The U.S. military has not fared well under the control of a Democratic president and Congress, according to a new assessment of its needs and capabilities by the Heritage Foundation.
The think tank’s Index of U.S. Military Strength assessed several areas — current threats to the United States; the status of the military and its capabilities overall; and U.S. alliances, among other areas.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board noted that for the first time in the nine-year history of the assessment, the U.S. military was rated “weak.”
The Daily Wire noted:
While the assessment found that the global operating environment from the U.S. perspective was largely favorable across the board, threats to the U.S. are rapidly increasing, with numerous nations posing a “high” threat against U.S. interests. The chief threats come from China and Russia, with Iran, North Korea, and others lagging behind.
In the portion of the assessment that focused on the power of the U.S. military, the analysis looked at capability, capacity, and readiness.
The assessment denotes the United States’ nuclear capability as a separate branch of the military because “of its truly unique characteristics and constituent elements, from the weapons themselves to the supporting infrastructure that is fundamentally different from the infrastructure that supports conventional capabilities.”
Also, the assessment claimed that the military has been degraded through “underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity in spite of repeated efforts by Congress to provide relief from low budget ceilings imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.”
Here are some other key findings by branch:
— Army [“Marginal”]: “The Army is aging faster than it is modernizing. It remains ‘weak’ in capacity with only 62 percent of the force it should have. However, 25 of its 31 Regular Army BCTs are at the highest state of readiness, thus earning a readiness score of ‘very strong’ and conveying the sense that the service knows what it needs to do to prepare for the next major conflict.”
— Navy [“Weak”]: “This worrisome score, a drop from ‘marginal’ assessed in the 2022 Index, is driven by problems in capacity (‘very weak’) and readiness (‘weak’). This Index assesses that the Navy needs a battle force of 400 manned ships to do what is expected of it today. The Navy’s current battle force fleet of 298 ships and intensified operational tempo combine to reveal a service that is much too small relative to its tasks.”
— Air Force [“Very Weak”]: “The Air Force has been downgraded once again, the second time in the past two years. The Air Force was assessed as ‘marginal’ in the 2021 Index but, with public reporting of the mission readiness and physical location of combat aircraft implying that it would have a difficult time responding rapidly to a crisis, fell to a score of ‘weak’ in the 2022 Index. During FY 2022, the year assessed for this Index, problems with pilot production and retention, an extraordinarily small amount of time in the cockpit for pilots, and a fleet of aircraft that continues to age compounded challenges even more, leading to the current score of ‘very weak.'”
— Marine Corps [“Strong”]: “The score for the Marine Corps was raised to ‘strong’ from ‘marginal’ in the 2022 Index and remains ‘strong’ in this edition for two reasons: (1) because the 2021 Index changed the threshold for capacity, lowering it from 36 infantry battalions to 30 battalions in acknowledgment of the Corps’ argument that it is a one-war force that also stands ready for a broad range of smaller crisis-response tasks, and (2) because of the Corps’ extraordinary, sustained efforts to modernize (which improves capability) and enhance its readiness during the assessed year. Of the five services, the Corps is the only one that has a compelling story for change, has a credible and practical plan for change, and is effectively implementing its plan to change.”
— Space Force [“Weak”]: “The mission sets, space assets, and personnel that have transitioned to the Space Force from the other services since its establishment in December 2019 and that have been added over the past two years have enabled the service to sustain its support to the Joint Force. However, there is little evidence that the USSF has improved its readiness to provide nearly real-time support to operational and tactical levels of force operations or that it is ready in any way to execute defensive and offensive counterspace operations to the degree envisioned by Congress when it authorized the creation of the Space Force.”
— Nuclear Capabilities [“Strong”]: “The scoring for U.S. nuclear weapons must be considered in the context of a threat environment that is significantly more dangerous than it was in previous years. Until recently, U.S. nuclear forces needed to address one nuclear peer rather than two. Given senior leaders’ reassurances with respect to the readiness and reliability of U.S. nuclear forces, as well as the strong bipartisan commitment to modernization of the entire nuclear enterprise, this year’s Index retains its grade of ‘strong,’ but only for now. U.S. nuclear forces face many risks that, without a continued commitment to a strong deterrent, could warrant a decline to an overall score of ‘marginal’ or ‘weak.'”