While President Obama did indeed inherit military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan from his predecessor, President George W. Bush, he chose to maintain those conflicts and even added forces in Southwest Asia shortly after he took office.
But Obama (and Congress) also presided over a drawdown of U.S. forces not seen in decades, and today, incoming President Donald J. Trump has a military that is badly in need of growth and an overhaul. Both will need to happen, and as hastily as possible, if the United States is to be prepared to effectively deal with a range of threats and potential crises.
Writing in The Daily Signal, Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Spoehr, U.S. Army (Ret.), a director at the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation, noted that an executive order issued by the president during his first week in office, which has gotten far less attention than those dealing with immigration policy, is a huge first step in restoring the U.S. military.
The order, titled “Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces,” instructs Secretary of Defense James Mattis to perform a 30-day analysis of the current overall force readiness, while assessing the military’s ability to conduct operations against the Islamic State and other pockets of Islamic terrorism, as well as near-peer adversaries and regional competitors. (RELATED: Stay current on the current state of national defense at NationalSecurity.news)
“This review is critically needed,” Spoehr wrote, adding that the Heritage Foundation has been out in front encouraging just such a review, based on the think tank’s own assessment of the U.S. military contained in a report called, “Heritage 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength.” The assessment examined “overall military capability as ‘marginal, trending towards weak’ because of many years of budget cuts and overuse.”
Spoehr said the assessment found that the U.S. Army, at present, is the smallest it’s been since the beginning of World War II, the Navy is the smallest since World War I, and the Air Force is suffering from a critical lack of pilots and maintenance personnel. (Heritage found the average Air Force plane is 27 years old.) And, as National Security has reported, Marine Corps aviation is practically on life support.
“For too long the nation, and the president, has neglected the state of military readiness in favor of other priorities,” Spoehr wrote. “This 30-day review will allow the defense secretary and the president to establish the facts and determine the necessary priorities for the rebuilding of the military.” (RELATED: What’s the latest and coolest survival and prepping equipment? Find out at Gear.news)
In addition, the retired general noted, the commander-in-chief’s order calls for measures aimed at reducing “commitments not directly related to the highest priority operations to make resources available for training and maintenance,” something he believes is long overdue.
As further noted in the document, “Blueprint for Balance,” the Pentagon spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on programs unrelated to the military’s primary mission of defending the nation and waging war.
“Although there won’t be enough resources identified just through cuts and efficiencies to fix the Pentagon’s readiness problems,” Spoehr noted, “every little bit helps.”
Most important, perhaps, is that Trump’s order directs Mattis and the director of the Office of Budget and Management to craft a new emergency funding request for the coming fiscal year (which began Oct. 1), and to make appropriate changes to the not-yet-released military budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. The commander-in-chief wants to make sure funds are available to speed up force reconstruction. (RELATED: Stay current on the current state of national defense at NationalSecurity.news)
“That direction aligns with recommendations from both Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. McCain and Thornberry, the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, both have a clear-eyed view of the critical state of the U.S. military and have written persuasively on the need for additional defense funding,” the retired Army general wrote.
And, finally, the order calls for a new nuclear posture and reviews of missile defense, two areas vital to our defense that suffered immeasurably under the Obama administration. The think tank, Spoehr said, has regularly and loudly proclaimed the need for reviews and for additional investments into the country’s nuclear and missile defense technologies.