“Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an article published by Business Insider last week. The piece, titled “The US military is struggling to keep up with all its responsibilities,” could just as easily been titled “The American Empire is overextended,” as it thoroughly details the GAO’s negative assessment of the current state of the U.S. war machine.
Writing that “unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” the report breaks down how each branch of the military is essentially overburdened and underprepared to fulfill its national security obligations.
The Air Force, for instance, has reported that less than 50 percent of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels. Additionally, the branch says, it’s short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 maintenance crew members.
The Marine Corps is also running short of resources, with 80 percent of its aviation units lacking the minimum number of aircraft available for training — with the same trend going for the number of craft ready for wartime. The Navy, the GAO found, suffers primarily from the high pace of operations and a lack of funds devoted to maintenance.
As for the Army, the GAO found that while its level of readiness is generally favorable, the rate at which its readiness is declining is continuing to grow, due in large part to ever-increasing demands from the White House.
In reporting on the GAO’s evaluation, Business Insider points out that criticism of the United States military’s preparedness for combat doesn’t come from Washington D.C. offices alone, but also from assets on the ground.
One former trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, Captain Scott Metz, wrote in a paper published this spring that “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”
The captain writes that “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are,” and goes on to detail how a lack of basic training at home bases before troops are deployed overseas could potentially lead to fatal mistakes in combat:
“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”
Summarizing the GAO report, Business Insider writes that the root of the U.S. military’s problem is that it’s slowly — but surely — losing its edge:
“Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.”
And while many would rejoice at the news of an American war machine that’s running out of steam, it’s important to remember that it’s reports such as these from the GAO that are held up as justification for that very same machine to receive infusions of resources.
That is, in fact, the argument the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made before the House Armed Services Committee this month.
“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” General Joseph Dunford said, adding that the U.S. military needs “sustained, sufficient and predictable funding,” or else it will lose its “ability to project power.”