NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Military Unready, Underfunded

September 18, 2000

Are U.S. armed forces "a military in decline," as Gov. George W. Bush has claimed? It is true, as Vice President Al Gore countered, that the U.S. military is the "strongest and the best" compared to other military powers. But official reports indicate it has declined significantly from the military establishment that won Desert Storm. For instance:

  • The lowest readiness rating was given 12 of 20 Army training schools, says defense analyst Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation, citing recently leaked Army documents, and two of the Army's 10 active divisions were given the lowest readiness rating by the Pentagon last November.
  • The readiness of the Navy's aviation fleet has been degraded by budget cuts and fast-paced deployments -- using up spare parts and leaving crews overworked and undertrained, according to the Navy's Inspector General; thus, during last year's bombing campaign against Serbia, more than half of Navy-dropped laser bombs missed their target.
  • The U.S. Army is "beset by turbulence caused by personnel shortfalls, training cutbacks, and a large menu of missions," reports U.S. News & World Report (Sept. 18), and to plug staffing holes in combat units, the Army is planning big cuts in training organizations in 2001.

The U.S. military needs an additional $50 billion a year to maintain its current size, commitments and edge over potential adversaries, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released September 14. Otherwise, its size must be cut another 25 percent.

During the Clinton administration, the procurement share of the defense budget remained consistently below 20 percent for the first time since the 1930s, says Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.

According to an August 1999 U.S. General Accounting Office review, more than half of the officers and enlisted personnel surveyed "were dissatisfied and intended to leave the military after their current obligation or term of enlistment was up."

Sources: Jack Spencer, "The Facts About Military Readiness," Backgrounder No. 1394, September 15, 2000, Heritage Foundation; "IG Report Says Readiness of Navy's Aviation Fleet Degraded," summary of Washington Times article, Washington Morning Update, Bulletin News Network, September 15; U.S. News & World Report, September 18; "Budgeting For Defense: Maintaining Today's Forces," Congressional Budget Office, September 2000; Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute; U.S. General Accounting Office.


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