Supplemental Funds Critical to Army Readiness, Officials Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2007 The Army is the best equipped, trained and led force it’s ever been, but it needs continued funding to ensure it’s ready to face future conflicts, the Army’s top two leaders said in congressional testimony today.
The fiscal 2007 war on terror supplemental funding request included in President Bush’s budget is critical to improving breadth and depth of Army readiness, specifically in preparing units for deployment, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense.
“The solution to establishing the required breadth and depth of Army readiness ultimately rests in providing the required resources,” Harvey said. “That in turn results in an Army force structure that can meet the current and projected operational demand.”
The war supplemental request, submitted Feb. 5 with the fiscal 2008 defense budget request, is $93.4 billion. The supplemental funding is in addition to the $70 billion provided by Congress in September 2006 and the fiscal 2008 war on terror request of $141.7 billion.
In his testimony today, Harvey highlighted several areas that need continued funding as the Army grows, modernizes, and fights the war on terror.
Funding will be needed for the increase of 65,000 soldiers over the next five years that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Jan. 11, Harvey said. Army leaders also need to have recurrent, predictable and assured access to all components of the force to meet global commitments, he noted.
The Army is working on an aggressive program to restore battle losses and repair and recapitalize worn-out equipment, Harvey said. Modernization efforts, which are aimed at fixing holes in the force as the Army grows, are also critical, he said. The Army entered this war $56 billion short of the equipment it needed, he pointed out, and is still trying to make up for that lack.
Harvey also said that the Army’s ability to grow the force to meet rotational requirements is jeopardized by the $2 billion reduction in the Base Realignment and Closure account in the fiscal 2007 appropriation process.
“Disruptions in resourcing our plans will in turn significantly hamper our capability to grow the Army, impede our capability to field cohesive, trained units, and degrade the quality of life for soldiers and their families,” he said.
The timeliness of filling the Army’s resource needs is critical, Harvey said. The Army will require access to supplemental funding by April to sustain efforts around the world, he said.
One of the issues highlighted by Harvey and Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, who also was at the hearing, was the equipment shortage for units in the U.S. The Army went into this war with an equipment shortage, and has since been growing the force, so that shortage has become even larger, Schoomaker pointed out. The Army has shifted its best equipment to the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan, so the units preparing to deploy often are short on training equipment, he explained.
Schoomaker said the situation is “less than satisfactory,” but stressed that units are fully trained and equipped when they arrive in Afghanistan and Iraq. Harvey agreed, adding that it’s in preparing the units for deployment that the Army has had to catch up.
“I think when a unit deploys, when a brigade combat team deploys … it is the best trained, equipped, organized Army in the world with the best quality soldiers we’ve ever had,” Harvey said.
Schoomaker noted that the government is spending less on defense than it historically has, and much of that money is needed for the war on terror. However, a good portion of the supplemental funding is needed to fix holes in the Army and expand the force to prepare for the future, he said.
“I am one that absolutely believes that there is no question that we are headed into fights in the future, beyond the current fight that we’re in today,” Schoomaker said. “There is going to be a requirement beyond this fight to continue to fix this force so that we don’t enter the next fight in the condition that we entered this fight.”
Both leaders said that the Army has made great progress over the years in expanding and equipping the force. However, they said, the focus should be on the future and what progress the Army needs to make to be successful in the 21st century.