Army is worn too thin, says general
Calls force not ready to meet new threats
WASHINGTON - The Army's top officer, General George Casey, told Congress yesterday that his branch of the military has been stretched so thin by the war in Iraq that it can not adequately respond to another conflict - one of the strongest warnings yet from a military leader that repeated deployments to war zones in the Middle East have hamstrung the military's ability to deter future aggression.
In his first appearance as Army chief of staff, Casey told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is "out of balance" and "the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."
Officials said Casey, who appeared along with Army Secretary Pete Geren, personally requested the public hearing - a highly unusual move that military analysts said underscores his growing concern about the health of the Army, America's primary fighting force.
Casey, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted a public forum even though he has ample opportunity to speak to lawmakers in closed-door meetings.
Representative John M. McHugh, a New York Republican, said Casey's blunt testimony was "just downright frightening."
Iraq is destroying the Army
The strain on the Army has been growing steadily since Bush sent troops into Iraq in 2003 - the longest sustained combat for an all-volunteer American force since the Revolutionary War. The Pentagon and military analysts have documented the signs of the breakdown: serious recruiting problems, an exodus of young officers, and steadily falling readiness rates of nearly every stateside unit.This is unusual as David Kurtz points out.
Casey's testimony yesterday sent a clear message: If President Bush or Congress does not significantly reduce US forces in Iraq soon, the Army will need far more resources - and money - to ensure it is prepared to handle future security threats that the general warned are all but inevitable.
There's a long history of military leaders going before Congress and making dire predictions of what will happen if their desired funding is not appropriated. But this is of a different order entirely. And note the initiator of this hearing: it was Gen. Casey himself. He wasn't dragged up to the Hill so the majority party could score some points. He requested a public hearing.
Now Casey was essentially removed from his position as commander in Iraq because he was insufficiently enthusiastic about the President's proposed surge. So perhaps some Republican yaker somewhere will claim Casey has an ax to grind. Except everyone knows the Army is broken. It's no secret. Factually, there is no real dispute about it.
It is simply a measure of our times that when the top officer in the Army goes before Congress so that he can publicly warn about the state of readiness of his branch that it's not the top news story of the day.