WASHINGTON: As the U.S. military answers President Barack Obama’s order to reinforce efforts in Afghanistan, the Army and Marine Corps are adjusting their plans to redeploy working and serviceable equipment, top military officers told Congress today.
Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, and Gen. James F. Amos, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, testified on their services’ “reset” requirements before subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee.
The proceedings were a continuation of a July hearing that was interrupted because of a prolonged series of House votes. The initial hearing focused on Iraq drawdown plans and attempted to outline the method in which the services determined what equipment would redeploy and what would be left for Iraqi security forces.
However, much has changed in the past five months. On Dec. 1, Obama ordered a surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, , so some of the equipment in Iraq that was scheduled to return to the United States has been re-directed to outfit units headed to Afghanistan.
Roughly 22,000 soldiers are part of the plus-up in Afghanistan, “and quite a bit of the equipment coming out of Iraq [will] be used to support those soldiers,” Chiarelli said. “That will mean as we begin the Iraq drawdown in earnest, that there will be less equipment coming back to the states for reset,” the general said.
Amos described the Marine Corps adjustment since July, noting 15,000 Marines were on the ground in Iraq then. Only about one-third of those Marines remain, and about 97 percent of their combat equipment was returned home or is being refurbished in Kuwait, Amos said.
When Marine Corps leaders heard of the possibility of an Afghan buildup, a “big chunk” of their equipment in Kuwait was made ready for Afghanistan, he added.
“When we first heard an inkling of a plus-up in Afghanistan, we took the equipment that we knew was furbishable and in good condition and set it aside in anticipation of the president’s directive,” Amos explained.
The Marine Corps buildup is roughly 9,000 Marines, and is the service’s No. 1 priority, he said. Amos added that those Marines will be equipped either in Kuwait or at their home stations.
“Our greatest focus right now is getting equipment to our forces in Afghanistan,” he continued. “We will have 100 percent of every piece of equipment they need, with all the capabilities.”
Another change Amos noted since the July hearing was the Marine Corps’ reset bill. When he last testified, he estimated that the Marine Corps would need about $20 billion to completely replace war-torn and unusable equipment. The estimate has increased an additional $15 billion to accommodate the Afghanistan mission and lessons learned in the past five months, he said.
Chiarelli didn’t have an opportunity to elaborate on the Army’s reset costs, but considering the Army is a much larger force, the costs are likely higher. He did note that the Army is set to establish Red River Army Depot in Texas as its maintenance hub for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, better known as MRAPs. The initiative is now a pilot program, but should be fully up and running in fiscal 2011, he said.
The Army has integrated about 37,000 MRAP vehicles into its force, because of the added protection its V-shaped hull provides troops.
“I think we’re embracing the MRAP, and doing everything we can to ensure when those vehicles start flowing back out of theater, we’re ready to accept them, sustain them and reset them,” Chiarelli said.
The Marine Corps also has determined that the MRAP is going to be part of its total ground tactical vehicle strategy after success in Iraq and Afghanistan, Amos said. He anticipates more than 2,300 MRAP vehicles to soon become part of the regular Marine inventory.
In July, both generals expressed concern over the degrading readiness of their forces after nearly eight years of high tempo counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The generals conceded that the ground forces must maintain capabilities to respond to future contingencies around the world.
Amos said the current security environments in Iraq and Afghanistan justify the readiness tradeoff, but the military must remain balanced and have the support of the American people and Congress to seek modernization.