Three Steps to Avoiding a Hollow Military

The “summer of chaos” now turning to an “autumn of awful” has given many signs of a rapidly approaching gap between what the military has and what it needs to keep our nation safe.  And that gap could widen quickly in the face of escalating demands. From battling Ebola to bucking up NATO, from fighting the newest phase of the Long War against transnational terrorism to keeping peace and stability in Asia, the demand for U.S. forces is growing, not shrinking. To keep pace, we must no less than reinvent in the military. Washington must stop looking at the Pentagon as a piggy-bank for budget cuts and start thinking about what capacity and capabilities need to be restored to keep the military from drifting into a hollow force. How to do this?

1.     First, the services need to improve readiness across the board. Under sequestration, each service has been hurt and struggled to maintain forces ready to fight. The Army, for example, is maintaining combat brigade readiness, but little else. That needs to be fixed.

2.     Second, stop the ground forces cuts. Instead of laying off troops, we should be moving them to Europe. Relocating units there will send a powerful message to both Russia and the Middle East that the United States is not in retreat.

3.     Third, stop making the Pentagon trim programs to acquire essential major equipment—like submarines. Restoring predictability to what the military buys would be more cost-effective and ensure the military is ready for the future.

These steps will stop the decline of the military in its tracks.

 - James Jay Carafano is vice president for defense and national security studies at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

Originally appeared in Politico Magazine