Breaking the Army


It’s remarkable what gets lost some days amid the mounting detritus of the Bush Administration. Yesterday the new Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey, the former top commander in Iraq, went before Congress and essentially declared the Army to be broken.

The Boston Globe had the best account:

In his first appearance as Army chief of staff, Casey told the House Armed Services Committee that the Army is “out of balance” and “the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies.”

Officials said Casey, who appeared along with Army Secretary Pete Geren, personally requested the public hearing – a highly unusual move that military analysts said underscores his growing concern about the health of the Army, America’s primary fighting force.

Casey, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted a public forum even though he has ample opportunity to speak to lawmakers in closed-door meetings.

There’s a long history of military leaders going before Congress and making dire predictions of what will happen if their desired funding is not appropriated. But this is of a different order entirely. And note the initiator of this hearing: it was Gen. Casey himself. He wasn’t dragged up to the Hill so the majority party could score some points. He requested a public hearing.

Now Casey was essentially removed from his position as commander in Iraq because he was insufficiently enthusiastic about the President’s proposed surge. So perhaps some Republican yaker somewhere will claim Casey has an ax to grind. Except everyone knows the Army is broken. It’s no secret. Factually, there is no real dispute about it.

It is simply a measure of our times that when the top officer in the Army goes before Congress so that he can publicly warn about the state of readiness of his branch that it’s not the top news story of the day.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.