WASHINGTON, DC – Today Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton (MO) released the following statement in response to recent press reports indicating that General Casey will recommend a significant increase in the number of Iraqi security forces:

“Any additional increase in the total size of the Iraqi Security Forces would add to our training burden and likely lengthen the timetable announced last week by General Casey for their full training. 

“Congress must have a clear explanation of why these additional forces are needed, what additional American training resources will be put in place, and how this new training plan will allow for a decreased commitment from American forces. 

“This is particularly relevant when the readiness of many American units is at such critical levels, and the American people have already contributed an estimated $13 billion for the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces.

“Congress must also hold hearings on the disturbing errors recently discovered by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, regarding the lack of accountability for hundreds of thousands of weapons paid for by American taxpayers and given to Iraqi security forces. 

“Due to this lack of accountability, there is a high probability that some of these weapons were diverted to insurgents and actually used against Americans troops.  This situation is absolutely unacceptable, and these weapons must be accounted for as soon as possible.

“The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act for 2007 authorizes an additional $3.2 billion for equipment and infrastructure for Iraqi and Afghan Security Forces.  To avoid making the same mistake twice, strict accountability for weapons purchased with this funding must be established before any are distributed.  Furthermore, due to a loophole in the law, this funding is not subject to the oversight of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  The mandate must be extended to give the Inspector General both the power and time necessary to fully audit this new funding.