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Monday, 31 July 2006 08:20

Yet Another Way Iraq Has Made Us Less Safe: Billions More Needed to Restore Army Readiness and Equipment

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Last week, leading Democrats began to address a growing problem caused by Bush's war in Iraq: deterioration in the Army's equipment and readiness. General Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, testified an additional $17 billion is needed to address the situation, along with $60-70 billion more over the next five years. That is in addition to the $50 billion already approved in the current annual Defense Appropriations Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, sent a letter to President Bush urging him to submit an emergency funding request to address the problem. "It is sadly ironic that as we wage war in Iraq, our ability to wage war in other potential conflict areas around the world has been seriously undermined by a lack of attention and commitment," they said. "This may be the ultimate cost of and greatest untold story regarding our occupation of Iraq."

According to the letter, the vast majority of active duty combat units not deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan are reported to be at the lowest levels of military readiness, as are nearly all non-deployed Army Guard and Reserve units. Thousands of vehicles are in disuse for lack of maintenance funding, and bases have been forced to severely curtail operations. At Fort Hood, Texas, only units with deployment orders are issued ammunition for training.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, also decried the lack of funding and announced that he will gather information about the specific impacts the shortfalls on our soldiers and their families during the August recess. "Our current readiness rates put us at strategic risk," he said. "The administration has brought us here because of a lack of planning and a lack of funding."