Heritage’s Index of U.S. Military Strength was thrust back in the headlines Thursday, when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump laid out his plans to rebuild America’s weakened military.
Speaking to a crowd at the Union League of Philadelphia, Trump called for a substantially larger force across the board: Army troops totaling 540,000, 36 battalions for the Marine Corps, nearly 350 Navy ships and at least 1,200 fighter jets for the Air Force. He also pledged to pursue a “state of the art” missile defense system.
If this sounds familiar, it should. The numbers align quite closely with the recommendations in Heritage’s 2016 Index of Military Strength. A fact sheet was even distributed to the press before the speech, where the Trump campaign credited the Index, as well as the National Defense Panel and testimony by the Army chief of staff as the source material for his plan.
During the primary campaigns, Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina also outlined defense build-up plans reflecting Index recommendations.
As Heritage senior policy analyst Justin Johnson told The Washington Examiner’s Jamie McIntyre: "Anytime we see people talking about the issues we're concerned about, that's encouraging. I think it's clear to most people following this that threats are going up at a time when our military is getting smaller and weaker, so we need to do something to turn that around."
In response to media queries regarding the methodology and threat assessments that led to Heritage’s recommendations regarding military capacity, Index editor and Senior Research Fellow Dakota Wood, published this summary of his team’s work. Heritage plans to publish its 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength later this year.