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Straining Military Equipment

Equipment is stretched, and the planned surge will push the limits of safety further. The military needs full equipment replacement and repair now.

The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings this week to discuss the costs and problems of maintaining military equipment in Iraq.

The Center for American Progress has released two reports detailing the excessive use of equipment in Iraq and urging Congress to fully fund the replacement and repair of Army and Marine Equipment.

Necessary equipment for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is currently being used at as much as nine times the planned rate, abused by harsh environments, and depleted due to losses in combat. The military is taking equipment from non-deployed units and pre-positioned stocks in order to maintain readiness in the face of these harsh conditions. This limits both our troops’ safety and our military’s ability to respond to contingencies outside of Iraq, putting our national security as a whole in a weakened position.

President Bush’s planned military surge in Iraq will stretch our military’s resources even further. The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this month that the thousands of troops Bush ordered to Iraq “will join the fight largely without the protection of the latest armored vehicles that withstand bomb blasts far better than the Humvees in wide use, military officers said.”

Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for force development confirmed this at a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week, saying, “We don’t have the [armor] kits, and we don’t have the trucks.” With diminished resources, combat units will have to share equipment, leading to increased use and maintenance.

Before we send more troops into Iraq, we must ensure that our existing troops receive adequate resources. Army Equipment After Iraq and Marine Corps Equipment After Iraq detail policies needed to ensure a full recovery.

Near-term policies should include:

  • Congress fully funding the Army and Marine Corps’ requests for reset funding and guaranteeing a high level of reset funding for every year that the U.S. maintains its presence in Iraq.
  • Congress continuing to fund reset for at least two years after deployed forces depart Iraq to assure full resolution of all war-related equipment problems.
  • The Department of Defense conducting and submitting to Congress a comprehensive review of new equipment needed for the active and reserve components to recover fully from deployments to Iraq and to meet future commitments at home and abroad.
  • The Army and Marine Corps funding its reset programs through the normal budget process and not through supplementals, as has been the case since the beginning of operations in Iraq.

Long-term, the Army policies should include:

  • Continuing efforts to reorganize warfighting capabilities around modular, networked brigade combat teams.
  • Producing and funding a comprehensive plan for the continuous enhancement of heavy armored vehicles.
  • Completely replacing Cold War truck fleets while beginning the development of a successor to the versatile High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee).
  • Accelerating the fielding of new situational awareness and communications systems.
  • Working hard to keep all elements of the aviation modernization program on track and recognizing that the timely fielding of new or improved attack, utility, cargo, and reconnaissance helicopters is critical to future conventional and counter-insurgency operations.

Long-term, the Marine Corps policies should include:

  • Receiving an increase in their share of the Navy budget from 14 percent to 17 percent and their overall share of the defense budget from four percent to five percent unless the defense topline budget is changed.
  • Joining the Army in producing and funding a comprehensive plan for the continuous enhancement of heavy armored vehicles.
  • Considering the purchase of alternative medium and heavy-lift helicopters to bridge the gap between the time the CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters wear out and the MV-22 Ospreys reach full operational status.
  • Funding procurement at a steady rate of $3.0 billion per year (in constant FY 06 dollars).
  • Developing a new Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) to replace the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV); it is not clear that the service can fill all of its future needs with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) given the system’s high cost.

Contact our expert Lawrence Korb for additional information and comments:

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