A Hollow Force: The Heritage Foundation's Research

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A Hollow Force: The Heritage Foundation's Research

July 12, 2006 7 min read
The Heritage Foundation

A hollow force lacks the resources to provide trained and ready forces, to support ongoing operations, and to modernize. Today's military is not hollow, but it could become so in a decade or less if funding for the military isn't adequate. There are already signs that defense funding is lacking as services like the Air Force and the National Guard are forced to make difficult choices. To prevent a hollow force in the future, the government must focus on the right modernization efforts, while continuing to meet current defense needs. Heritage research has focused on identifying the threat of a hollow force and determining the right strategies for defense spending and modernization. In the long-term, federal spending will have to be reformed to provide adequate funds for defense, and the shape of our military must be transformed to reflect future threats.


Military Readiness and the National Guard: A Crisis in the Making?

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1107
June 5, 2006


The term "hollow force" describes the situation when military readiness declines because of a lack of adequate funding. A hollow force lacks the resources to provide trained and ready forces, to support ongoing operations, and to modernize. In the past, when America's military has begun to hollow, the strain showed first in the National Guard. The same warning signs are here now. It will take a concerted effort from Congress and the administration to address the issue.


Avoiding the Hollow Force: Modernizing for the Future

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1075
May 12, 2006


The period after the drawdown of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is not the time to decrease defense spending. The military's modernization needs are far too pressing now and in the future.


Shaping the 21st Century Role of the National Guard and Reserves

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
May 4, 2006


The United States must prevent the hollow force from recurring.The danger of returning to a hollow force is real. Few would believe that the share of the U.S. econ­omy devoted to defense spending is actually pro­jected to decrease, but a new study by the Congressional Budget Office reveals that this is in fact the case.


Avoiding the Hollow Force: Maintaining a Trained and Ready Military

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Alane Kochems, and David Gentilli
WebMemo #1043
April 18, 2006


With mandatory spending in the U.S. budget projected to increase significantly in the coming years, the armed forces may well face a tightening budget. The concern at hand is future defense funding and whether that funding will be adequate to prevent the return of the hollow force.


More Signs of a Future Hollow Force? The Air Force Cuts a Corner

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #1039
April 18, 2006


A recent Air Force decision to terminate the alternative engine program for its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) raises questions regarding defense budget priorities. Congress needs to recognize the warning signs of trouble ahead, reverse some of the department's worst decisions, and address the larger federal spending issues that are forcing the armed services to make poor choices. 


A Defense Budget Strategy for Winning the Long War

by Baker Spring
Backgrounder #1918

March 2, 2006


Congress needs to recognize that the defense budget faces internal pressures that, if not remedied, could undermine the effective prosecution of the war over the long term. Funding demands for man­power and ongoing operations are weakening the military's ability to arm itself with the new weapons that sustain its position as the world's best fighting force. Further, the appeal of researching and devel­oping new weapons is starting to overwhelm the process of actually fielding them.


First Echoes of a Hollow Force? Air Force Choices Make Little Sense

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
WebMemo #986
February 3, 2006


When the services must choose between equally important and vital priorities so that they can pay the bills, the nation is not spending enough on defense. When the services must commit to spending a lot of money in the long run so that they can save a little bit today, the nation is not spending enough on defense. The administration and Congress must provide defense budgets adequate to meet all critical needs and stop forcing the services to make counterproductive decisions..


Congress Needs To Focus on the Big Picture in Defense Acquisition Reform

by Baker Spring
WebMemo #984
February 2, 2006


Cutting the modernization budget, something encouraged by Congress's current narrow approach to reform, could actually exacerbate the acquisition system's biggest problems-high unit costs for weapons and equipment and diminished competition in the defense industry due to consolidation. Rather, Congress should increase the modernization budget, which will help reduce unit costs for expensive systems and boost competition among defense contractors.


The Hollow Force: Background and Issues

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Alane Kochems, JD, MSLS, and David D. Gentilli
WebMemo #972
January 27, 2006


"Hollow force" is a term that observers use to describe the United States' Armed Forces when military readiness declines and the services lack the resources to provide trained and ready forces, support ongoing operations, and modernize. It was first used after the Vietnam War. The concern today is whether defense funding for the future will be adequate to prevent the return of the hollow force.


Defense Priorities for the Next Four Years

by Jack Spencer, James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Baker Spring
Executive Memorandum #953
January 11, 2005


The new Administration should continue to transform the military by developing the right set of skills and capabilities to meet the security threats of the 21st century, while retaining robust force levels and adequate funding for the military.


The Army Goes Rolling Along: New Service Transformation Agenda Suggests Promise and Problems

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Backgrounder #1729
February 23, 2004


Ensuring that the service is prepared to support a protracted war against terrorism, however, requires further changes in the Army's agenda. Initiatives should be more fiscally prudent, preserve combat readiness, and promote further transformation. The Army's next steps should be taken in concert with the other services, the Department of Defense, and Congress.


Focusing Defense Resources to Meet National Security Requirements

by Jack Spencer
Backgrounder #1638

March 21, 2003


While it is true that overall defense spending must increase significantly to ensure that the United States is prepared to defend itself today and into the future, the reality is that America's military needs a greater capability now. By making smart investments and freeing wasted resources, the U.S. armed forces can increase their capability in the near term and be better prepared to fight and win America's wars.


Guidelines for Modernizing America's Armed Forces

by Jack Spencer
Backgrounder #1422

March 28, 2001


The Bush Administration must demand that significant investments are made, both in modernizing today's force by procuring evolutionary systems to handle near-term security risks and in the research, development, and acquisition of revolutionary systems that will enable America to maintain its superpower status into the future.


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