Our Opinion: Do we really support our troops?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In a news report that didn't really get a great deal of attention, General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, announced that spending cutbacks instituted last spring would be extended. The Army is so strapped for cash that it is clamping down on spending for travel, civilian hiring and anything else deemed essential to the war mission.

About 100,000 of the approximately 127,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are Army. Most of the remainder are Marines.

The Army's problem comes from 2003 when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began. When combat commenced, the Army had a $56 billion shortfall in equipment. The wars have been brutal on equipment, with repair and replacement costs escalating from $4 billion in 2004 to $12 to $13 billion in 2006. Gen. Schoomaker estimates that the Army is using up equipment at four times the rate for which it was designed.

Due to a lack of funding, the Army's five major repair depots are operating at 50 percent capacity. There is a backlog of 1,000 Humvees awaiting repair in Texas and 500 tanks in Alabama waiting to be repaired.

The Army's 2006 budget is $99.2 billion. The request for 2007, awaiting congressional approval, is $111 billion.

It is difficult, to say the least, to fight a war without the proper equipment. Leaving the soldiers with broken Humvees and tanks is nothing short of criminal.

These volunteers have put themselves in harm's way at the request of the government. It doesn't matter whether you agree with where they are or what their mission is. We must give the Army what it needs to successfully execute their mission and hasten the day when families can be safely reunited.

That's how we support our troops.