The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently issued a report that attempts to explain the usage of the term “hollow forces.”
The report argues that given the context of the term, it cannot be used to describe dramatic cuts befalling the U.S. military today. Proponents of shrinking America’s armed forces have leapt on this report, misusing it to argue that warnings of a weakened national security are ill-founded.
Numerous defense experts have decried anti-defense advocates for diluting the real issue. James Jay Carafano of The Heritage Foundation comments, “Although the report may be technically correct that the military won’t go hollow as it did in the 1970s, it’s interesting but irrelevant.”
President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request will cause America’s military to fall short of even his own Administration’s strategic guidance directive. The document indicates a shift to the Asia-Pacific region, yet the budget request dramatically cuts funding for shipbuilding and fighter jets. Whether you call this a “hollow force,” a loss of readiness, or a reduction in capability, the fact remains that the military will be less prepared in the future to handle security threats.
The CRS report, moreover, does not account for sequestration. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has made it clear that if these across-the-board cuts go into effect, the consequences would be severe. While the CRS authors perhaps prudently did not account for this, lawmakers cannot ignore the potential cuts. House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R–CA) recently conceded that the first round of defense cuts is essentially irreversible and that Congress should now strive to reverse cuts brought on by the sequestration.
As defense expert Mackenzie Eaglen recently argued, “A high operational tempo over the past decade has put an incredible strain upon all of America’s military.” Perhaps one cannot literally call this the phenomenon of a “hollow force,” but reckless defense cuts weaken America’s national security forces and put its citizens unnecessarily at risk.