Will the United States Be Prepared?

Owen Graham /

America’s founding father, General George Washington, famously said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

On Thursday morning CIA director Leon Panetta, whom President Obama has tapped to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Committee members should remember Washington’s maxim and consider asking questions that revolve around the following theme: “Will the United States military be prepared under your oversight?”

After nearly a decade of continuous warfare, underinvestment in next-generation equipment and systems—and stress from dramatically reduced force levels in the 1990s—the U.S. military is in bad shape. The bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel concluded that the Pentagon now faces the urgent need to recapitalize large parts of the force. Meeting these crucial modernization requirements will require immediate, substantial, and sustained investment over the long term. In this budget-cutting atmosphere, however, the present course appears ready to “hollow out” the military, as Gates has recently acknowledged. (more…)