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Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie Joint Readiness and Air & Land Forces Subcommittees Hearing on H.Res. 834: Ground Force Readiness

April 16, 2008

"The Readiness and Air and Land Forces Subcommittees meet today to receive testimony on H.Res. 834, a resolution regarding the significant readiness decline of the ground forces and the implications for national security.

"The panel includes Michele Flournoy, President of the Center for a New American Security; Mr. Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; and Mr. Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

"The Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, has described the Army as 'out of balance.' Balance being defined as having a combat ready force able to meet current and future requirements across a full spectrum of operations.

"The Army and the Marine Corps determine their own standards for whether or not a unit is combat ready, and their standards are objective measures of equipment and personnel available and the amount of training satisfactorily completed.

"This committee regularly receives updates on the readiness levels of the Army and Marine Corps, measured against these standards.

"Compared to these objective standards, the situation today should alarm members of this committee: nearly all non-deployed active-duty units do not meet Army or Marine Corps combat readiness standards, and the readiness of non-deployed Army National Guard and Army Reserve is even worse.

"That is the motivation behind the findings in the resolution and the resolved clause.

"The first step in fixing this readiness crisis is recognizing that it exists.

"While it is reasonable to disagree about the degree of risk to the nation caused by the current readiness state of the Army and Marine Corps, the fact that there is a crisis - based on the Army and Marines own standards - should be beyond question based on the regular briefings this committee receives.

"Congress must inject oversight to restore the balance of the ground services.

"Senior Army leaders as well as the Secretary of Defense recognize the Army's inability to execute a full range of combat missions.

"Marines are being drawn away from their traditional competencies, such as amphibious operations, and becoming another heavy infantry land-based asset.

"While the Army has announced an intention to reduce its 15-month deployments to 12-months, this does not increase the dwell (or at-home) time in between soldiers or the overall endstrength of the forces. This means our troops will simply deploy more frequently.

"The Marine Corps is deploying on a one for one basis - seven months in combat followed by seven months at home, leaving little time for training on missions other than those being performed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Army currently has 22 active and reserve brigades deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 186,000 troops on the ground.

"20 to 30 percent of Marine Corps ground equipment and 20 percent of its tactical aviation are currently deployed in theater. Usage rates are as high as seven times greater than peacetime rates.

"General Casey, Army Chief of Staff, has said 'we are consuming readiness as fast as we can build it.'

"Both services are consuming their pre-positioned stocks in order to outfit deployed units with enough equipment. The Army plans to replenish these stocks are long-term and accepts a certain amount of risk regarding future international response capability.

"Readiness of the Army National Guard is also suffering. While they have traditionally been equipped and manned at a lower level than the active force, they have become an operational reserve that must be capable of conducting operations at the same level and skill as the active duty force.

"The Administration is accepting a serious risk by limiting the Guard's ability to respond to a national emergency at home or abroad due to a lack of available personnel and equipment.

"Some have argued that there is not a readiness crisis because our troops are now combat veterans, as if experience alone can make up for a lack of equipment or time to train as a unit.

"Without the right type and amounts of equipment, even the most dedicated and experienced soldier cannot train for combat, or help when there is a domestic emergency.

"Pointing out that troops don't have what they need is not an attack on the troops' motivation, but instead is a realistic assessment of their level of readiness.

"Another issue raised in response to readiness concerns is a mythical $56 billion dollar 'hole' in the Army's budget back in 2001, as if that fact alone is responsible for today's readiness crisis.

"However, if such a 'hole' ever existed, this committee never heard that from the Army Chief of Staff at the time, General Shinseki. If it had, Chairman Hunter and Congressman Weldon would have acted quickly to fix the problem.

"More important, the key issue is not casting blame on back in 2001, but instead to focus on what the readiness status of the Army and Marine Corps is today and what we do about it now, not who gets the blame.

"Addressing that issue is the purpose of House Resolution 834 and this hearing."

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