WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2000-Reeling from a
combination of troop cuts, slashed budgets and overuse, the U.S.
military is suffering from its lowest state of readiness since the
end of the Cold War, a new Heritage
Foundation study says.
Between 1992 and 2000, the Clinton administration cut national
defense by more than 500,000 personnel and $50 billion in
inflation-adjusted dollars, notes defense policy analyst Jack
Spencer. A just-released Congressional Budget Office report finds
that military funding would need to increase by $50 billion a year
simply to maintain the size of today's forces.
Since 1992, Spencer notes, the Army has lost four active
divisions and two reserve divisions-30 percent of its staff. The
Air Force is down by five tactical squadrons, 178 bombers and 30
percent of its active personnel. The naval fleet has gone from 393
ships in 1992 to 316, and the Navy has decreased its active duty
personnel by 30 percent. Even the Marines have lost
personnel-22,000 since 1992.
Despite this drastic downsizing, the pace of military
deployments has increased 16-fold over the last eight years,
including missions in Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1996),
and Iraq and Kuwait (1998). As a result of this over-extension, all
four services-Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy-face a shortage of
modernized equipment and low morale that is driving more and more
troops out of the military completely.
"Nearly a decade of misdirected policy coupled with a myopic
modernization strategy has rendered America's armed forces years
away from top form," writes Spencer, who notes that readiness
refers to a unit's ability to accomplish its assigned mission.
Logistics, available spare parts, training, equipment and morale
all contribute to readiness, he says.
Even those who deny a readiness problem can't claim the United
States is prepared to fulfill its own "National Security Strategy,"
which states that the country must be able to fight and win two
major regional conflicts during overlapping timeframes, Spencer
says. Key senior military officers-including Commandant of the
Marines Corps Gen. James Jones, former Chief of Naval Operations
Adm. Jay Johnson, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael
Ryan-have expressed serious concerns about the ability of their
respective services to carry out this strategy.
The services are also short of critical equipment, including
night-vision goggles, chemical-agent monitors and
global-positioning units, Spencer says. Some equipment is aging
faster than it can be replaced, such as 20-year-old U.S. fighter
aircraft that were designed to last 15 years. A Pentagon spokesman
said earlier this year that spare parts are so scarce that the Air
Force has been forced to "cannibalize" perfectly good aircraft.
"When smaller, more poorly equipped forces deploy for more
missions, the result is increased wear-and-tear and longer
deployments for servicemen," Spencer says. "The result is a
military weakened by aging equipment, low morale and inadequate
The Clinton administration has deployed U.S. troops 34 times in
less than eight years. During the entire Cold War (a 40-year
period), the military was committed to comparable deployments just
10 times, Spencer writes. Today, for example, the Army has 144,716
soldiers in 126 countries, with the Kosovo campaign alone costing
U.S. taxpayers $15 billion to date.
Spencer says it's no surprise the military is not meeting its
retention rates, particularly when more than 5,000 personnel are
forced to live on food stamps. A 1999 Navy survey to gauge the
morale of its junior officers found 82 percent answered negatively,
citing poor leadership, inadequate pay, and insufficient parts and
equipment. The Air Force missed its 1999 retention goal by 5,000
airmen and expects to be down 1,500 pilots by the end of 2002.