- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

The four-star general who oversees Army training has sent a candid assessment to the Pentagon of how personnel and equipment shortfalls are hampering the development of hundreds of thousands of soldiers each year.
Gen. John N. Abrams, chief of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), says helicopter pilots lack adequate flight hours, training centers lack sufficient staff, and facilities are plagued by leaky pipes. He said that more than a quarter of power, water and sewage systems are in "failed or failing condition."
"Training modernization is broken across the force and will not keep pace with force modernization," the general wrote in a memo to Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff. "The problem gets progressively worse over the [next five years]."
The memo was drafted this summer after school commanders reported their individual readiness problems to TRADOC. The Washington Times recently obtained a draft copy. A TRADOC spokesman declined to comment except to say the memo was eventually sent to the Pentagon.
Located at Fort Monroe, Va., TRADOC is a major Army command. It oversees training and education in such critical fields as basic recruit training, infantry, artillery, intelligence collection, communications and aviation. The command's 67,000 staff members annually train about 350,000 military personnel and civilians on a $3.2 billion budget.
Gen. Abrams summed up his message with this statement:
"Although the command is achieving its primary mission, it is important to note that this is made possible at the expense of our other core mission areas. Of significance is the fact that we do not have the dollars or manpower to determine and develop functional user mission requirements… . Unless funding increases across the board, TRADOC will fall further behind in these key development areas which underpin the future Army."
Army officials say TRADOC's woes stem in part from money being shifted from statewide training to operational combat units. TRADOC is not alone in complaining of readiness cutbacks. Active Army divisions, principally those stateside, complain of missing personnel and a lack of spare parts.
Harvey Perritt, a TRADOC spokesman, declined to discuss the memo's specifics. But he said the command is short 26 percent of its assigned personnel strength.
"General Shinseki got the report," said Lt. Col. Lew Boone, the general's spokesman. "Our policy is we don't talk about the in-house stuff."
Gen. Abrams, a Vietnam combat veteran and a former infantry division commander, painted a particularly dire picture of the state of buildings and sanitary systems throughout TRADOC.
"Erosion of mission support resources impairs our ability to develop highly trained soldiers and officers," he wrote. "We are barely meeting our basic short-term needs. Approximately 72 percent of our base utilities (power, water and sewage) require repair with 28 percent of these systems in failed or failing condition."
The general said that without $875 million in added money, "there is simply no way to fund both the required training load as well as full infrastructure maintenance and repair within the current resourcing available."
He wrote of one instructional facility at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that is so dilapidated it needs to be torn down and replaced. The current building "is failing with exterior curtain walls rusted through, water pipes flooding five or six times a year and weekly electrical brownouts," the memo said.
On personnel shortages, Gen. Abrams said the gap has forced TRADOC to put relatively inexperienced captains in the "vast majority" of instructor and doctrine development billets. To make matters worse, there are not sufficient captains.
"This critical manpower shortage in our 'workhorse' grade very seriously impacts our ability to conduct quality training and severely limits our capability to do doctrine, training and combat development work for the Army," his memo stated. "Personnel availability is unsatisfactory."
The memo said the aviation training center at Fort Rucker, Ala., is suffering through a shortage of available helicopters because of groundings over safety concerns.
It said, "The Aviation Center … has had a continuous problem with safety of flight restrictions, which has resulted in a degradation of aviation training… . These [restrictions] are making it extremely challenging to complete the fiscal year 2000 training load. Failing to meet the training load will impact aviation readiness Armywide."
President-elect George W. Bush pledged during the campaign to make fixing such readiness shortfalls a major priority of his presidency. He scheduled a military summit today at his Texas ranch, inviting senior members of Congress involved in making defense policy and appropriating the Pentagon's $309 billion budget.
The Washington Times reported in August that TRADOC was suffering staff and equipment shortages that hinder critical training. The Times quoted readiness reports sent to Gen. Abrams by commanders of various schools and training centers. The sensitive Army reports show that of 20 schools for such critically important skills as field artillery, infantry and aviation, 12 dipped to a C-4 readiness rating, the military's lowest.
Some of the lowest-ranked training sites include the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker; the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; and the Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Okla.


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