- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

The decline in combat readiness in U.S. military forces has increased the danger that fighting two major wars could result in greater casualties and lost territory, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Gen. Henry H. Shelton stated in testimony prepared for delivery before the Senate Armed Services Committee today that front-line forces remain capable of carrying out the national strategy of fighting two major regional wars at nearly the same time.
"But as I have consistently testified, the risk associated with the most demanding scenario has increased over the past several years," Gen. Shelton stated.
Specifically, the risks of fighting one major war are viewed as "moderate" while the dangers associated with an additional conflict are viewed as "high," the general said.
The four-star general said the military needs more money to fix the problems and the exact amount will be set after the four-year defense posture review is completed next year.
U.S. forces still would prevail in the two-war scenario but "it would take us longer to respond to hostilities" and "this can mean territory lost and the potential for a longer fight with increased casualties," he said.
A copy of Gen. Shelton's testimony was obtained by The Washington Times. The testimony echoed his testimony before Congress last year and a recent Pentagon report on military preparedness problems.
The combat preparedness problems reported by the services and joint war-fighting commands include shortfalls in "manning, training, and equipment readiness for several years …," Gen. Shelton said.
Most of the problems are with forces used as reinforcements or support functions. Still, "some forward deployed" and "first-to-fight" forces though ready also have experienced some of these difficulties, Gen. Shelton said.
Past funding increases and efforts by the services to arrest the decline are starting to work and the situation is improving "in most cases," he said.
Aside from the problems with the military services, the war-fighting commands have reported deficiencies and shortfalls with command and control, intelligence and reconnaissance, transportation, defenses against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and information operations, Gen. Shelton said.
Other key problems are "stresses on the force from ongoing contingency operations; and the ability to disengage quickly from ongoing operations to meet timelines for a two [major-theater-war scenario]," he said.
The testimony supports charges by Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and vice-presidential candidate Richard B. Cheney that U.S. forces are in decline.
Gen. Shelton stated that the ability of the U.S. military to sustain material and equipment over the long term is "slipping" because of increased operations, such as peacekeeping in the Balkans and the enforcement of air exclusion zones over Iraq.
He stated that "we will need additional funding from the administration and Congress" to fix the readiness problem and modernize the force "so that when we place our men and women in uniform in harm's way they continue to have substantial technological advantages."
Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's top officer, also will tell the committee today that the Army plans to revise its standards used to measure combat readiness. The plans were drawn up after two U.S. Army divisions were declared unprepared for combat in November because of extended peacekeeping in the Balkans.
Meanwhile, defense officials said the service chiefs are preparing to ask Congress to add up to 50,000 more troops to the armed forces, which now number about 1.4 million people.
The officials stated that the Army wants to add up to 40,000 soldiers and the Air Force would like 10,000 more airmen. The Marine Corps also is seeking a boost in the number of Marines. The Navy will keep its number of sailors at 375,000.

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