updated 8/1/2006 8:04:32 PM ET 2006-08-02T00:04:32

More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard’s 34 brigades are not combat ready due largely to vast equipment shortfalls that will take as much as $21 billion to correct, the top National Guard general said Tuesday.

The comments by Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum came in the wake of disclosures by Army officials, analysts and members of Congress that two-thirds of the active Army’s brigades are not rated ready for war.

The problem, they say, is driven by budget constraints that won’t allow the military to complete the personnel training and equipment repairs and replacement that must be done when units return home after deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I am further behind or in an even more dire situation than the active Army, but we both have the same symptoms, I just have a higher fever,” Blum said.

Army units abroad fully prepared
One Army official acknowledged Tuesday that while all of the active Army units serving in the war zone are “100 percent” ready, the situation is not the same for those at home.

“In the continental United States, there are plenty of units that are rated at significantly less than a C-1 rating,” said Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey. “Backlogs at the depots, budget issues and the timeliness of receiving funds to conduct training are all critical to the Army’s ability keep their force trained, ready and at the highest readiness level possible.”

Once a taboo subject for the military, often buried deep in classified documents, readiness levels — generally ranked from C-1 (the best) to C-4 (the worst) are now being used as weapons themselves to force money out of Congress and the administration.

And while Army officials still won’t specify how many units are at which levels, they are being more open about the overall declining state of readiness of their armed forces.

Driving the current problem is the fact that Army units returning from the war have either left tanks, trucks or other equipment behind or are bringing them home damaged or broken. And once they arrive, many of their comrades either leave the Army or move to other posts, forcing leaders to train other soldiers to replace them. As a result, the unit’s ratings drop, said Ey, an Army spokesman.

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