by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Amid the first conventional war in Europe since 1945 and China’s massive military buildup — including nuclear weapons — the U.S. military is experiencing a dangerous drop in its warfighting capability. The U.S. Army, the largest service, has only reached 40 percent of its recruiting goal with just more than three months remaining in the fiscal year.
This military decay will continue under President Joe Biden’s disastrous anti-leadership and likely will take many years of concerted effort to reverse. Further, combined with the chaotic defeat in Afghanistan, America’s ability to deter its enemies from taking hostile action is at a low not seen since the late 1970s, making a major war far more likely.
There are three growing signs of trouble: an alarming collapse in recruiting, a profoundly unserious national security leadership, and weakness in the military supply chain and procurement.
The military is facing its most severe staffing crisis since the advent of the all-volunteer force in 1973. In March, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced it would reduce its active-duty end strength by 0.2 percent to a little more than 2.1 million. Pentagon comptroller Michael McCord assured us that it’s “not about making the force bigger. We’re looking at making the force more capable.” But only three months later, word broke that every branch in the military is having trouble meeting its recruiting goals.
As a result of its massive recruiting shortfalls, the U.S. Army has lowered its standards, dropping requirements for recruits to have a high school diploma or GED to enlist, while relaxing tattoo restrictions to allow tattoos on hands and neck without a waiver. These two decisions will result in a less capable force with troublesome discipline issues. The Army is even offering enlistment contracts as short as two years — barely enough time to learn the basics of modern warfare.