The need to move combat-related supplies and equipment is slowing mail deliveries to American troops in the Middle East, military officials say.

It takes an average of 13 to 17 days from the time a letter is mailed to the time it's delivered, Air Force Maj. Mark Rader said Tuesday."Competing priorities have caused less mail to be moved," said Rader, a spokesman for the Military Postal Service Agency.

Top officials are aware of the slowdown in the mail.

"We are doing everything we can to shorten the time," Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.