General Warns of Declining Army: Doubts the Ability to Fight Two Wars

Article excerpt

The commander for all Army forces in the United States warns in an internal memo that "we can no longer train and sustain the force" under current defense spending and says "this threatens our ability to mobilize, deploy, fight and win."

The three-page Aug. 20 memo from Gen. David Bramlett was sent to Gen. Dennis Reimer, Army chief on staff, outlining Army Forces Command's dire outlook for the fiscal year beginning in less than three weeks.

"My assessment is not good news," Gen. Bramlett wrote. "Funding has fallen below the survival level in [fiscal year] 99. . . . Current funding levels place FORSCOM's{D-} ability to accomplish its mission at an unacceptable risk."

The document is one of the strongest pieces of evidence in recent months showing that the armed forces' ability to stay sharp and win wars is slipping badly.

The issue is particularly important for Army divisions based in the United States because it is these forces that must be deployed rapidly in time of crisis to back up troops in Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf.

"We can no longer train and sustain the force, stop infrastructure degradation, and provide our soldiers the [quality-of-life] programs critical to long-term readiness of the force," Gen. Bramlett wrote.

"Unit readiness will be degraded," he wrote. "Commanders at Fort Lewis, Stewart and Bragg report units will drop below ALO in the fourth quarter of [fiscal year] '99. This threatens our ability to mobilize, deploy, fight and win."

"ALO" refers to allowable level of organization. It means the manning level a unit is supposed to reach when it is deployed in a crisis.

Fort Lewis in Washington is home to the 1st Corps, which would reinforce 100,000 U.S. troops in Asia should, for example, North Korea invade South Korea. Fort Stewart, Ga., holds the 3rd Infantry Division, a rapid-response unit. And Fort Bragg, N.C., is the address for the 18th Airborne Corps, which includes the 82nd Airborne Division.

The ability of these units to carry out their mission is crucial if the Defense Department is to meet its principal objective of fighting two regional wars nearly simultaneously.

Army headquarters at the Pentagon issued a statement last night saying: "The Army leadership depends on candid assessments from the Army's major commanders to evaluate the impact of budget decisions on their commands. …