Chairman of House Armed Services Committee: Military readiness is top priority

Military readiness is top priority for the chairman of the…

Military readiness is top priority for the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — a priority ahead of weapons modernization programs.

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said the main thing to be done to improve combat readiness of U.S. forces is to leave Iraq as soon as possible because the U.S. “cannot stay there forever.”
“We are going to need troops to do something [else]. We need to be ready,” he said.

Skelton’s committee is expected to begin writing its version of the 2009 defense authorization bill next week and wants to focus on improving near-term readiness, claiming it as the top budgetary priority despite the fact that it could squeeze funds for some important weapons modernization programs that also have strong bearing on future readiness.

Skelton believes Iraq will not become fully responsible for its own security and reconstruction until it becomes clear to Iraqi leaders that the U.S. is preparing to leave their country.

“Reconstruction is something that needs to be done, and they are going to have to do it,” Skelton said. “They can pay for an awful lot more than they are.”

He said he has serious concerns that the endless cycle of Iraq deployments for U.S. troops is diluting what he considered a more important military offensive in Afghanistan.

“That would be our No. 1 priority,” he said, adding that he worries that “it is not the top priority of the administration.”

“We really cannot put off success today, particularly in Afghanistan,” Skelton said.

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