From Afghanistan to Iraq and around the world, the military manages to always get Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings to all the force. That’s admirable. Not nearly as cheery is the state of the American armed forces and Washington’s lackluster effort to deliver the troops, equipment, and maintenance the military needs.
The annual edition of the Heritage Foundation Index of U.S. Military Strength rated the state of the armed forces as marginal. Meanwhile, Washington’s treatment of its responsibilities for providing for the common defense has been anything but stellar. “The best thing that could happen for all the services, at least in my view, would be for us to have predictable, on-time budgets,” complained the outgoing Secretary of the Army John McHugh last month before he fled the Pentagon. He continued: “The challenges that all the departments face are significant, but we would be better postured to meet them, even with declining resources, were we assured that we would have a budget on time. That it would be a figure that is known, that we could plan for, and that our industrial partners can plan for as well.” It has been years since Congress and the president passed a defense budget—let alone got one done on time.
While presidential candidates sparred over defense spending during the last debate, no one seems sanguine with the state of the American military or confident in the foreign and defense policies put in place by the president.
Expect, as there always are, to see some feel-good stories about soldiers over the Thanksgiving holiday. Perhaps the report will be about some troops rushed home in time to see their families. Maybe there will be a news feature about soldiers serving up hot meals in a refugee camp in some far-off land. But as soon as the holidays are over, more likely than not the news will go back to more stories over how the state of the armed forces is getting worse because of poor stewardship from Washington.