Our military leaders have offered a brutally honest and sobering assessment of our armed forces.
Reporting on the recent hearings on Capitol Hill, The National Interest provides the following highlights from each branch:
– Army: Of 58 total brigade combat teams (the Army’s main combat building block), only three are considered ready for combat.
-Navy: The Navy’s fleet is the smallest it has been in nearly 100 years. This makes ship repairs harder to complete, as those vessels are needed on the waterways.
-Marine Corps: Eighty percent of Marine aviation units do not have even the minimum number of aircraft they need for training and basic operations.
-Air Force: The Air Force is the smallest and, in terms of many of its aircraft, oldest it has ever been. The service had 8,600 aircraft in 1991, while today it only has 5,500, and those aircraft are an average of 27 years old. Worse, less than half of those aircraft are prepared to take on and defeat our adversaries.
In the “Index of U.S. Military Strength” for 2017, The Heritage Foundation reaches some startling conclusions. The threat picture is concerning—six key competitors rank as “high” in the threat that they pose to the U.S. and her interests. More concerning is the readiness picture of our armed forces. Currently, the Army tests out as “weak” while the other branches and our nuclear capabilities are currently rated as “marginal.” There is also the potential for further degradation this coming year.
Why is this so alarming? As President Trump proposes a vast budgetary increase for the military, our leftward friends at The Huffington Post remind us that “The U.S. military is already the world’s most powerful fighting force and the United States spends far more than any other country on defense.” Isn’t it enough to be the biggest military in the world? Isn’t it enough to spend more on our military than any other nation?
This view neglects the most important effect of a military build-up: we don’t want to win—we want to prevent a conflict altogether. We don’t want other nations to test us. Their militaries don’t have to beat us outright to inflict serious damage on our interests and our morale. Russia can continue to erode the unity and commitment of NATO by nibbling off more pieces of the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.
China will not launch an attack on the West Coast of the United States anytime soon, but it can continue to build a “Great Wall of Sand” to expel the U.S. from the South China Sea. (This series of man-built islands were recently armed, by the way. The weaponry employed poses a direct threat to U.S. military forces and assets in the region.)
It is long past time to rebuild our military. The fact that we would be so cavalier with our most fundamental national responsibility—security—is a disgrace. The fact that we would be so short-sighted as to intertwine our long-term defense capabilities with momentary budget disputes is sheer lunacy.
When we neglect our military and let it fall into disrepair, we pay for it on the front-end of subsequent military engagements. We pay for it in continuing to lose ground to the enemy as we mobilize our forces. We pay for it by throwing ill-equipped soldiers into harm’s way. The price we pay is far greater than additional expenditures in peace time.
It will take a number of years before we are again in an adequate position to prevent war, if possible, and decisively win a war, if necessary. Let us hope that nothing breaks out in the meantime and turns our build-up into a catch-up. It will be our soldiers and, through them, our country, who will pay the price.