"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.
Foundation recently invited former NATO ambassador David Abshire,
General Edward "Shy" Meyer, and historian Dr. Lewis Sorley to speak
on this subject. The panel discussed three factors that can lead to
a hollow force: the erosion of the military's intellectual capital,
the decline of stable, cohesive units, and the tendency to believe
that U.S. military forces are ready because they appear fine.
stressed the importance of military education in maintaining a
combat-ready force. He attributed the success of World War II's
leaders to investments in military education in the 1920s and 30s.
While spending on equipment and force structure plummeted,
investments in intellectual capital sustained the military's
ability to expand and adapt.
Soldiers are asked
to display extraordinary bravery under the most difficult
conditions. Dr. Sorley emphasized the importance of maintaining
that spirit through unit cohesion and an emphasis on teamwork.
discussed the importance of knowing the difference between a force
that merely looks good on paper and one that is properly staffed
and trained. As Army Chief of Staff, General Meyer recognized that
many units had insufficient troops and warned President Jimmy
Carter that only four of the Army's sixteen divisions at the time
were truly ready for war.
All the presenters
agreed that it is far more difficult and costly to remedy a hollow
force than to prevent one. In addition, a hollow military incurs
unacceptable risks, not only to national security, but also to the
brave service members. Congress and the administration must ensure
that defense budgets come in at adequate levels.
Jay Carafano is Senior Research Fellow for Defense and
Homeland Security, Alane
Kochems is Policy Analyst for National Security, and David D.
Gentilli is a Research Assistant in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom
Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage