Significant Barriers to War Readiness of the U.S. Military

On Tuesday, 15 March, leaders from each of the four military services briefed Congress on the state of readiness of the U.S. military.  Each of the service leaders identified significant barriers to war readiness of the U.S. military.  There are some alarming revelations presented by each of the four services.  Forward Observer judges that U.S. competitiveness is being eroded due to both budget cuts and significant increases in military spending by U.S. near-peers like Russia and China.  Detailed problems with each of the four services follow.

[wcm_nonmember] In this Dispatch…

  • How budget cuts affect the readiness and force modernization for each of the four services.
  • The low percentage of Army units ready for combat operations.
  • Where the Marine Corps is focusing its resources to deal with the effects of sequestration.
  • The alarmingly large percentage of USMC intelligence and communications battalions that would be unable to fulfill their obligations to support combat operations.
  • The percentage of Air Force units not ready for sustained combat operations.
  • The original source documents containing this open source intelligence information.
  • And more…

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Army

  • Fourteen years of fighting irregular adversaries in Iraq and Afghanistan (sectarian militias, al-Qaida, and the Taliban) has eroded the skills required to fight conventional wars against conventional adversaries like China and Russia.
  • The Army continues to rely on the Army Reserve and National Guard to maintain military readiness, however, troop and budget cuts have degraded the Army’s overall ability to meet global requirements.  Therefore, the Army will increase its reliance on its Reserve and National Guard components.
  • The Army is balancing the missions of maintaining troop strength, force training, and force modernization.  Due to budget cuts, Army leaders have made decisions that negatively affect overall strength, training and readiness, and technology and equipment.  Army leaders have decided to prioritize readiness over modernization, even as near-peers like China and Russia continually advance their own military technology.
  • Less than a third of Army units are at “acceptable levels of readiness to conduct sustained ground combat”.
  • The Army instituted the Select, Train, Educate, Promote process to sustain leadership development and ensure that leaders from the tactical level to the theater level maintain the ability to lead troops in war.  As the Army reduces its end-strength, it must maintain quality leadership to lead fewer troops more effectively.

Navy

  • Shortfalls of available aircraft are negatively affecting the training readiness levels for some Navy pilots.
  • The work of extending the service life of F/A-18 Hornets is backlogged.
  • Due to fiscal constraints, Navy has taken “deliberate risk” to prioritize readiness over building and maintaining shore infrastructure, which will further backlog projects and maintenance in future years.
  • Navy is postponing repairs and upgrades to shore infrastructure, which includes utilities systems, airfields, warehouses, ordnance storage, roads, and other infrastructure.

Marine Corps

  • The USMC is focusing on five key areas: People, Readiness, Training, Naval Integration, and Modernization.
  • The three themes of the focus are: “maintaining and improving the high quality” of Marines; “decentralizing training and preparation for war”; and “modernizing the force”.
  • The USMC will continue to prioritize forward-deployed missions over units not on deployment.
  • Responding to a contingencies is expected to cost more in time, money, and lives due to a lack of priority for non-deployed units.
  • The “deployment to dwell” time (D2D) ratio ideally is 1:3, meaning seven months of deployment followed by 21 months of dwell time.  Many USMC units are operating on a 1:2 D2D, which means a third less dwell time than desired.
  • Due to budget cuts, aging equipment, and shortages of amphibious ships, negatively affects unit readiness of the Marine Corps.
  • Command staff elements on deployment in Africa and Central Command are degrading the ability to train other Marine units.
  • 100% of the Marine intelligence and communications battalions would be “unable to execute their full wartime mission requirements” if deployed today.
  • Marine aviation units are being stressed passed a 1:2 D2D.
  • 80% of aviation units lack the minimum number of ready aircraft for training.
  • The average age of Marine tactical fighter and attack (TACAIR) squadrons is 22 years, twice the age of the Navy’s TACAIR fleet.
  • Although the amphibious warship requirement minimum is 38, the Marine Corps’ current inventory of 30 vessels negatively affects readiness.  50 vessels are required for steady-state readiness.

Air Force

  • Like the other services, budget cuts required the Air Force to cut back on training, modernization, and maintenance of aircraft, airmen, and facilities; sacrificing readiness in the short-term.
  • Less than 50 percent of the Air Force is mission ready for combat operations, compared with 80 percent in the lead up to Desert Storm.
  • Many USAF bombers are nearing 55 years old, and the average age of USAF infrastructure is around 40 years old.
  • Investments and maintenance into critical infrastructure is being delayed to afford other budgetary requirements.
  • The USAF’s 40 Global Positioning Satellites are operating beyond their projected service life.
  • The 26 Cyber Force Mission Teams will be expanding to 39 Teams by fiscal year 2019.
  • The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircrafts are 47 years old and approaching the end of their service life.
  • The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft are 35 years old and approaching the end of their service life.
  • There are 500 fewer aircraft in use by the USAF than ten years ago.
  • Modernization over the next ten years is currently underfunded to maintain desired capability.  The Budget Control Act will force cuts to modernization, negatively affecting competitiveness with global near-peers.

 

Original Source Documents:

Army

Navy

Marine Corps

Air Force

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Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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