Military Readiness

October 18, 2000

One of the controversial issues during this presidential election is military readiness. Since the Republican Convention, George W. Bush has decried the state of military readiness, and Dick Cheney talks about the military in decline. Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman believe we have the best-trained and best-equipped military and chide their opponents for "running down the military."

Who's right? Well, I have discussed this issue in past radio commentaries, but let me do it again. Perhaps we should start with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry Shelton. He has been quoted by Al Gore to show that the military is ready. But he has begun to express growing doubts about the ability of the U.S. military to meet the criterion of a two-front war. He has lobbied for a boost in defense spending. Here is the message he had for Congress in September: "My message to you today is that you must accelerate the pace of replacing our rapidly deteriorating ships, aircraft, weapons and other essential military equipment."

Consider a few key facts. At the end of the Reagan administration, the Navy had 600 ships. Last year, Admiral Webb wrote that he "never did imagine that the Navy's leadership would allow the devastation that has now resulted in a 300-ship Navy, with the numbers continuing to shrink."

A recent report on the other branches was no less discouraging. A confidential report states that 12 of the 20 Army combat and support centers were rated C-4, which is the lowest state of readiness. Air Force readiness also slumped to its lowest level in 15 years, declining 28 percent since the end of the Cold War.

Problems with equipment, parts, and personnel (morale and retention) all point to a military in decline. Whoever is elected president must address these issues in the future.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.