In a speech last week, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said that budget cuts were negatively affecting unit readiness in addition to downsizing the Army to historically low numbers.

“Right now, we are at 33 percent readiness,” Gen. Odierno said, referring to the Army’s 32 Brigade Combat Teams.  “What keeps me up at night more than anything else is that I might get a mission to send some of our soldiers and we haven’t properly trained them or given them the right equipment to do their job.”  Now at less than half the desired level of readiness for its Brigade Combat Teams, the U.S. Army should be maintaining 70 percent readiness, he said.

“If sequestration occurs [in 2016], for the next three to four to five years, we’ve moving towards a hollow army,” Gen Odierno said in a January speech.

Since Gen. Odierno became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff three years ago, the Army has shed 80,000 troops, with another 40,000 likely to be dropped through attrition.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to understand that further reductions simply will put us into a place we simply cannot go,” he said earlier this month.  In 2016, when budget cuts come into full effect, “modernization would come to a standstill, training would go unfunded, and readiness rates, both unit and individual, would fall to very low levels.”

Meanwhile in a speech on Monday, U.S. Marine Corps commandant General Joseph Dunford expressed deep concern with Corps-wide unit readiness, stating that the current status of non-commissioned officers “does not meet our force structure requirements.”  And considering the rate of future budget cuts, the Marine Corps is more likely to be fighting the effects of fewer dollars than anything else.

“We’re probably going to change the demographics of the Corps,” Gen. Dunford said.  Of the 190,000 Marines currently serving, 40% of them are ranked E-3 (lance corporal) or below, making the Corps more bottom-heavy than desired.  To further expound those problems, 60% of Marines are still in their first enlistment, in other words having fewer than four years in service.

NCO retention has been a problem, said Dunford in a speech in January.  As further budget cuts loom in 2016, dwell time will become shorter, further straining an already tight NCO corps.  About 31,000 Marines are currently forward deployed, 22,000 of them in the Asia-Pacific region.  Dunford said dwell time now is 14 months in home garrison for every seven months deployed.  After 2016, when the full effects of budget cuts are felt, Marines would see a 1:1 dwell time.  Dunford is concerned that it will further negatively affect NCO retention and expand leadership and experience gaps.

(Analyst Comment: First, understand that this drawdown is a repeat of what occurred after World War I, and then again after World War II, and then again after the Korean War, and then again after the Vietnam War, and then again after the Gulf War.  This is the ebb and flow of military spending, however, this trend accompanied by additional information suggests that another major war may be within the next five or ten years.  Instability around the globe has never been higher.  There are several flash points that could trigger world wars, and we have certainly resumed a continuation of the Cold War with Soviet-esque Russia under the leadership of president Vladmir Putin.  If faced with another large scale conflict within the next five years, the future of that conflict will likely largely hinge on who wins the general election in 2016.  If an isolationist or non-interventionist or even weak president is elected, then we will continue to see the manipulation of political landscapes and boundaries in Eastern Bloc nations and former Soviet satellite states.  And we wouldn’t just be limited to conventional war – cyber war would likely be a factor potentially targeting civilian and financial infrastructure.  If a hardline, pro-military force, warhawk president is elected, then the possibility of a draft is certainly not out of the question.  That likelihood would further depend on the size and scope of the conflict; i.e. peacekeeping operations versus a world war.  But never has there been a time in this nation that’s so dangerous for geopolitical power structures; never has there been a time when power and money in the hands of so few have ruled national and foreign policy; never has there been a time where nuclear weapons or technological advances in the hands of regional powers created such a disparate imbalance in measures of force required to keep the peace.  Foreign governments are taking note of a weakened state of military readiness, even if Americans aren’t.)