2006. (New York Times, 3/23/07)

Growing health care costs are anticipated to drain the military’s future readiness.  The Pentagon recently raised concerns that its escalating health care costs are threatening to undermine the military’s readiness in coming years.  Rising medical costs and an aging population has driven up the annual cost of military healthcare from $19 billion in 2001 to $39 billion today, and Pentagon officials estimate that costs will reach $64 billion by 2015.  According to Dr. William Winkenwerder, the Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs, “Without relief, spending for healthcare will…divert critical funds needed for war fighters, their readiness, and for critical equipment.” (Boston Globe, 3/5/07)

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