- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, military experts last week delivered devastating accounts of the readiness crisis afflicting the Army and the Marine Corps.

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey decried “the disastrous state of America’s ground combat forces.” Referring to America’s “terrible strategic position of vulnerability,” he warned that “the Army is starting to crack under the strain of lack of resources, lack of political support and leadership from both the administration and this Congress and isolation from the American people.” Retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr. charged that “the Pentagon has grossly underestimated the number of ground forces needed to fight this long war.” The condition of ground forces is so troubling that “two-thirds of our regular brigades and virtually all of our reserve brigades are not combat ready,” he also said, “The Army’s Cold War reserves of fighting equipment are nearly gone.”

Retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the committee that “both the Army and the Marine Corps are now stretched to the limit.” While assuring the committee that troops “continue to operate effectively,” he warned, “If current trends continue, we run the risk of crossing a ‘red line’ that will find our ground forces in a severely ‘hollow’ state.” He also confirmed that “the Army is forced to play a shell game with its equipment to ensure its forces in the field and those about to deploy are properly equipped.”

Former Defense Department official Lawrence Korb testified that, of the Army’s 44 combat brigades, 12 brigades have had one tour of Iraq or Afghanistan, 20 have had two tours, nine brigades have had three tours and two brigades have had four tours. He said that because combat forces leave their equipment in Iraq, the units that return home are “often so depleted that the Marines have been referring to this phase as the ‘post-deployment death spiral.’ ”

“No one is actually at war except the armed forces, their contractors and the CIA,” Gen. McCaffrey told the senators. “There is only rhetoric and posturing from the rest of our government and the national legislature. Where is the shared sacrifice of 300 million Americans in the wealthiest nation in history?” he asked. “Where is the mobilization of America’s massive industrial capacity to fix the disastrous state of our ground combat military equipment?” These are excellent questions. The readiness crisis of America’s ground combat forces will not even begin to be adequately addressed until these questions are properly answered.

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