FPI Bulletin: Military Readiness in Peril

March 23, 2016

A panel of senior military leaders recently warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that sharp defense cuts are harming the ability of our Armed Forces to execute their assigned missions. The vice chiefs of the four services described how maintenance backlogs, acquisition cancellations, and personnel reductions will harm readiness today and into the future.  FPI believes the following quotations from the March 15 hearing will help to inform lawmakers and their staff as they consider how to restore the readiness of the Armed Forces.


“To ensure a trained and ready Army today, the Army accepts considerable risk by reducing end strength while deferring modernization programs and infrastructure investments. These trade-offs are reflections of constrained resources, not strategic insight.” – General Daniel Allyn, Vice Chief of Staff

“An unintended consequence of current fiscal constraints is that the Army can no longer afford the most modern equipment, and we risk falling behind near peers in critical capabilities.” – General Allyn

“The FY17 Army Budget base request of $125.1 billion is $1.4 billion less than the FY16 enacted budget of $126.5 billion. While the budget provides a modicum of predictability, it is insufficient to simultaneously rebuild decisive action readiness and modernize.” – General Allyn

“At today’s end-strength, the Army risks consuming readiness as fast as we build it.” – General Allyn

 “To ensure sufficient readiness for the demands of today’s operating environment, the Army must assume risk by reducing end-strength, delaying modernization, and deferring infrastructure recapitalization and investment. These trade-offs mortgage future readiness.” – General Allyn


“We are still paying down the readiness debt we accrued over the last decade, but more slowly than we would prefer and at continued risk to our shore infrastructure.” – Adm. Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations

“Although our readiness shows improvement, recovery is not yet complete. – Adm. Howard

“In FY17, Navy will stabilize deployment length for the first time in many years. For FY17, no Navy ship is scheduled to deploy for greater than seven months.” – Adm. Howard

 “Our FY17 facilities sustainment account is resourced at 70% of the OSD facilities sustainment model, which falls short of DOD’s goal of 90% for the sixth year in a row.” – Adm. Howard

“[The] Navy continues to postpone much-needed repairs and upgrades for the vast majority of our infrastructure, including utilities systems, waterfront structures, airfields, laboratories, administrative buildings academic institutions, warehouses, ordnance storage, roads, and other vital shore infrastructure. Long term underinvestment in these facilities will take an eventual toll on our ability to support deploying forces.” – Adm. Howard

Air Force

“Our readiness remains at a near all-time low due to continuous combat operations, reduced manpower, an aging fleet, and inconsistent funding.”– General David L. Goldfein, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force

“Less than 50 percent of our Air Force is ready for full-spectrum operations…To meet the full requirements of our Defense Strategic Guidance and current operation plans, we require 80 percent of our combat squadrons to be full-spectrum ready.” – Gen. Goldfein

“Investments in aging critical infrastructure such as ranges, airfields, facilities, and even basic infrastructure like power and drainage systems, have been repeatedly delayed, and the problem was significantly exacerbated by sequestration.” – Gen. Goldfein

“25 years of continuous combat operations and reductions to our Total Force coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned funding levels have resulted in one of the smallest, oldest, and least ready forces across the full-spectrum of operations in our history.” – Gen. Goldfein

“[The] Air Force needs permanent relief from BCA [the Budget Control Act of 2011], consistent, flexible funding, modestly increased manpower, and time to recover readiness.” – Gen. Goldfein


“In order to stay ready and to ‘fight tonight’ under current budgetary outlays and constraints, we are continuing to mortgage our future readiness.” – General John Paxton, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps

“In the current fiscal environment we have been struggling to maintain that balance between current readiness and projected future readiness. Our 5.6% reduction in Operations and Maintenance funding from FY2015 to FY2016 makes that near term struggle even more difficult.” – Gen. Paxton

“Under our current resource levels we are accepting prolonged readiness risks and focusing the training of some units to their more limited rotational mission sets vice full spectrum operations.” – Gen. Paxton

“All of our intelligence and communications battalions and one of our signals intelligence battalions would be unable to execute their full wartime mission requirements if called upon today.” – Gen. Paxton

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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