Too often, too many of my colleagues are reluctant to challenge the Administration's policies in Iraq for fear that anything other than staying the course set by the President will somehow appear weak. But the President's course in Iraq is misguided, and it is doing serious damage to our extraordinarily professional and globally admired all-volunteer United States Army. Because I am proud of our men and women in uniform, and because I am committed to working with all of my colleagues to make this country more secure, I am convinced that we must change our course.
The President's policies in Iraq are breaking the United States Army. As soldiers confront the prospect of a third tour in the extremely difficult theater of Iraq, it would be understandable if they began to wonder why all of the sacrifice undertaken by our country in wartime seems to be falling on their shoulders. At some point, the sense of solidarity and commitment that helps maintain strong retention rates gives way to a sense of frustration with the status quo. I am concerned that we may be very close to that tipping point today.
Make no mistake, our military readiness is already suffering. According to a recent RAND study, the Army has been stretched so thin that active-duty soldiers are now spending one of every two years abroad, leaving little of the Army left in any appropriate condition to respond to crises that may emerge elsewhere in the world. Just days ago the Chief of the National Guard, General H Steven Blum, told a group of Senate staffers that the National Guard had approximately 75% of the equipment it needed on 9/11. Today, the National Guard has 34% of the equipment it needs. What we are asking of the Army is not sustainable. This cannot go on.
I have introduced a resolution calling for the President to publicly explain the mission that the US military is being asked to accomplish in Iraq and lay out a plan and timeframe for accomplishing that mission and subsequently bringing our troops home. And I have tried to jumpstart this discussion by proposing a date for US troop withdrawal: December 31, 2006. We need to have a realistic set of plans and benchmarks if we are to gain control of our Iraq policy, instead of letting it dominate our security strategy and drain vital security resources for an unlimited amount of time.
I cannot support an Iraq policy that makes our enemies stronger and our own country weaker, and that is why I will not support staying the course the President has set. The costs of staying this course indefinitely, the consequences of weakening America's military and America's economy, are growing with each passing week. There is no leadership in simply hoping for the best. We need an Iraq policy that works.