Dems urge funding for Army readiness

Several senior Democratic appropriators and defense authorizers are pressing President Bush to submit a budget request to Congress addressing the deterioration of the Army’s ground forces.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, has testified to Congress that the Army would need an additional $17 billion in fiscal year 2007 to repair and replace equipment used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and John Murtha, ranking member of the panel’s Defense Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Bush yesterday to urge him to submit an emergency funding request to reverse the deterioration of the Army’s readiness for war.

“While we in Washington continue to spend countless hours debating U.S. national security policy in Iraq, the Middle East, and elsewhere, our national security strength — namely, the readiness of U.S. ground forces — has weakened,” they wrote. The ability to wage other wars has been seriously undermined, they added.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also wrote to Bush to urge him to address Army readiness.

The Army has said it needs between $60 billion and $70 billion over the next five years to rectify the situation.

“In future years, your budget requests to Congress, forwarded through the Department of Defense and OMB [the Office of Management and Budget], should fully cover the Army’s readiness and reset needs,” Skelton wrote.