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Military Is Ill-Prepared For Other Conflicts

Military officials say training is limited to counterinsurgency skills, such as those needed in Baghdad, above, at the expense of training for other missions.
Military officials say training is limited to counterinsurgency skills, such as those needed in Baghdad, above, at the expense of training for other missions. (By Khalid Mohammed -- Associated Press)

"Without the pre-positioned stocks, we would not have been able to meet the surge requirement," Schoomaker said. "It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks. That's part of my concern about our strategic depth."

"The status of our Army prepositioned stock . . . is bothersome," Cody said last week.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers who received classified briefings last week on the stocks and overall Army readiness voiced alarm. "I'm deeply concerned," said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who last week asked the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office to investigate the stocks "as a matter of vital importance to national defense."

Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Texas), chairman of the committee's readiness panel, said: "I have seen the classified-only readiness reports. And based on those reports, I believe that we as a nation are at risk of major failure, should our Army be called to deploy to an emerging threat."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who attended the briefing, said, "We are at a crisis point across the board." And Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), said, "This nation has got to replenish and fix what is soon going to be broken."

Equipment is also lacking among Army units in the United States, the vast majority of which are rated "not ready" by the Army, based on measures of available gear, training and personnel, according to senior military officers and government officials. Active-duty Army combat brigades in the United States face shortages of heavy, medium and light tactical vehicles such as Humvees; radios; night-vision goggles; and some weapons, Cody said.

The shortages have deepened as scarce equipment and personnel are funneled to those units next in line to deploy overseas, creating ever bigger holes in the units that will leave later. "It's like a hurricane drawing everything into the center of the eye," said a senior Army officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

"For the National Guard, those shortages are even more," Cody said. Army National Guard figures show that 88 percent of its units are "not ready." Yet National Guard combat brigades -- four of which have been notified already -- will be increasingly called upon next year to relieve the active-duty troops in Iraq, with the Army Guard and Reserve expected to grow from 20 percent of the force to 30 percent, officials said.

And unlike before the Iraq war, the Army does not currently have a brigade ready to deploy within hours to an overseas hot spot, officials say.

The increasingly rapid tempo of rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan is also constraining the length and focus of training as active-duty Army combat brigades and Marine combat battalions spend at least as much time in the war zone as at home. As a result, all the training is geared toward counterinsurgencies, while skills important for other major combat operations atrophy.

The Marine Corps is not training for amphibious, mountain or jungle warfare, nor conducting large-scale live-fire maneuvers, Conway said. "We've got a little bit of a blindside there," he said. The Marine Corps and Army both lack sufficient manpower to give troops a break from the combat zone long enough to complete their full spectrum of training, senior officials said.

"We're only able to train them . . . for counterinsurgency operations," Cody told the House panel last week. "They're not trained to full-spectrum operations."

Under current Army and Marine Corps plans, it will take two to three years after the Iraq war ends and about $17 billion a year to restore their equipment levels. It will take five years and at least $75 billion for the Army to increase its active-duty ranks to 547,000 soldiers, up from the current 509,000, and for the Marine Corps to increase its numbers to 202,000, up from 180,000.

"Boots on the ground matter," the senior Army officer said. "If they are tied down, your ability to terminate a conflict on your terms, earlier, may not be there."

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