- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

The Bush campaign said yesterday that new reports of poor readiness ratings at the Army's major training centers vindicates its criticism of the Clinton administration for letting readiness drop.
"This is consistent with a series of other reports and comments from those who have been in command positions and have warned that our readiness and morale are at dangerously low levels," said Dan Bartlett, spokesman for Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush. "This is a crucial aspect of ensuring our soldiers are ready for combat, and it requires our focus and attention and priority."
The Washington Times reported that 12 of 20 major training centers reported a readiness rating of C-4, the military's lowest. The flunking institutions included the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.; the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; the Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Okla.; and the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga.
An Army spokesman at the Pentagon said yesterday, "It's premature for us to discuss the situation at TRADOC [Training and Doctrine Command] at this time."
Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, has downplayed any problems, saying the military remains the world's finest.
Richard B. Cheney, Mr. Bush's vice-presidential running mate and a former secretary of defense, has become the campaign's point man on accusing the Clinton administration of shortchanging the military.
Mr. Cheney called the readiness reports "yet another indictment of the Clinton-Gore administration failure to lead on national defense. Vice President Gore, in particular, is doing a grave disservice to our men and women in uniform by ignoring a critical problem."
Internal Army reports contain statements from commanding generals who complained of old or missing equipment, shortages of instructors and insufficient personnel to write combat doctrine for operational units.
"Funding of base operations at minimal levels is steadily creating a significant future risk to our ability to accomplish our training mission," wrote Maj. Gen. John D. Thomas Jr., commander of the Army Intelligence Center. "We have a significant shortage in qualified captains, with only 42 assigned of the 104 authorized… . This level … clearly does not give us an adequate number of qualified instructors and severely degrades our ability to accomplish all other missions."
Maj. Gen. Dennis D. Cavin, commander of U.S. Army Air Defense School, Fort Bliss, Texas, wrote: "The continuing deterioration of our training facilities and classrooms impact training and is leaving an adverse impression on our young officers [and] soldiers."
Earlier this year, the commanders of two of the Army's 10 active combat divisions reported a C-4 rating, meaning the divisions could not carry out all operational duties due to lack of soldiers. The Army dispatched more troops and the division's ratings increased.
Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, has a goal of manning all 10 divisions at 100 percent. Army sources say this has resulted in some open slots at the training facilities.
The military's readiness problems generally include spare-parts shortages, lack of training hours, poor retention and aging equipment. The deterioration began in the mid-1990s after President Clinton began sending troops on a record number of peacekeeping missions and simultaneously cutting the budget.
Gen. Shinseki told Congress the Army is struggling through a "mismatch between what we are asked to do and the troops we have to do it with."
Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

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