Retired Army Gen. Carter Ham took issue this week with the claim of retired Army Gen. David Petraeus that the U.S. military is in fairly good shape in terms of readiness.
Ham said the services were struggling to prepare to meet new challenges while coping with the wear and tear of 15 years of war and constant deployments.
"Fifteen years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now in Syria, Libya and elsewhere, compounded by years of budget uncertainty, have left America's military forces less well-prepared for operations to counter the increasing capabilities of near-peer and emerging competitors," Ham said in an article for Defense One.
Last week, Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan who was cashiered as CIA Director over an extra-marital affair, joined with Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in an op-ed for the Wall St. Journal in which they said concerns about readiness were overblown.
Despite shortfalls in many areas, "America's fighting forces remain ready for battle," Petraeus and O'Hanlon wrote.
Ham, an Iraq veteran and former commander of Africa Command, said in his article, "As president of the Association of the U.S. Army and an old soldier, let me offer some comments" on readiness and the Army in particular.
"The future of the United States Army is challenged by the combination of ongoing operations, emerging strategic threats, and a convoluted budget process that has weakened the nation's foundational force," he said.
"While the Army is not in crisis today, its ability to fulfill its missions on behalf of the nation will remain challenged without sustained, predictable funding at levels that support the all-volunteer force and allow for adequate modernization to meet the increasing challenges presented by near-peer competitors," Ham said.
In addition, there was the morale problem, the retired general said.
"Constant talk of the need to trim pay and benefits, reduce personnel costs by further reducing military and civilian headquarters staffs, and cut facility costs by deferring more maintenance and upkeep are morale-sapping efforts, especially when the belt-tightening happens year after year with no end in sight," Ham said.