Military leaders: Forces ‘under stress’
WASHINGTON — Soldiers and Marines are competently handling the counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they may not be ready to respond to other contingencies, leaders of two ground forces told lawmakers Wednesday.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody and Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said that the readiness of their respective forces has been significantly degraded by the dual wars.
“We’re stretching, we’re under stress,” Magnus said. “We are sustaining significant risk for other contingencies.”
Training in combined arms and amphibious operations, in particular, has suffered in the Marine Corps, Magnus said.
As for the Army, “Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it,” Cody said.
“If unaddressed,” Cody said, the situation “poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force, and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.”
But both generals said that they fully support the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and do not believe that U.S. forces should withdraw.
“I think we’re heavily invested in the right countries,” Magnus said. “We should not leave until we are assured that our host nations can manage their internal defense.”
However, Cody said, there’s no question that because the Army is supporting Afghanistan and Iraq, “we have other combatant commanders requesting forces we can’t give them.”
“Because of the demand on the size of the force, we’re not meeting other things we know we should be doing,” Cody said, citing Special Forces training and support of foreign militaries.
Yet what Cody and Magnus asked of Congress was not a commitment to reduce their force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For the security of this nation, we have got to continue this fight,” Cody said.
Instead, the generals said, they were seeking assurances that ample funds will be forthcoming, so that the Army and Marines can finance their combat operations, add personnel, replace lost equipment, and modernize.
Cody and Magnus specifically asked lawmakers to support releasing the balance of the Defense Department’s 2008 supplemental. The request totals about $189.3 billion with all its amendments, and which Congress has not completely approved.
Congress has provided $10.9 billion of the Marine Corps’ $15.6 billion 2008 supplemental requirement, Magnus said.
The Army, meanwhile, is waiting to see if Congress will approve $66.5 billion request it has made in the 2008 supplemental, Cody said.
“A delay [in getting the money] beyond the end of May will create substantial impacts on readiness,” he said.
Lawmakers are scheduled to begin debating the balance of the 2008 supplemental request next week.