NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Military Readiness Is Falling

November 10, 1998

Top Pentagon officials have asked Congress to increase spending on maintenance, training and recruiting, saying all the armed services have problems in these areas. Some experts say the lack of readiness is the worst it has been in 20 years.

Observers say readiness is down because there is a shortage of recruits and spare parts. Also, good people are retiring early and training time has been reduced.

  • Ten years ago, 70 percent of navy ships in U.S. ports were rated in a high state of readiness to deploy quickly, whereas today it's just 50 percent.
  • The army has been forced to waive training requirements because of shortages of ammunition, rockets and grenades.
  • Thousands of Humvee trucks bought in the 1980s are worn out; for example, only 52 percent of the Humvees in the Marine Corps' reserve forces are in good repair.
  • The rate of major accidents for navy aircraft has shot up, rising from a very safe 1.29 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in fiscal 1997 to 2.3 per 100,000 in 1998 -- a sign some say that equipment is getting too old and too many experienced pilots have left.

Also, the readiness of fighter squadrons in the U.S. has fallen from 86 percent in 1992 to 75 percent last year. And because of frequent repairs, the average cost per flight hour of Marine Corps aircraft has soared nearly 50 percent in the past three years.

Congress added about $1 billion in emergency spending for spare parts and training to last month's budget bill; but the military's top officers are seeking a combined $27 billion a year in additional spending, including increasing soldiers' pay and retirement benefits.

Source: Steven Komarow, "As Iraq Looms, Shortfalls Hastening 'Downward Slide,'" USA Today, November 10, 1998.


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