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Top Brass Unloads on Austerity Plan

• Spencer Ackerman via
 A decade of war has seriously eroded the military’s preparedness to fight new wars, according to top officers in all four services. And it’s making the brass publicly bridle against the Obama administration’s planned defense cuts.

During a grim hearing in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness Tuesday afternoon, the vice chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps glumly said the military faces deep problems getting its equipment and troops ready to meet unexpected threats beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. And they’ve got to fix the problem while the Pentagon shaves $400 billion over 12 years from the military budget. They’re not exactly happy about it.

Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli fretted that the Army’s frantic deployment pace means building “trained and ready units closer and closer to the deployment date.” Adm. Jonathan Greenert — nominated to be the Navy’s next top officer — warned that the Navy’s budget constraints required “we limit demand for Navy forces to a level that is sustainable,” as a full 50 percent of the Navy has been “underway daily” for the past year. “I can’t see how we can sustain this pace of operations,” Greenert said, “and meet our readiness standards.”

Gen. Joseph Dunford said that Marines and their gear at their home stations were in a “degraded readiness state,” thanks to their decade of war, meaning they’d be late to “respond to unexpected crises.” Regional commanders outside the Middle East also don’t have as many Marines as they want. His Air Force colleague, Gen. Philip Breedlove, confessed to a “slow but steady decline in reported unit readiness indicators,” with units devoted to recovering personnel and providing airborne intelligence “right at the ragged edge.”

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