The American Enterprise Institute issued a report quoting senior Pentagon officials who say that U.S. readiness has deteriorated over the past year and that the four service branches are unable to “meet their day-to-day requirements” and lack the “operational depth required to respond to a major crisis.”
The study by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington homed in on comments made during a series of March congressional hearings by top military commanders, who “painted a somber picture of military readiness.”
“Reflecting on the preceding years, they described, in the language of the Pentagon, a military driven to the ‘ragged edge’ of readiness,” the study said. “What they meant was that the military could meet the demands of the day but would not be able to handle a major crisis quickly and decisively.”
With regard to the Army, the study said overall readiness “has not improved in the past year, and the force was not able to keep up with the pace of operational demands.”
“One-third of the Army is ready to go to war against a powerful conventional foe, short of the target of having two-thirds of the force ready, as defined by Army training and operational plans,” the study said.
If the nation were to face a major crisis, the Army would likely have to deploy all uncommitted forces, including active duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers to respond, the study said, adding that the Army “would not be able to respond to two simultaneous conflicts.”
It also says the Marine Corps and Navy are currently worn thin by high rates of deployment and deteriorating equipment and could not keep up with the pace of global deployments over the past year.
With regard to the Air Force, the study said the service has sacrificed its ability to conduct a large-scale campaign with anywhere near the size and speed desired by Pentagon commanders and continues to train pilots for only mission-specific needs.
It’s actually worse than portrayed. Only 30% of Marine Corps aircraft are fit to fly and while the army may be ready to fight, getting them to the battlefield may be a problem. Our airlift capability has deteriorated drastically.
The villain in this crisis of readiness is budget sequestration, which hit the military far harder than it was supposed to. But Congress kept granting waivers to non-defense spending items so that instead of 50% of the cuts ordered under sequestration, the military absorbed more than 60% of the total budget cuts.
Efforts to restore the spending have been blocked by both Republicans and Democrats. Donald Trump has promised to restore spending levels but it will take years before we once again have a military second to none.