- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

With each passing day, the readiness crisis of America’s armed forces worsens as the emerging threats seem to multiply. On this crucial issue, there is bipartisan agreement in the Congress.

At last week’s hearing of the readiness panel of the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee chairman Solomon Ortiz, a moderate Texas Democrat, laid it on the line. “I have seen the classified Army-readiness reports, and based on those reports,” Mr. Ortiz declared, “I believe that we as a nation are at risk of major failure” if the Army is “called to deploy to an emerging threat.” Liberal Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who also serves on Armed Services, told The Washington Post, “We are at a crisis point across the board.”

In a secret analysis sent to Congress last month, according to a recent report by the New York Times, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the military now faces a “significant” (upgraded from “moderate”) risk of failing in carrying out its tasks in Iraq, Afghanistan and emerging threats elsewhere. “As you look around the globe, it’s hard to see where, in the near term, our commitments will diminish,” Gen. Pace told the full House Armed Services Committee in early February. “You can start anyplace, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Venezuela, Colombia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, North Korea, back around to Pakistan — and I probably missed a few — there’s no dearth of challenges out there for our armed forces.” But there clearly is a dearth of equipment for the nation’s war fighters.

Unfortunately, as America’s armed forces begin their fifth year in Iraq and significantly increase their presence in Afghanistan as the sixth anniversary of operations in that country approaches, our military readiness strains intensify. “It’s not an issue of affordability,” Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told the military-readiness subcommittee. “This is the richest country in the world with a $13 trillion economy. It is really an issue of national priority.”

At the same hearing, Marine Gen. Richard Magnus told Congress about $3.8 billion in “unfinanced requirements” involving 6,200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which, he said, “have proven on the roadways of Iraq to be up to 400 percent more effective than the up-armored Humvees in reducing injuries and deaths.” The Marines were seeking 3,700 MRAPs by the end of fiscal 2008 and the Army had ordered 2,500. “But the truth is,” Gen. Magnus told a stunned committee, “we are $3.8 billion unfunded for that.” Moments earlier, Gen. Cody shocked Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor, telling him, “[The Army] put the requirement [for 2,500 MRAPs] into the ‘07 budget, the main sup[plemental], and it did not stick.”

It did not stick? Military readiness is an imperative and, as Gen. Cody said, “an issue of national priority.”

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