By Debbie Gregory.
The news about the U.S. military strength could be better, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Military Strength, released on October 28, 2015.
The conservative think tank report revealed that all four branches of the military face severe readiness, capability, or capacity challenges. While the Navy and Air Force were rated as “marginal” due primarily to inadequate modernization and equipment replacement programs, both the Army and Marine Corps earned poor “capacity” scores, with only 64 percent of their manpower needs met.
The declining state of the overall readiness of the forces was a major factor in the poor scorecards.
Despite the fact that the U.S. maintains military superiority on the world stage and is unmatched in its ability to deploy forces across the globe, the country is in a continuing state of decline.
“Threats against American interests are stronger and more numerous than a year ago; key regions are more unstable, and our military capabilities have weakened further over the past year,” Dakota Wood, senior editor of the Index, said Wednesday. “These are very disturbing trends.”
North Korea became the first country to be classified in the Index as a “severe” threat to vital U.S. interests. The nation garnered the rating after boosting its military capability, to include development of a likely nuclear-capable missile able to reach the U.S., and ramping up its hostile behavior—such as the November 2014 cyber attack on Sony and opening fire on South Korea this August during the South’s annual joint military exercises with U.S. forces.
Also considered high threats are Russia, China and terrorism out of Afghanistan/Pakistan.
Terrorist organizations from the Middle East, where groups such as the Islamic State group operate, was surprisingly called an “elevated” threat.
With the continued decline in the Navy’s fleet size, poor readiness assessments and uncertain funding increases, “the Navy’s score could degrade to ‘weak’ in the near future if it does not reverse course,” the report said.
A lone bright spot in the Heritage analysis was the capacity of the Air Force, which received a rating of “very strong.” With about 1,113 fighter aircraft, the force has the air power needed to fight two regional conflicts.
The full text, including charts and graphs is also available free, online, at http://index.heritage.org/military.