Report: Guard units not ready for war

Published August 2, 2006

WASHINGTON - More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's 34 brigades are not combat ready, mostly because of equipment shortages that will cost as much as $21-billion to correct, the top National Guard general said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum spoke to reporters after Army officials, analysts and members of Congress disclosed that two-thirds of the active Army's brigades are not ready for war.

The budget won't allow the military to complete the personnel training and equipment repairs and replacement that must be done when units return home after deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, they say.

"I am further behind or in an even more dire situation than the active Army, but we both have the same symptoms. I just have a higher fever," Blum said.

One Army official acknowledged Tuesday that while all the active Army units serving in the war zone are "100 percent" ready, the situation is not the same for those at home.

"In the continental United States, there are plenty of units that are rated at significantly less than a C-1 rating," said Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey. "Backlogs at the depots, budget issues and the timeliness of receiving funds to conduct training are all critical to the Army's ability keep their force trained, ready and at the highest readiness level possible."

While Army officials still won't specify how many units are at which levels, they are being more open about the overall declining state of readiness.

A key element of the problem is that Army units returning from the war have either left tanks, trucks or other equipment behind or are bringing them home damaged. Once back, many soldiers either leave the Army or move to other posts, forcing leaders to train others to replace them.

GOP leaders have discussed adding $10-billion to the 2007 defense bill, and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said lawmakers are talking with the Pentagon "to see if they really need that money."