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Petraeus Argues Military Readiness Crisis Is a 'Myth'

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Middle East policy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Middle East policy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus joined in an op-ed piece Wednesday that said doomsday predictions of a growing military readiness gap were largely a myth.

"While there are areas of concern, there is no crisis in military readiness," Petraeus and Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

The service chiefs all have made readiness a top priority, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly called military preparedness a "disaster," but Petraeus and O'Hanlon said that there was more than enough money in current and projected budgets to meet any concerns.

"The current national defense budget of over $600 billion a year far exceeds the Cold War average of about $525 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2016 dollars) and the $400 billion spent in 2001, according to official Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget data," Petraeus and O'Hanlon said.

"Spending has been reduced from the levels of the late Bush and early Obama years, but that isn't unreasonable in light of scaled-down combat operations abroad and fiscal pressures at home," they said.

"Assuming no return to sequestration, as occurred in 2013, Pentagon budgets to buy equipment now exceed $100 billion a year, a healthy and sustainable level. The so-called "procurement holiday" of the 1990s and early 2000s is over."

The op-ed contrasted with the drumbeat of criticism from think tanks and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, which frequently portrays troops as lacking equipment and training, and cites aircraft flying with cannibalized parts.

The service chiefs also frequently complain about budget squeezes.

Since taking command last year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has often called readiness his top priority. "There is no No. 2," Milley has stated repeatedly.

However, Petraeus and O'Hanlon said "training for full-spectrum operations is resuming after over a decade of appropriate focus on counter-insurgency. By 2017, the Army plans to rotate nearly 20 brigades -- about a third of its force -- through national training centers each year. The Marine Corps plans to put 12 infantry battalions -- about half its force -- through large training exercises."

In addition, "the Air Force is funding its training and readiness programs at 80%-98% of what it considers fully resourced levels," they said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.