The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that just because top military leaders have talked publicly about the lack of readiness among troops, that doesn't mean allies or enemies should underestimate the U.S. military.
Gen. Joseph Dunford said the military is still "the most capable, professional military force in the world" despite recent conversations about readiness and maintenance that have taken a hit under tight budgets and high operational tempo.
"That point should not be lost on our enemies, our allies, or more importantly, on the men and women of the joint force," Dunford said during the Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber conference in National Harbor, Md.
"It's not about 'we're broke,' it's not about 'we don't have a competitive advantage.' It's about the standards that we've set for ourselves, which are incredibly high," he said.
Lawmakers and military officials have questioned the readiness of the military after years of fiscal uncertainty and tight budgets have forced tough choices that have repeatedly prioritized current operations over maintenance and training. Officials have also said that they are on the edge of no longer being able to meet their mission under sequestration caps.
Dunford acknowledged that a high operational tempo and a very complex security environment puts a strain on both troops and their families. He talked about one service member he recently met who was deploying for four months, then returning home for four months before deploying again, and that there was no end in sight to this cycle.
Dunford will testify on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. One thing he said he plans to emphasize to senators is the need for predictable funding, even as the government is preparing to pass a continuing resolution for the start of the fiscal year.
Dunford will also likely field questions from Congress about other threats and the state of the campaign against the Islamic State. The chairman said that by early October, the Iraqis will have all the forces they need trained and equipped for the fight to retake Mosul. When to actually begin the operation will then just be a "political decision" for Iraqi's prime minister, he said.