Former Clintonites Slam Bush's 'Stewardship of Military'

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - A group of former Clinton administration national security experts on Tuesday joined Democrats in Congress in criticizing the Bush administration for what they called "a serious failure of civil stewardship of the military."

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi the National Security Advisory Group expressed its "deep concern about the U.S. Army's current state of readiness" and urged them "to take immediate action to address the urgent problem."

The group is chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry and includes other Clinton-era officials like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.

The group wrote that as much as two thirds of the Army's operating force did not meet the military's readiness requirements. The classified readiness grading system considers a unit's strength, equipment and training levels to determine if it is ready to complete its mission.

Low readiness levels weaken the military's ability "to deter undesired actions" from threatening nations like Iran and North Korea, the letter stated.

Last week Democrats on the House Armed Service Committee leveled the same criticisms and called on the Bush administration to request emergency funding that would help the Army meet readiness requirements.

"Restoring the Army's readiness requires additional funding, but, inexplicably, the administration is underfunding the Army," the National Security Advisory Group wrote, adding that the Bush administration is "undermining the Army's efforts to 'get well' after substantial equipment degradation and losses in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraq Freedom."

The letter encouraged Reid and Pelosi to push for additional readiness funding in the Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Appropriations bill. In a related move Tuesday, Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed announced that he will introduce a $10.2 billion addition to the Senate version of the Defense Appropriations measure.

House Democrats last week urged President Bush to request a $17.1 billion addition to the readiness funding.

In a press release issued July 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee stated that the $126.3 billion Operation and Maintenance section of the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill "fully funds key readiness programs critical to prepare forces for combat operations and other peace time missions."

Aaron Saunders, spokesman for Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, told Cybercast News Service that Stevens "has yet to make any final decisions on whether he will support any offer to add $10 billion or another larger figure to that bridge fund."

Saunders added that Stevens "will not make that decision until after he gets a chance to consult with members of the subcommittee" and the Office of Management and Budget.

See Earlier Story:
Dems Challenge GOP to Debate Military Readiness (July 28, 2006)

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