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Safety First

Fully Equipping Troops Must Be a Top Priority

Before increasing troop numbers in Iraq, the Department of Defense should ensure that troops already there have adequate resources.

Early reports of the Pentagon’s Iraq review indicate that the group may recommend a short-term increase in U.S. troops in Iraq combined with the long-term goal of escalating efforts to train Iraqi forces. But more troops will require more equipment.

The Department of Defense must first ensure that its troops already in Iraq receive adequate resources before considering sending more under-equipped troops into the fray.

Recent reports from the Center for American Progress show that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past five years have taken a large toll on essential Army and Marine Corps equipment. This equipment is currently used at as much as nine times its planned rate, abused by harsh environments, and depleted due to losses in combat.

The United States has so far been able to maintain a high level of readiness in Iraq, but this comes at the cost of taking equipment from non-deployed troops and drawing from prepositioned stocks housed in Europe and elsewhere. This has eroded the overall readiness of America’s ground forces and limits the military’s ability to respond to contingencies outside of Iraq.

If the Department of Defense plans to send more troops to Iraq, it must push for the following short-term measures:

  • Congress should fully fund the Army and Marine Corps’ requests for reset funding and guarantee a high level of reset funding for every year that the United States maintains its presence in Iraq.
  • Once the deployed forces depart from Iraq, Congress should continue funding reset for at least two years to assure full resolution of all war-related equipment problems.
  • The Army should cease deferring recapitalization of aging equipment and request a level of reset funding consistent with fully revitalizing the force for future challenges.
  • The Department of Defense should conduct and submit to Congress a comprehensive review of new equipment needed for the active and reserve components of the Army and Marine Corps to recover fully from deployments to Iraq and to meet future commitments at home and abroad.
  • The U.S. Army and Marine Corps should fund its reset program through the normal budget process and not through supplementals, as has been the case since the beginning of operations in Iraq.

The Army estimates that it needs more than $40 billion to fully reset the force, and the Marine Corps estimates reset costs at more than $10 billion. The Department of Defense should prove that it can protect the safety of its troops before sending more into battle.

For more information, see the following reports:

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