U.S. military unprepared for any new crisis

A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the U.S. military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis, The Associated Press has learned.

Despite security gains in Iraq, there is still a “significant” risk that the strained U.S. military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak elsewhere in the world, according to the report.

Last year the Pentagon raised that threat risk from “moderate” to “significant.” This year, the report will maintain that “significant” risk level — pointing to the U.S. military’s ongoing struggle against a stubborn insurgency in Iraq and its lead role in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon, however, will say that efforts to increase the size of the military, replace equipment and bolster partnerships overseas will help lower the risk over time, defense officials said Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified report.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has completed the risk assessment, and it is expected to be delivered to Capitol Hill this month. Because he has concluded the risk is significant, his report will include a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlining steps the Pentagon is taking to reduce it.

The risk level was raised to significant last year by Mullen’s predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace.

On Capitol Hill this week, Mullen provided a glimpse into his thinking on the review. And Pentagon officials Friday confirmed that the assessment is finished and acknowledged some of the factors Gates will cite in his letter.

“The risk has basically stayed consistent, stayed steady,” Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee. “It is significant.”

He said the 15-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are too long and must be reduced to 12 months, with longer rest periods at home. “We continue to build risk with respect to that,” he said.

Other key national security challenges include threats from countries that possess weapons of mass destruction, as well as the need to replace equipment worn out and destroyed during more than six years of war.

On a positive note, Mullen pointed to security gains in Iraq, brought on in part by the increase in U.S. forces ordered there by President Bush last year. There, “the threat has receded and al-Qaida … is on the run,” he said. “We’ve reduced risk there. We’ve got more stability there as an example.”

The annual review grades the military’s ability to meet the demands of the nation’s military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon or China.

The latest review by Mullen covers the military’s status during 2007, but the readiness level has seesawed during the Iraq war. For example, the risk for 2004 was assessed as significant, but it improved to moderate in 2005 and 2006.

Last year, when Pace increased the risk level, a report from Gates accompanying the assessment warned that while the military is working to improve its warfighting capabilities, it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Gates is expected to tell Congress that while the primary goal is to continue to increase the size of the military, it is also critical to step up efforts to work with other nations — as well as other U.S. agencies — to bolster fragile governments through economic development and other support.

And it will reflect his drumbeat for the use of more “soft power” to defeat terrorism, which includes the greater use of civilians in areas such as political development, communications and training.

Pentagon leaders argue that nontraditional conflicts — such as the insurgents and terrorists facing coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan — will be the main military battlefields for years to come. And defeating them, they say, will require more than military hardware — or “hard power.”

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5 Responses to "U.S. military unprepared for any new crisis"

  1. bryan mcclellan  February 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    RISK? These fools never had risk on their mind. From the initial planning stages it is clear that whoop-tee-doo was the order of the day, we’re going to war for the express purpose of building the legacy and the giant ego of one chimp in charge.A booster for the half witted maniac to show his mommy and daddy he’s all growed up.This debacle in Iraq has done more than strain our Military effectiveness.It’s onset was based on cooked intelligence and the desire of one loose cannon (smirky boy)to play the school yard bully.The world at large views the US as freebooters and usurpers.Evermore they are turning their backs and who can blame them.Soon we will be alone in the fight and more and more of our richest national assets(our youth) will be wasted.We had Saddam contained within the two no fly zones and sooner or later his people were going to rectify his behavior,that charge should have been left to them.We needed to bide our time but instead broke the mirror and are facing far more than seven years bad luck.Our accomplishments in Iraq are minuscule compared to the irreparable damage thats been inflicted on the Iraqis and upon our own Troops,not to mention our national psyche.The war has become divisive and secreted to such an extent that we are in near disconnect with the cost until directly affected by the Flag draped coffin of a relative.The rallying cry of our AWOL/LYING leader is go shopping to show your patriotism,but do not seek to honor those coming home for burial.If you seek to view the caskets at Dover Air Base,you will be branded a terrorist.The Pentagons leadership has enabled a moronic zealot to destroy the honor of our once proud nation and reduced our international stature to that of thugs and subverter’s of sovereignty world wide.Gates is a lunatic if he thinks this insane notion of Soft Power will yield anything but a larger bomb crater to throw our national health and worth into.WE ARE NO LONGER TRUSTED ON THE WORLD STAGE!War is not a soft proposition,it is bloody and cruel and we’d do well to wage it as such,and resolve it ,or get the hell out while we can.

  2. Walter F. Wouk  February 9, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    What do you expect to happen when a super-annuated “frat boy” plays at war.

    Granted, a myriad of craven democratic politicians collaborated with the Bush regime; but this debacle could not have transpired without the unquestioning support of the Republican Party — and that includes the rank and file — who still support “Boy George’s” war.

  3. bryan mcclellan  February 10, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Please Walk me back or forward, flinch I nary,find the keyhole,Who developed your film?Time enough for argument,discourse speaking EVER.

  4. Pablo  February 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Yes, bush, rumsfeld, cheney, wolfowitz, perle, etc…could not have pulled off what they did without the support of the republican party. But, the democratic party have played like good little pawns, rolling over and all but playing dead. Most of the democrats in the legislative branch have supported bush over and over, whether it be more arms and weaponry purchased with loans from China, the appointment of anti-americans to positions of authority and power, or the torture of whoever they deem a terrorist, innocent or not. So let’s not let the spineless democrats off the hook. In a big way they are even worse, because most of the repuglicans at least run their campaigns on a platform of greed and agression, so no surprises in their behavior. The democrats, on the other hand, present themselves as progressive and peaceful, then turn around and support violence and the violation of our rights. In addition, a big percentage of them are dishonoring their constitutional duties by refusing to hold accountable those who have led us into war based on lies, broken the Geneva Convention laws, outed a CIA officer, etc…Now that is about as low as you can go.

    And Bryan, excellent post!
    Is it not disturbing that they get away with hiding all the flag-draped caskets when they come? I was amazed they were able to hide them, that there wasn’t an outrage. It is so blatantly obvious why they don’t want people to see the caskets–because the numbers of dead will start to be more real to the people, and they might start rebelling. In other words, bad PR. But they tell us they must not let the public see the coffins out of respect to the soldiers and their families. What a bunch of blatant BS! And all the sheople can do is say “Baaaaahhhhh”! I think the highest form of respect we could give the soldiers would be to have images in the papers, TV, internet, everywhere so people can see, so their sacrifice becomes something real that people can recognize. As is, they are just numbers.

  5. Flapsaddle  February 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    What happened to 2-1/2 wars?

    IIRC, was not one of the original goals of the post-Iraq War One leaned-down military to have it capable of fighting two major engagements and half-war as well? In terms of actual fighting, Iraq and Afghanistan between them barely constitute a half-war. In terms of logistical reality, the Iraq war ties us down so that we have essentially no maneuver room left at all.

    Heaven help us if something hits the fan in, say, Korea.

    Can anyone say “Task Force Smith”?

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

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