NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Military Readiness vs. Modernization

September 5, 2000

While U.S. readiness to meet current military challenges has become a campaign issue, defense analysts point out that less attention has been paid to the more significant issue of where the U.S. military will be 10 years hence. Current readiness is no substitute for modernizing to fight the kind of battles the military will most likely face in the future.

"It is irresponsible if you are putting all your money into shoring up readiness and not investing in the future," says retired Gen. Colin Powell. "I don't think we have invested in modernization as we should. Sooner or later that bill will have to be paid," he warns.

  • The planes, ships and tanks acquired during the Reagan administration's buildup will begin to hit the end of their useful lives five or 10 years from now, experts caution.
  • A nonpartisan think tank says procurements of new weapons could soar as much as 50 percent above this year's $60 billion.
  • As the Pentagon's equipment continues to age, more money must be devoted to maintenance of current equipment -- robbing resources from programs to purchase new equipment.

Analysts say Congress has contributed to the problem by refusing to give President Clinton authority to close more than a dozen unneeded military bases -- which could save as much as $5 billion a year for modernization.

To military experts, the term modernization often means lighter equipment. That's because future conflicts will likely require the U.S. to respond rapidly to developments in far corners of the world. Lighter equipment facilitates rapid deployments.

Source: Greg Jaffe "Military Could Face Modernization Problems," Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2000.


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