House Dems review call for Rumsfeld resignation

Echoing moves in the Senate, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) is calling for the immediate resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Murtha’s call comes just as he and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, released a new report on the state of U.S. Army readiness.

In his resolution Murtha lists a litany of reasons for Rumsfeld’s immediate resignation, ranging from the secretary’s insistence that there were weapons of mass in destruction in Iraq to his failure to anticipate the number of troops needed to secure Iraq and to address the flagging readiness of U.S ground troops.

In recent weeks Democrats have intensified their criticism the GOP and Bush administration policies in Iraq and have stepped up their calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation.

“The Defense Secretary should return to the private sector,” Obey said at a press conference yesterday.

The newly released readiness report, which served in part as a basis for Murtha’s resolution, said that the Army’s preparedness has eroded to levels not seen since the Vietnam war, and that the service’s readiness will continue to decline as troops continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reduction in readiness levels will undermine the Pentagon’s ability to respond to future conflicts, the report said.

Roughly one-half of the entire U.S. Army is reported to be at the lowest level of military readiness. The situation in the Army National Guard and Reserves is even worse, the report said.

The vast majority of the 16 active-duty, non-deployed combat brigades in the United States managed by the Army’s Forces Command are rated at the lowest readiness ratings because of severe equipment shortages, according to the report.

“The lack of national attention paid to the Army’s plight is unconscionable,” Murtha told reporters yesterday.

The low readiness rates become a concern for the units scheduled for deployment later this year, particularly for the 1st Cavalry Division, which faces equipment shortfalls.

The new report emphasizes that the Army’s major short-term challenge is repairing its battle-worn equipment.

The Army needs an additional $17.1 billion in 2007 to spruce up its equipment. The Senate has approved an additional $13.1 billion to the $50 billion emergency bridge fund in the 2007 defense appropriations bill to deal with both Army and Marine Corps equipment repair. House and Senate conferees on the spending bill will decide the final amount that will be added to that bridge fund.

Meanwhile, the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees agreed to authorize an additional $20 billion for equipment repair. 

Amy Sherman contributed to this report.