Recent budget cuts and 15 years of war have degraded the military’s readiness to the point that senior leaders told lawmakers on Tuesday their forces may not be prepared for an unexpected crisis.
“I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.
Paxton said units at home face the most risk because of fewer training opportunities with the best equipment deployed with forces overseas. A reduced level of readiness means Marines could face more casualties in a war and might not be able to deter a potential enemy, reported Stars and Stripes.
Air Force Vice Chief Gen. David Goldfein echoed Paxton’s assessment. “I do not have a level of comfort that we are ready for a significant conflict” against a major adversary, he told the panel.
The witnesses also pointed out that the expected completion of deployments to Afghanistan doesn’t mean that readiness will be restored shortly.
“After more than 14 years of continuous combat, it is tempting to hope that respite lies just over the horizon,” said Army Vice Chief Gen. Daniel Allyn. “Instead, the velocity of instability is increasing. … We are consuming readiness as fast as we are building it,” Allyn said.
For soldiers, that means they are skipping training to focus on global missions, reported Military Times. Less than one-third of Army forces are at “acceptable levels of readiness to conduct sustained ground combat in a full spectrum environment,” Allyn said.
The witnesses’ written testimony and a webcast of the hearing are available on the committee website.