After more than a decade of fighting two low-intensity conflicts simultaneously, and eight years of concurrent neglect by the Obama administration, the US military is in a precarious state. Equipment is becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. The current size of the armed forces is not sufficient enough to handle the tempo of operations that US forces are currently engaged in around the world. The defense sequestration has done significant damage to readiness. Potential adversaries of the United States have grown bolder and stronger. At present time, China and Russia are modernizing their own forces and bolstering capabilities to the point that both are now near-peer opponents of the US military.
Fortunately, help is on the way for America’s beleaguered armed forces. During the 2016 presidential campaign, one of Donald Trump’s main promises was to rebuild the military. He placed a great deal of emphasis on its creaky state and vowed to repair it should he win the election. Well, he won and now, a little over a month after his inauguration, President Trump is moving to make good on his promise. He is proposing a federal budget that includes a ten percent raise in defense spending. It’s unclear at the moment whether or not Trump’s first attempt at a federal budget will pass. However, it is safe to say that he will be pushing forward on a plan to rebuild the military one way or another.
Rebuilding will not only be a matter of handing the Pentagon a blank check and saying, “fix the problem.” Simply throwing money at a problem is not guaranteed to solve it, as anyone who is well versed in American politics can affirm. Excessive spending, cost overruns, and stifling bureaucratic red tape are facts of life at the five-sided building in Arlington and represent looming roadblocks for any Trump administration effort to fix the military. The effects of each one needs to be minimized or done away with in large part before a large-scale modernization program can take root.
For March, we will be examining two main questions: What will a rebuilt US military look like when all is said and done? What steps need to be taken in order to ensure that the armed forces are properly equipped, trained and ready to fight the next war?
Each service branch has its own laundry list of wants and needs: new weapons systems, an increase in the number of battalions or squadrons, and larger maintenance budgets to name but a few. Therefore, we will analyze the branches individually, beginning with the US Air Force on Tuesday, 7 March, 2017. Strategic (nuclear) forces will be handled in separate entry. The US Coast Guard, while tacitly a service branch, will not be covered. Sorry, Coasties. J