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Military Running On Empty

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    Posted: 14 September 2006 at 9:36am

Military Running On Empty

Over the last several weeks, President Bush and his allies have launched a new offensive against political dissent. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wondered aloud if critics of the President's national security policy are "more interested in the rights of terrorists than protecting the American people." (White House Press Secretary Tony Snow defended Boehner, telling CNN he was "asking tough questions.")

Earlier, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of his policies to people “in the decades before World War II” who believed Hitler “could be appeased” and “argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated -- or that it was someone else’s problem.” (A poll yesterday found that more than 60 percent of Americans think this kind of comparison is inappropriate.)

The rhetorical fireworks are intended to obscure severe problems in our national security posture, in particular military readiness. But attacking political opponents is far easier than addressing the fact that "strategic miscalculations and gross mismanagement of resources have pushed the all-volunteer force perilously close to its breaking point."

Army is running on empty

In today's Washington Post, American Progress's Lawrence Korb and Peter Ogden note, "In July an official report revealed that two-thirds of the active U.S. Army was classified as 'not ready for combat.' When one combines this news with the fact that roughly one-third of the active Army is deployed (and thus presumably ready for combat), the math is simple but the answer alarming: The active Army has close to zero combat-ready brigades in reserve." /13/AR2006091301575.html Worse, "one-half of all Army units (deployed and non-deployed, active and reserves) received the lowest readiness rating any fully formed unit can receive." The readiness problem reflects the fact that every "available active-duty combat brigade has served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many have served two or three." According to a report released yesterday by Reps. Dave Obey (D-WI) and John Murtha (D-PA), "The U.S. Army’s preparedness for war has eroded to levels not witnessed by our country in decades."

Equipment shortfall

The Army is facing a "$50 billion equipment shortfall." Obey and Murtha report, "Thousands of key Army weapons platforms -- such as tanks, Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles -- sitting in disuse at Army maintenance depots for lack of funding. “This is having a snowball effect on its readiness issues because the Army is "compensating" for its shortfall by "shipping to Iraq some of the equipment that it needs to train nondeployed and reserve units."

Funding shortfall

According to a letter signed by military experts last month, "Restoring the Army’s readiness requires additional funding, but, inexplicably, the administration is underfunding the Army." ssReleaseID=1729 Specifically, "the Office of Management and Budget recently cut the Army’s request for FY06 supplemental appropriations by $4.9 Billion." In July, "General Schoomaker, the Army's Chief of Staff, testified before Congress that the Army needs an additional $17 billion in fiscal year 2007 to repair and replace equipment used for war." Obey and Murtha have requested President Bush "prepare for submission to Congress an emergency funding request to cover the Army readiness and equipment maintenance shortfalls." He has yet to do so.

Bolton Running

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with the U.N. Security Council to warn of the intense new wave of genocidal violence that may unfold in two weeks when African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces are scheduled to pull out of Darfur. "In an attempt to raise individual council members to action, Annan delivered a stirring speech," The American Prospect's Marc Leon Goldberg writes. "Using unusually blunt language, Annan called on 'additional voices' (read: key member states like China, Russia, and the United States) to do their utmost to press Sudan to consent to a UN peacekeeping operation for Darfur."

Unfortunately, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton wasn't around to respond to Annan's remarks. Goldberg reports that Bolton "skipped out of the briefing immediately following Annan’s speech" and left only a mid-level "minister counselor" to represent the United States for the duration of the Security Council meeting, despite the fact that permanent representatives from other countries (including from our closest ally, the UK) stayed.

"So why was Bolton in such a hurry? He had an important UN-trashing fete to attend to across town at the Hudson Institute," where conservative pollster Frank Luntz unveiled a new survey showing that politicians "could profit from making the United Nations a 'wedge issue' in upcoming elections. And to make sure that the UN press corps got this message, the United States mission invited Luntz to the UN building and organized a press briefing for him there."

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