U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) today requested Secretary Robert Gates share with Congress any Defense Department contingency plans for the failure of the President’s troop increase strategy in Iraq.  Smith chairs the terrorism subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Washington Post reported on March 5, 2007 that the Administration has “no … backup strategy for Iraq.”  Last month Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he “would be irresponsible if I did not have people looking at contingencies in the event this does not work…”

The letter states: “… whatever one’s opinion on the [troop surge] plan, it is critical that Congress have a realistic understanding of what our troops may need through the remainder of the year.  This must include knowledge of alternative options and contingency plans for our military.”  Full text below.

Smith believes:

  • backup plans are necessary to support our Armed Forces in the event that the President’s troop increase in Iraq fails to produce desired results;
  • lack of such plans would indicate a serious failure on the part of the Defense Department; and
  • Congress must have a realistic understanding of what our troops may need through this year. 

Further, Smith believes we must change the mission in Iraq to one acceptable to the American people and that benefits our national security interests.  Military planners with proper expertise must begin planning for redeployment.  Smith hopes this letter will help pressure the civilian leadership of the Defense Department to order military commanders to do so.

Full text of Smith and Skelton’s letter to Defense Secretary Gates:

Dear Secretary Gates:

As the new Secretary of Defense, you have been tasked with helping bring greater stability to what has become an increasingly turbulent Iraq.  We acknowledge the enormity of that challenge and seek to assist you in every way possible.

As such, we believe it is important to identify the alternatives to the President’s current plan for Iraq.  In your testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in February, you indicated that the Department was preparing military contingency plans in the event that the troop increase plan does not yield results in the next few months.

We write to formally request that the Department of Defense share with the Committee the range of contingencies under consideration and discuss with us the possible options for dealing with them.

As you may know, we disagree with the President’s decision to increase U.S. combat forces in Baghdad by over 21,000 troops.  But whatever one’s opinion on the plan, it is critical that Congress have a realistic understanding of what our troops may need through the remainder of the year.  This must include knowledge of alternative options and contingency plans for our military. 
 
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request and for your continued service to the country.

Sincerely,

Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

Adam Smith (D-WA)
Chairman, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities