Army Strikes Back at Bush

The Army on Friday fired back at GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush, denying claims he made during his nomination acceptance speech that the military was unprepared for active combat.

At the Republican National Convention on Thursday night, Bush said military readiness and morale had plunged during President Clinton’s administration. Thrusting the Army into the middle of his political battle with Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, he suggested the Clinton-Gore administration had compromised national security by stretching the Army’s resources with various peacekeeping missions around the world at the expense of readiness.

“If called on by the commander in chief, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, ‘Not ready for duty, sir!’” Bush said in his speech.

A Problem Late Last Year

Friday, the Army refuted Bush’s allegations and insisted that all 10 of its divisions would be ready for duty if called into action. Bush’s statements, the Army admitted, were true seven months ago, but not today.

“Seven months ago, two Army divisions experienced short-term readiness problems associated with the deployment of parts of each division to the Balkans,” the Army said in statement. “Today, all active Army divisions are reporting that they are fully prepared to conduct their wartime mission assignments as established.”

Last November and December, both the 10th Mountain Division and the 1st Infantry Division had between 4,000 and 6,000 troops committed to peacekeeping duties in Bosnia and Kosovo. Because of this, Army commanders believed their divisions would not be able to deploy the forces needed for wartime missions.

Army officials also pointed out that troops from two army divisions remain in the Balkans but are considered available if needed. Army media relations officer Maj. Thomas Collins said the military reordered the sequence that Army divisions would be deployed in wartime situations.

The 1st Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division were high on the deployment lists.

In an e-mail to ABCNEWS, Collins said units involved in the Balkans such as the 1st Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division have been moved further down in the deployment sequence, enabling them to have the time necessary to extract themselves from Bosnia and Kosovo.

ABCNEWS’ Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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