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Democrats Warn US Army Readiness At Post-Vietnam Low

20 to 30 percent of the army's equipment is either not in service, in transit or in maintenance, and that maintenance depots have huge backlogs because of funding shortfalls.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sep 13, 2006
The US Army's combat readiness has fallen to levels not seen since the Vietnam War, undercutting its ability to sustain deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan or to respond to conflicts elsewhere, opposition Democrats warned in a report Wednesday.

The report attributed the slide to critical shortfalls in equipment, which have made it more difficult for units back home to train with the tanks, armored vehicles and other weapons it will fight with.

"Army military readiness rates have declined to levels not seen since the end of the Vietnam War," said the report.

Representative John Murtha, who released the report at a press conference here, said he will present a resolution calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "not only for his past mistakes but for the future of the military."

About half of all army units received the lowest readiness rating that any fully formed unit can receive, according to the report.

Although units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are at peak readiness, non-deployed units "are critically short of equipment and personnel, causing the vast majority of them to be rated at the lowest readiness levels," it said.

Roughly half of the army's 39 combat brigades are committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, while the others are refitting and re-training for future deployments, it said.

But the report said that 20 to 30 percent of the army's equipment is either not in service, in transit or in maintenance, and that maintenance depots have huge backlogs because of funding shortfalls.

As a result, non-deployed units are having trouble conducting the larger, more complex exercises needed to prepare for combat, it said.

"Of particular concern is the readiness rates of the units scheduled to deploy later this year, particularly the 1st Cavalry Division," the report said.

"This division and its four brigades will deploy to Iraq in October at the lowest level of readiness because of equipment shortfalls," it said.

"To meet its needs, this unit -- like virtually all other units that have recently deployed or will soon deploy to Iraq -- must fall-in on equipment in theater," it said.

"Operating unfamiliar, battle weary equipment increases the potential for casualties and accidents."

Army national guard and reserve units were in a worse state than the active duty units, the report said, with four-fifths of them at the lowest readiness levels because of personnel shortfalls. The guard and reserve play key roles in combat support and combat service units.

The report also said that the low readiness levels of non-deployed units means the army has no combat-ready reserves to fall back on if it needs to respond to a crisis elsewhere in the world.

"These are the units that would be called on to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or elsewhere," the report said. "The degradation of army readiness here at home has effectively eliminated the United States ground force strategic reserve."

The army's goal is to have its active duty forces on a three-year rotation cycle with two brigades at home re-equipping and training for every brigade that is deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But the report said in practice that goal is "little more than a figment of the army's imagination."

"In fact it's quite likely that army combat units preparing for the next rotation (07-09) will be 'short-cycled'; that is, units will be forced to return to battle with less than one year's time to recuperate, reset, and train," the report said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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