The headline above a September 13 article in Politico blares that the Department of Defense is stating that the U.S. military is “ready for anything.”
This statement comes in the context of the conflict in Syria while sequestration is almost complete for fiscal year 2013, and the leadership of the House of Representatives is pursuing a temporary funding measure that extends the sequestration process into fiscal year 2014.
As a result, the military is not “ready for anything.” Indeed, it is significantly less ready than it was as recently as a year ago.
Here is what military leaders have stated recently about the possible state of readiness in the near future:
- Army Vice Chief of Staff John Campbell stated in Breaking Defense: “Some people would call that tiered readiness, where we said we never were going to go again.”
- Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert stated before an audience at the American Enterprise Institute on September 5: “[Navy] surge capacity, I predict, will be about one-third of the norm as we’re looking to ’14.”
- Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh told U.S. airmen stationed in Japan in August: “If the president decides to take action [against the Syrian regime], the Air Force and the services will carry out their assigned missions—but we are not going to be as ready as we would like.”
- While it is true that the Marine Corps is currently maintaining a high state of readiness, it is doing so at an extraordinary level of risk in terms of future modernization. Commandant James Amos testified in April before the House Armed Services Committee: “Over the long-term, resourcing short-term readiness by borrowing-forward from long-term investment resources is unsustainable, and will eventually degrade unit readiness to an unacceptable level.”
Accordingly, the headline in the Politico article is subject to misimpression. While the Department of Defense did not write this headline, it has a responsibility to Congress and the American people to correct any misimpression the headline may cause regarding the impending state of reduced military readiness being brought about by sequestration, not to mention the damage it will do to the military’s ability to execute the existing strategic guidance over time. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that overall U.S. military readiness is starting to decline.