Study finds US military much weaker after 8 years of Obama administration
The Heritage Foundation has released its 2017 Index of US Military Strength, an objective survey of US military infrastructure, its ability to operate in different regions of the world and an assessment of threats currently faced by the US. This year Heritage found that threats to the US were high while the ability of the US to meet them was “marginal” to “weak.”The study finds the US faces six high-risk threats. Military expansion by Russia and China appear near the top of the list along with the threat of a nuclear attack on the mainland from the North Koreans. Iran is also seen as a nuclear threat to the US despite Obama's deal. These are n addition to the ongoing threat of Islamic terrorism around the world aimed at US targets.
Heritage notes that the military is assessed on the basis of being able to accomplish three core missions: Defense of the homeland, successful conclusion of a major regional war and protection of freedom of movement through areas in sea, air, space and cyberspace in which the world conducts business. Since WWII, US leaders have consistently worked to maintain a military size that could fight two major regional contingencies (MRCs) at the same time.
The different branches of the US military were rated on capability, capacity and readiness. The Navy, Air Force, Marines and nuclear forces were rated as “marginal” by Heritage while the Army was rated as “weak.” Heritage notes that the Navy is deferring maintenance and facing delays in modernization. The Air Force has a fleet of 1,159 tactical fighters, but lacks the ability to fly all of them due to shortages of pilots and experienced maintenance personnel. Current operations and shortage of funds for the Marine Corps mean that the USMC has only two-thirds of the units that it needs. US nuclear forces depend on older weapons systems while competitor countries are upgrading and expanding.
The Army’s weak rating is the result of trading strength and modernization for the current readiness. Even so, Heritage says that only one-third of army units are at acceptable readiness levels. Budget cuts have forced the Army to increase its reliance on contract maintenance. Brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades have been reduced by about a third due to budget shortfalls. Heritage says, “The Army is smaller, older, and weaker, a condition that is unlikely to change in the near future.”