Sunday, July 29, 2007

Duncan Hunter challenges claims of "broken Army"

This past Friday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on two bills -- one that would require the Pentagon to develop a comprehensive strategy to redeploy troops from Iraq and report back to Congress, and another that would require all active-duty troops to receive time at home equal to the time they spend deployed overseas. Currently, members of the Army complete 15 month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only receive 12 months at home before being redeployed.

Many, such as retired General William Odom, former head of the NSA under President Reagan, have criticized the long deployments. Lawrene Korb is another former Reagan official criticizing the long deployments and the war in Iraq. He served as an assistant Secretary of Defense during Reagan's first term. In the hearing he repeatedly suggested that the war in Iraq was "breaking" the military, in terms of causing low reenlistment and morale, and most importantly, an inability to respond effectively to a future threat. But as I reported for KPBS in San Diego, CA, California Republican Duncan Hunter took issue with Korb's statement that several generals, including retired General Barry McCaffrey, have used the word "broken" when speaking of the state of the military. Korb stood by his claim, quoting McCaffrey referring to the Army's ground combat capability as "shot." But Hunter didn't accept that, arguing that "ground combat capability" was not the same as "Army." But Hunter's interpretation of McCaffrey's stance seems rather implausible in light of the highly critical report McCaffrey wrote on the Iraq occupation after returning from the country in March. In the report he stated:
Stateside US Army and Marine Corps readiness ratings are starting to unravel. Ground combat equipment is shot in both the active and reserve components. Army active and reserve component recruiting has now encountered serious quality and number problems. In many cases we are forced to use US contractors to substitute for required military functions. (128,000 contractors in Iraq—includes more than 2000 armed security personnel.) Waivers in US Army recruiting standards for: moral turpitude, drug use, medical issues, criminal justice records, and non-high school graduation have gone up significantly. We now are enlisting 42 year old first term soldiers. Our promotion rates for officers and NCOs have skyrocketed to replace departing leaders. There is no longer a national or a theater US Army strategic reserve.

Whether he prefers the word "shot" or "broken," it's clear that McCaffrey believes the war in Iraq is hurting the Army, and that it is in a state of serious trouble.

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