WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. ground military forces face a high level of risk if America gets into a conflict against countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, the Army’s top general told lawmakers.
Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Army chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that the military’s focus on terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, constrained budgets, and troop cuts have depleted resources from planning and preparation to fight a “higher-end” combat force if a conflict erupted elsewhere in the world.
Gen. Milley did note that the Army, which is the largest branch of the U.S. military, is ready to fight the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups.
However, what Milley identified as a “great power war” against one or two of four nations – China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea – would pose a greater challenge.
“If that were to happen, I would have grave concerns about the readiness of our force to deal with that in a timely manner,” the top Army general told lawmakers.
“I think the cost, both in terms of time, casualties in troops, and the ability to accomplish military objectives would be very significant, and we’ve all given our risk assessments associated with that in a classified session,” added Milley.
The Army’s readiness is not at a level the American people find adequate to protect them, Milley also said, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Testifying about the fiscal 2017 defense budget request alongside Gen. Milley, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said half her combat forces were not “sufficiently ready” for fighting against a nation like Russia.
“Money is helpful for readiness but freeing up the time of our people to go and do this training is equally important,” she told lawmakers.
Earlier this month, Air Force officials reportedly revealed they were facing a shortage of 500-plus fighter pilots, a gap expected to increase to more than 800 by 2022.
“US military spending has increased sharply since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the country has by far the largest military budget in the world,” Reuters points out.
“The Army requested $148 billion in the fiscal 2017 budget, a slight increase from the $146.9 billion Army budget for 2016,” it adds. “However, the 2017 Army budget would continue to shrink the size of the US Army, which will drop to 460,000 active duty soldiers in 2017 from the current 475,000.”