The U.S. military has been taxed with fighting wars for 16 years in multiple countries and with the previous presidential administration cutting back on troop levels, modernization of the service’s equipment, the Defense Department’s readiness is in “dire straits” across the board according to some reports just released.
The report from the Heritage Foundation, the conservative Washington think tank, also points to the country’s aging nuclear arsenal, in dire need of upgrades is falling behind that of the Russians who have upgraded theirs. And to top things off, the current disaster relief efforts undergoing in Puerto Rico, and elsewhere is putting an added burden on a force already stretched thin.
“We believe that the U.S. military is at marginal status and it’s trending toward weak,” said retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow for defense programs at Heritage and editor of its 2018 “Index of Military Strength” report.
In perhaps a sign of the U.S. military being stretched too thin, the Pentagon said Thursday new U.S. forces flowing into Afghanistan have been delayed due to hurricane relief efforts. The Pentagon has sent extensive resources to help with assistance to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands in the region.
“Forces are flowing to Afghanistan; they have been slightly delayed by ongoing hurricane relief efforts,” Joint Staff Director and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters late Thursday.
Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force units are at or near record lows in terms of service members. The Army at the end of the Cold War had 780,000 troops. Now they number about 480,000. The Marine Corps aviation assets are operating on a shoestring due to lack of spare parts and maintenance. The Navy has the least amount of ships since World War I. The Air Force is short nearly 1000 pilots and only four of 32 fighter squadrons are considered “combat-ready.”
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