Mideast edition, Thursday, June 21, 2007

WASHINGTON — Today’s armed services focus too much on decades-old warfighting skills and not enough on roles such as reconstruction and irregular warfare needed to handle future missions, a panel of military experts told Congress on Wednesday.

“What the military doesn’t do well is handle new non-core competencies,” said John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We’re very good at winning wars, but we’re not very good at rebuilding afterwards.”

The comments came as part the House Armed Service Committee’s new effort to re-examine the services’ roles and missions, to ensure the military is both efficient in its current efforts and prepared to meet future defense challenges.

Lawmakers said defense officials’ inability to anticipate the need for specialized equipment and training for troops in Iraq prompted the review. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said too often lower enlisted troops have petitioned for better armor or better vehicles only to be bogged down in inefficient supply systems.

Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said such an analysis has not been done by Congress since 1948, even though lawmakers have discussed such plans before.

The panel said lawmakers don’t need to re-examine basic military missions — the Navy is the unquestioned leader in the world in amphibious assault capability, and the Army has no equal in battle maneuvers, Hamre said.

But adapting to new threats and missions — areas such as cyberterrorism, border defense, combating insurgents with weapons of mass destruction — has been a “remarkably slow” process, according to Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments.

“Our efforts seem to be primarily reactive, instead of getting out in front of these problems,” he said.

The House included language in its 2008 defense budget bills requiring the services to conduct a quadrennial roles and missions review, similar to the department’s already-required four-year total-force review but with more of a focus on future planning.

However, Skelton said so far he has not received support for the idea from members of the Senate, and could not say if the proposal will likely become law.

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