Ben Friedman, a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute, thinks the military can do without a major spending increase, and still manage to improve readiness. He writes that the military does in fact have readiness problems, but that they could be solved without increasing overall military spending.
A “readiness crisis” afflicts the U.S. military, according to congressional hawks eager to boost military spending. President Trump promises to reverse what he labeled the military’s “depletion” in his dystopian inaugural address. That’s an improvement over his campaign rhetoric, which labeled it a “disaster” in “shambles.”
In reality, there’s no depletion or readiness crisis, unless it’s a crisis that the U.S. military can’t be everything that hawks want. The military does have readiness problems, but they could be addressed without raising total military budget. Those lamenting the state of military readiness ignore those solutions because they are using it to argue for a higher topline.
In principle, U.S. military readiness refers to the force’s ability to perform its key missions. That means having units that are well-equipped, manned and trained. Two internal Pentagon tracking systems rate readiness on that score. That sounds simpler, but readiness’ definition makes it tough to assess.
One reason is that its definition complicates assessment. The force’s ability to accomplish its missions depends partly on future enemy actions, which are inherently uncertain.
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