- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
U.S. Army has rated two of its 10 divisions as unprepared for war in a
classified evaluation that reflects the strain of open-ended troop commitments
in Kosovo, Bosnia and elsewhere, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
- It was the first time in at least seven years that any
of the Army's divisions had received the lowest of four possible readiness
grades, the Post quoted Defense Department officials as saying.
- A Pentagon spokesman declined comment.
- The ``C-4'' rating means that the units in question --
the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 1st Infantry
Division headquartered in Germany -- are considered to need additional
manpower, equipment or training before being able to fight in a major regional
war, the Post reported.
- Republican lawmakers, who have long accused the Clinton
administration of underfunding defense and overcommitting U.S. forces,
seized on the report as proof of their argument, the Post said. But some
Pentagon officials portrayed the evaluation as a dramatic effort by the
Army to highlight long-standing concerns and lobby for more money.
- Army authorities acknowledged that the two divisions
probably are more ready to fight than the new evaluation would suggest.
The primary reason for the lower rating is that each division has one brigade,
up to half of its troops, doing peacekeeping duty in the Balkans: the 10th
Mountain in Bosnia, the 1st Infantry in Kosovo.
- The Army has been rotating troops into and out of the
Balkans for nearly four years, so there has been no sudden change in the
- But the preparedness of the units was assessed differently
this month as a result of congressional directions to place greater emphasis
on the ability of U.S. forces to wage two major wars at nearly the same
time, officials said.
- Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate
Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, said the report meant it was
``unlikely that these units would be able to engage in a major theater
war without unnecessary loss of life.''
- He told the paper that that some of the Army's other
eight divisions also had been downgraded, with none listed at the highest
level of C-1. The Army said that all the other divisions were rated C-2
in the monthly report.
- The Pentagon's military chiefs warned Congress last month
that any sudden new cut in defense spending would devastate fragile recent
gains in U.S. fighting readiness in the face of growing worldwide commitments.
- The Joint Chiefs of Staff who head the armed services
told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the recently passed $267
billion defense budget for current fiscal year 2000 -- the first military
spending increase in 15 years -- must not be reversed by any agreement
for a sweeping federal budget cut.
- Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the JCS, testified
the military was just beginning to reverse a slip in fighting readiness
after more than a decade of spending neglect.
- The military chiefs stressed that despite a 40 percent
cut in military strength over the past decade, commitments were increasing
so fast the armed forces could not keep up with the requirements.