WASHINGTON -- A recent Defense Department exercise disclosed a serious inability to fully mobilize U.S. military and civilian resources in the event of a major war, it was reported Sunday.
The 'Proud Spirit' exercise that ended Nov. 26 -- involving the Pentagon and 35 other agencies that would have a hand in wartime mobilization -- experienced problems only slightly less severe than those reported in the last full-scale test two years ago, the Washington Star reported.
The newspaper, quoting unnamed sources and a memo summarizing the exercise, said the problems included:
--A breakdown of the computerized Worldwide Military Command and Control System that left military commanders without essential readiness data for 12 hours during the peak of the simulated crisis.
--An unrecoverable shortfall of about 1 million tons of ammunition and military gear supposed to be in reserve stocks in Europe.
--A shortage of 350,000 trained troops to fill units leaving the United States and an inability to get front-line Army units in Germany to authorized strength.
'The exercise seemed to highlight the fact that we just have a long way to go,' said Frank A. Camm of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which organized the civilian agencies.
The newspaper said Pentagon officials declined comment on the exercise.
'We really can't talk about that yet,' Defense Department spokesman Tom Ross told the newspaper. In reference to the impending arrival of a new administration, he said, 'This is just too sensitive a time.'
Proud Spirit was an update of the 1978 'Nifty Nugget' exercise, the first government-wide mobilization test since World War II.
Nifty Nugget found large equipment, planning and manpower shortfalls. Its successor, said the Star, disclosed improved planning but continued shortages, confusion and poor results.
The emotional high point, the Star said, was the computer problem that undermined the command operation.
It took programmers six hours to find the proper code sequence to gain access to up-to-date readiness information, which finally surfaced 12 hours later. After that, the Star said, information came in bits and pieces, some of it too late.
In one case, the Air Force was given simulated orders to land transports at military bases two days before the troops assigned to the planes were told to move out.