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Our Military Is Weak. That Should Scare You.

Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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Our government isn’t serious about defending the United States and its interests. In fact, it has fallen woefully short in carrying out this sacred obligation. I know this sounds harsh, but as we’ll see, the government’s own numbers prove the point.

That our military is weak is not an indictment of the men and women who have volunteered to serve. It is an indictment of a system largely defined by the government and those elected to high office.

That includes senior military officers whose primary obligation should be to ensure that our men and women have what they need to win in war—which is, after all, the primary purpose of our military.

Yes, many people will say the purpose of a strong military is to deter war, but deterrence derives from the belief of the enemy that they would be defeated in battle. So if our military is at great risk of not being able to win … well, it doesn’t have much deterrent value.

Our potential enemies can see this; the American public, not so much.

At present, the U.S. military is roughly half the size it needs to be. Moreover, most of its primary equipment (planes, ships, tanks, etc.) is 30 to 40 years old. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen are training only a fraction of what they should to be competent in battle.

Yet senior leaders in the Pentagon, White House spokespersons, and even members of Congress who have access to the facts (and should know better) continue to say that we have the best military in the world, as if saying so makes it so. It does not.

Let’s look at the numbers, using references from near the end of the Cold War, when the U.S. last confronted a major competitor on a global stage. Recall that until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. maintained forces able to compete with the Soviets in many regions at once, primarily in Europe (in land and air) but also across the seas where naval power was essential.

Back then, Washington had to focus only on one capital and the ambitions of one authoritarian regime. Regardless of where military actions occurred, the signals reverberated to Moscow.

Today, the U.S. must account for regimes in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Pyongyang, and a host of smaller powers and terrorist regimes that challenge U.S. interests. They have different objectives and possess different cultures, values, and networks.

Just because the U.S. acts in the Middle East to thwart Iran doesn’t mean that China alters its activities vis-à-vis Taiwan or its push on territorial claims in the South China Sea, or that Russia lessens its assault of Europe or attempts to divide NATO. They pose different threats to the U.S. in different ways.

What they have in common is the objective of displacing the United States as a global power and reducing America’s ability to shape the future in ways that benefit Americans.

To compete on a global stage against a multitude of adversaries who collaborate against the U.S., at least opportunistically, America must possess military power commensurate with the realities of the current world, not one that is imagined years from now nor held in fond memory.

Consider the following:

In the late 1980s, the Navy possessed nearly 600 ships, keeping approximately 100 at sea on any given day. Today, it has 292 yet maintains the same number deployed, thus working both ships and crew twice as much. It is not uncommon for ships to be 15% undermanned.

In 1989, the Army had 770,000 soldiers in its active component. Today, it has 452,000, shrinking by 33,000 last year alone. By the end of this year, it will shrink further, to 445,000.

Since 2011, the Army has lost 121,000 troops, 22% of its force. The service is the smallest it has been since the 1930s. Most of its major weapons were purchased in the 1980s.

During the Cold War, the average Air Force pilot flew more than 200 hours a year and often exceeded 300 hours. Our pilots made fun of their Soviet counterparts for flying half that number. Today, the average Air Force pilot flies fewer than 130 hours, while their Chinese competitors fly 200-plus.

The average age of an Air Force fighter is 30, older than the pilots flying the aircraft. The average age of the majority of refueling aircraft is 60 years—as old (or older) than the parents of the pilots flying them.

Fourteen years ago, America committed to modernizing its portfolio of nuclear weapons. Since then, our nuclear enterprise hasn’t produced a single new weapon. Meanwhile, China has produced 100 nuclear missiles just the past year and is on track to quadruple its inventory by 2030.

Iran is near-nuclear, having amassed enough uranium enriched to 60% to make a half-dozen warheads in 30 days if it committed to push the enrichment process to 90%, which it is capable of doing. Iran already possesses the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and is placing satellites in orbit to refine militarily relevant technologies.

Although Russia has taken a beating in its war against Ukraine, it has moved to a wartime economy and is making more missiles and tanks now than before it invaded Ukraine. New equipment is rapidly replacing the old Soviet inventory that Russia has consumed or lost in the past two years.

And the soldiers who have survived the Russia-Ukraine war to this point are battle-hardened; U.S. forces last saw major combat when in Iraq, nearly 20 years ago.

Perhaps things wouldn’t be so worrisome if we could count on strong, reliable allies. Unfortunately, their story is worse.

During the Cold War, West Germany had 5,000 main battle tanks. Today, it has 300 Leopard IIs, of which fewer than 100 are considered operational. But that’s better than in 2021, when only 13 were available for deployment.

Germany’s defense minister has reported that the country won’t be able to field a ready division until 2025. Its military infrastructure is so decayed that it will take 300 billion euros (about $329 billion) and 50 years to modernize.

In the United Kingdom, the army is the smallest since 1710 and leaders have said they would struggle to put a single division in the field. Britain’s military services combined (160,000 service members) are smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps at 174,000. The Royal Navy possesses a mere 20 surface combatants.

France only has 19 large surface warships. In the days since the Cold War, the number of France’s tanks has dropped from 1,349 to 222 and the number of fighter aircraft from 686 to 254. A senior defense leader has questioned whether the French military could operate longer than four days in high-intensity combat.

Japan, a major U.S. ally in the Pacific, reportedly has such a limited inventory of munitions that its ships and aircraft could sortie only three times before having nothing more to shoot.

Back at home, 3 out of 4 young Americans are ineligible for military service, without a waiver, due to physical or mental health issues, obesity, criminal records, or substance abuse.

The recruiting environment is so bad that the Navy has increased the maximum age for new enlistees and has begun accepting enlistees in the lowest category of aptitude testing. In the Army, all captains are now automatically promoted to major. In the Air Force, all officers in flight school graduate, with less than one-quarter of 1% failing due to lack of demonstrated proficiency.

Many Americans perceive the military as more interested in pushing social policy agenda programs than in ensuring that our forces are able to win in combat.

Clearly, we have a problem.

All of this is captured in gory detail in The Heritage Foundation’s recently released 2024 Index of U.S. Military Strength. The point of the index is twofold: to inform Americans about the state of their military and to prompt Congress and the Biden administration to do something about correcting the multitude of problems in our country’s ability to defend itself and its interests in a very dangerous world that seems to be spiraling out of control.

Regular citizens can see to their needs for employment, food, medical care, personal protection, and spiritual fulfillment. They help each other in times of distress and routinely come together to celebrate successes in life. But they cannot defend the country at the individual or community level. That responsibility lies with the federal government, which is failing at the task.

This must change, and Americans should demand it. Waiting until the next crisis is upon us will be too late.

This commentary originally was published by The National Interest

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Signal by Dakota Wood.

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Ron Meier
Ron Meier
3 months ago

When are news people going to accept and verbalize that our current government is purposely destroying our once great country in order to go global?

PaulE
PaulE
3 months ago

I can’t disagree with any of the facts put forth in this article. Very good article. The facts match up with the equipment assessments I’ve seen for our allies around the world and how short all of them are to being ready for any sustained military action on their own by the likes of Russia, China, or even North Korea. Without our direct and immediate assistance, most of western Europe would fall in less than a month.

Our own forces are not only numerically far below where they should be to provide for a credible deterrent, but we’re also falling technologically behind in several key areas. Too much emphasis is being spent on surface ships, that would be damaged or sunk with the new technology our enemies are either working on or already fielding today. The nature of warfare and combat is evolving at a rapid pace, and it seems many in the Pentagon are still thinking it’s either WWII or the Cold War in terms of strategy and tactics.

Our logistics supply chain is too fractured in terms of parts, procurement and transport to supply forces engaged in active military conflicts to be efficient in a sustained, long-range conflict with a major adversary like China or Russia. Especially if we get involved in defending Taiwan in the Taiwan Straites that are well within the land-based missile batteries, Chinese Air Force and the majority of the Chinese Navy.

We can’t refurbish or build new attack submarines to meet the growing need fast enough, because we have inadequate domestic facilities and no real deep bench of talent to meet the need to physically build them. Same goes for missiles and other smart weapons. We have four or five major companies that provide 99% of the military’s needs in this area. If we need to ramp up manufacturing to support a sustained war effort against a major adversary, there simply isn’t the capacity to do so. Engaging either China or Russia over a protracted period of time, several months or longer, is far different from fighting goat herders running around the desert with AK-47s and RPGs for 20 years or playing whack-a-mole with the Houthis once in a while.

Barrett T Smith
Barrett T Smith
3 months ago

Our commander in chief is weak. It is a top down problem.

uncleferd
uncleferd
3 months ago

No matter how weak our military becomes… remember that NO ONE is weaker than our very own President Biden, who is Commander-in-Chief.

TommyD
TommyD
3 months ago

My nephew is an Air Force pilot and we hear about the “wokeness” that has penetrated the military. There is a huge loss of camaraderie and the overall sense of “being one” that is extremely important in the military. When I served, we felt like “one”. It didn’t matter if we were white, black, hispanic, Asian, etc., we were united with a common overall mindset. The same way the US has been fractioning into tribalism, we are seeing the same thing in the military. Add in the transgender lifestyle that’s actively being promoted under these conditions and there are people that no longer want to serve, or that refuse to reenlist.
The government has gotten so many people accustomed to receiving money for doing nothing, that far too many don’t want to work. They’d rather sit home, play video games and collect a check. Are there really so many young people that are ineligible to serve due to health reasons? No, there isn’t. That’s where doctors and the military itself needs to fix themselves and the nonsense. They need to stop creating “new” reasons to make young people ineligible to serve.

Barrett T Smith
Barrett T Smith
3 months ago

The country as a whole is weak: Back at home, 3 out of 4 young Americans are ineligible for military service, without a waiver, due to physical or mental health issues, obesity, criminal records, or substance abuse.

Freudosa
Freudosa
3 months ago

I hate to say it, but one must wonder if this is as intentional as forcing soldiers out who refused the so-called vaccines (and let’s not discuss the soldiers who have “vaccine” injuries.

porterv
porterv
3 months ago

NATO doesn’t meet its obligations because they are depending on the USA to defend them. If this article is correct, we cannot defend ourselves.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
3 months ago

You did excellent research in this important article Dakota Wood ,well done. Possibly one of the best ways to comment on this situation you described is to say with sincerity , “Remember Pearl Harbor ” and “Remember September 11, 2001” . Being prepared is part of the National Character , that is , if the National Character includes things like the many systems needed to maintain sovereignty. Great advantage in any endeavor is always part of being prepared. It reflects a high level of intelligence, having a sense of purpose and value for being resourceful. In the spirit of God bless America , land of the free and home of the brave . Praise for the good sense you expressed in this writing.

Ronald
Ronald
3 months ago

Makes me think senile china joe is setting it up for the chinese, huh?? 20.000 and more military aged, mostly men, are coming in illegally into our country every month unchecked and go anywhere they want. They are all well dressed, funded, and driven to our OPEN biden border.

kitty hogan
kitty hogan
3 months ago

who’d volunteer to serve with biden and austin in charge? weak men = weak nation

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
3 months ago

Been Woke, Weak under Biden day 1

Lou
Lou
3 months ago

I’ve got two words for you… “Red Dawn”

Gofer
Gofer
3 months ago

If this doesn’t scare you, you aren’t paying enough attention. WAKE UP, AMERICA!!!

Jerry
Jerry
3 months ago

We never seem to learn from history.

pete
pete
3 months ago

B-1s often are below flyable status. Remember all the general/admiral scandals under Obama? that was deliberate and manufactured to get rid of those who would stand up for the people, the constitution, and a strong military. All the Lbgtq-xyz crap and seeing that the military is in poor shape has turned young people off from joining, It takes operating–just like in sports you practice plays until their automatic–military ops need to be practiced the same way. The left has gutted the military, but the repubs have gone along with it. remember Teddy–‘Speak softly and carry a big stick!’ The left babbles meaningless threats, and the big stick is just a twig.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
3 months ago

Typical, I’ve seen it before under Clinton. Supply rationed toilet paper not by roll but “sheets per person” so we were always out. I bought toilet paper out of pocket for a shop of twenty people. Submariners ran the allocations in Pearl at the time so priority went to subs, you know, for important stuff like an ice cream machine.

Samson
Samson
3 months ago

Yes it scares the heck out of me! As former USMC I see the young military today and it scares me sometimes. We need to get these stinking Democrats out of every office, they’re the ones that are making the military weak. All they want to do is put men in the ladies rooms. We need to put God back in our country and get back on track or we are going to get destroyed.

Truth
Truth
3 months ago

Your clueless . You liberals are the blind leading the blind

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Biden and obama are guilty of high treason, and along with those two, many American globalist billionaires also are guilty of treason. It’s hard to understand warped minds who made all their money through our American economic system are trying to destroy it.

Bill Smith
Bill Smith
3 months ago

Is, has always been, a deficiency of leadership and the eagerly go-along crowd which inhabits high government positions and the underlings who support them.

Steven
Steven
3 months ago

This situation seems to become more evident whenever we have a Democrat in the White House as President. The shift from a strong military to diverting funds into social programs has been consistent problem starting with Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama and now Biden/Obama.
Ronald Reagan had to rebuild the military after Carter, George W. Bush after Clinton and Donald Trump after Obama. Whenever the Democrats were in the White House the military was used a social and cultural experiment.
That being said our current military equipment like tanks, surface ships and outdated planes are being used primarity for regional problem areas like the Midlle East. The next generation of world wide warfare will use cyberwarfare, lasers and satelites. Our nuclear submarines could easily wipe out Iran with the touch of a button.
It is expensive to maintain an antiqated arsenal of outdated tanks, planes, ships, etc. also has a bearing on the military budget. The culture changes in this country has also affected military reqruitment programs for all of the services. All of this will change with a new Republican Admistration as it has in the past. Patriotism has not died and young people will eagerly volunteer for military service if the situation changes.

anna hubert
anna hubert
3 months ago

Even if there were a compulsory military service half of the potential draftees would be not fit to serve

johnh
johnh
3 months ago

What is Biden thinking if this is true: I understand that Biden started campaign ads on Tiktok last weekend. I thought that Trump was pushing to ban Tiktok in USA when he was in office & it sure sounds like this is not good for Americans. And can anyone tell me anything good that TIKTOK contriabutes to the well being of America?

Morbious
Morbious
3 months ago

Well, it kinda sounds like the interwar period in which our military was the size of portugals and soldiers drilled with broom handles. Then when ww2 ended the depression (the new deal did not), our lean and hardened parents and gparents went to work with gusto. There’s a ted talk wherein the army general in charge of recruiting spoke. Most potential candidates must enter remedial programs to lose 30-50 lbs first. Go back and look at the photos of inductees in 41-42. In most cases you see their ribs as they stood shirtless awaiting exams. We were able to ramp up quickly then. It doesn’t seem possible today, should a real emergency demand it.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
3 months ago

You are too boring.

PapaGrouch
PapaGrouch
3 months ago

Another worthless victim of “Trump derangement syndrome.” You have a problem with NATO pulling their own weight, militarily and fiscally, when it comes to defending their own soil? You’re suggesting that the U.S. should expend her own blood and treasure to defend Europe when Europe would rather depend on the U.S. and let American kids fight and die over there while Europe stands by and cheers us on at their discount bargain rates? You worthless POS. Pull your head out of your a$$ and engage your toad riddled brain. You just defined, exactly, why people like you are not worthy of American freedom bought and paid for by patriots. BTW, Nikki is history, you non-relevant boob.

Frederick Emhof
Frederick Emhof
3 months ago

a retired soldier I am astounded at the possibility that our defense ability is so low. Do we need to have the draft again to build the ranks?

Stan
Stan
3 months ago

We have not won any military conflict since WW II. And it is not reflected on our fighting force but military and political brass.

Sean Rickman
Sean Rickman
3 months ago

We AMERICANS have a country that is depleting our weapons stockpile so that the entities that own the weapons factories and their investors will make millions and probably much more.The supposed commander in chief is not who we think it is,at least let’s hope not.

BACKWOODS
BACKWOODS
3 months ago

Have you thanked a DEMOCRAT today and every day?

David
David
3 months ago

I wonder who would be a better president for this country Biden or Putin?

sdg
sdg
3 months ago

SOO sad, I just waiting for the day (coming soon) when China demands our surrender and we can do nothing about it. The bad thing about it, our current administration would welcome it.
People get ready to be slaves of the elitist Marxist world!!!

Truth
Truth
3 months ago

Obama’s agenda to destroy America and Israel.

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
3 months ago

I am.

jerry d.
jerry d.
3 months ago

Our military is weak because of nobummer, the worst lying muslim piece off S*** in U.S. history,,,,

JacK
JacK
3 months ago

For what? Pointing out the facts?

Linda
Linda
3 months ago

Very interesting indeed and thanks for sharing

Dennis Math
Dennis Math
3 months ago

OH NO!!! Our military is weak!! How are we going to defend ourselves from a foreign agressor attacking our shores?? Oh, uh, what? Thats never happened? Then how have we lost hundreds of thousands of dead young men while they killed MILLIONS of foreign soldiers but mostly civilians? Oh, uh, what? We have started needless conflict after conflict across the globe since………well since the Spanish American “war”? Wow, that sounds like the actions of a tyrannical empire with a lust for blood while literally stealing the assetts of the nations we initiate conflicts with.
As for Russia being in a “war time economy”, and” having “taken a beating” in its war with Ukraine…….well yes, Russia has had some losses in its proxy war with the United States with, well now the largely female population of Ukraine as that proxy, we, in the form of Ukraine have taken losses at a rate of roughly 50 to one in comparison to Russian losses. The “war time economy” is a pure lie and the author would know this if it (not sure what sex to assign someone named “Dakota”), he or she had been in Russia over the past couple years…….or ever for that matter. The Russian economy is anything but one overwhelmed with war time production. It is hard to find a single block in Moscow without construction cranes buildling offices and apartments. These are needed now that Russia lucked into its removal from the collective wests financial chaos. Weird how a nation gets more productive the less it has to do with the woke ideology that rules the collective west.
And no, America does not have to “answer” for any other nation be it Russia or China or Iran or the Marx Brothers Klopstokia and as for Chinese aggression against Taiwan, I guess the author is too……….challenged, to realize that Taiwan IS China and China IS Taiwan……..the US itself just like the UN recognizes a ONE COUNTRY CHINA. That explains why the US has no embassy in Taiwan and Taiwan has no embassy here. It is merely an island off of its host country…..China.
Always remember the key word in “Defense Budget”. That key word is DEFENSE. If and when we have the need to defend ourselves we have more than enough firepower to do so. Will we use it? Not if what is going on at our southern border is any indicator.
Why does AMAC keep allowing morons to publish? No grownups available?

phoenix
phoenix
3 months ago

meh. Wake me up when we are invaded. That is what they military is for.

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