The U.S. military is about to face its “greatest readiness crisis” since the Vietnam War due to defense cuts, according to a recent opinion piece written by several House Armed Services Committee members.
Representatives J. Randy Forbes (R–VA), Rob Wittman (R–VA), and Scott Rigell (R–VA) penned the article after a recent hearing in which military officials also warned of a readiness crisis. “Should sequestration continue indefinitely,” the Congressmen warned, “the services will likely be forced to steal from both our readiness and investment budgets, leaving the force unprepared for today’s contingencies and tomorrow’s likely challenges.”
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno expressed similar concerns to the committee recently: “My biggest fear is to deploy soldiers to unknown contingencies and they’re not ready.”
The Army has already planned to cut its active-duty force by 14 percent, from 570,000 to 490,000. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has suggested that force strength could actually drop to as low as 420,000.
Trying to do more with less, however, will put our men and women in uniform at greater risk and undermine the military’s ability to respond quickly and decisively to future challenges.
The deep defense cuts are already taking their toll on all the services. For example:
- Air Force pilots have already had to reduce their cockpit hours by roughly 20 percent, making it increasingly difficult to maintain and update their skills;
- Army and Marine units are sacrificing valuable training time and opportunities to conduct live-fire exercises that are critical for transitioning to the battlefield; and
- The Navy is experiencing a $4.5 billion shortfall in maintenance accounts, which is preventing key maintenance on 62 vessels.
Forbes, Wittman, and Rigell stated that deep cuts to defense spending “has forced our military to accept a degree of risk that, in a crisis, can mean the difference between mission success and failure.”
Today, the U.S. faces a multitude of challenges, from Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon to China’s aggression in the Asia–Pacific to the continued spread of radical Islamist extremism. To counter these global threats, Congress and the Obama Administration should ensure that the military remains at the ready.
Clark Irvine is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.