Clinton-era officials fault Army readiness

Several Clinton-era administration officials have sent a letter to Democratic leaders in Congress expressing deep concern over the Army’s combat readiness.

William Perry, the former secretary of defense, and Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, plus others who served the 42nd president said that they learned that two-thirds of the Army’s operating force, both active-duty and reserve, is reporting as unready.

“The bottom line is that our Army currently has no ready, strategic reserve,” the former officials wrote. The officials are part of the National Security Advisory Group chaired by Perry.

“Not since the Vietnam era and its aftermath has the Army’s readiness been so degraded,” they said in their letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Not having a strategic reserve is “particularly dangerous” at a time when the United States is engaged in a global effort to counter terrorism and is facing crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran and North Korea, the letter said.

“The lack of a ready strategic reserve in our Army weakens our ability to deter undesired actions by these nations, as well as our ability to respond effectively to such actions,” the former officials wrote.

The National Security Advisory Group blasted the Bush administration, saying it has underfunded the Army. “Remarkably, the Office of Management and Budget recently cut the Army’s request for FY06 supplemental appropriations by $4.9 billion, undermining the Army’s efforts to ‘get well’ after substantial equipment degradation and losses in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom,” they wrote. “We believe this constitutes a serious failure of civilian stewardship of the military.”

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) released the letter yesterday. They are working on an amendment that they plan to introduce as part of the defense spending bill. Their amendment would increase the $50 billion bridge fund that pays for operations as part of the war on terrorism by $10.2 billion to restore Army and Marine Corps equipment damaged by war.