Two Of US Army's
Ten Divisions Rated
Unfit For War
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 underlying situation.
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.