Heritage Report: Military in Decline - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Heritage Report: Military in Decline
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A report released by the Heritage Foundation last week found that the U.S. military is weaker than it has been in recent years. Every year, the Heritage Foundation releases its military strength index based on attributes used to measure military readiness for global conflicts. The 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength reported that the military is “weak” and “at growing risk of not being able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.” Never in the nine-year history of the index’s report has our military been ranked so low.

The report lists undefined national priorities, a lack of funding, and an insufficient level of seriousness from the military establishment. The Heritage index measures how the U.S. military can function in specific regions and how it can win in two regional areas simultaneously. The Heritage report says that the U.S. military is in danger of being unable to win “a single major regional conflict.” The index mentions that the U.S. must be able to defend its national interests in more than one area at a time, given the recent action of Russia in invading Ukraine and that of China, Iran, and North Korea.

On keeping up with foreign threats, the grading of each military branch found that the Marine Corps was rated as “strong” while the Air Force received a rating of “very weak,” followed by the Navy and Space Force as “weak” and then the Army as “marginal.” The U.S. spends 3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, considerably less than in the 1980s, which saw the U.S. spend as much as 6 percent. According to the report, “military services continue to prioritize readiness and have seen some improvement over the past few years, but modernization programs, especially in shipbuilding, continue to suffer as resources are committed to preparing for the future, recovering from 20 years of operations and offsetting the effects of inflation.”

The decline in naval forces is especially troubling. The U.S. Navy has requested to increase its ships to at least 350 unmanned platforms. The Congressional Research Service has confirmed that plans for ship development have fallen short over the past five years. The U.S. Naval Fleet increased from 291 to 296 battleships from 2005 to 2020. By contrast, the Chinese naval fleet increased from 216 to 360 battleships. The current projections have China with roughly 460 ships by 2030. China continues to close the gap on the U.S. regarding military technological advances in warcraft and missiles.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, gave a stern speech on the state of the U.S. military. He warned of the U.S. military’s entering into a “window of maximum danger,” in particular regard to the Pacific region and protecting America’s interest concerning Taiwan. “China’s just throwing so much money into military modernization and has already sped up its timeline to 2027 for when it wants the [People’s Liberation Army] to have the capability to seize Taiwan, that we need to act with a sense of urgency to tackle that threat because that is something unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history, at least,” Gallagher said.

The Biden administration’s defense budget for the fiscal year of 2023 falls short of what needs to happen for the military to remain dominant and properly defend America’s interests. Increasing the defense budget by 5 percent only takes into account half of the current rate of inflation, which is almost 10 percent. Republicans in Congress blame Biden for the military’s woes, as the planned budget would force the Navy to reduce its fleet to 280 and the Air Force to scrap 1000 planes by 2027, thus giving China the upper hand to dominate the Pacific.

In a recent podcast with the Daily Signal, Dakota Wood, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, laid out two proposals to reverse the military’s downward trend: increase funding to upgrade military equipment and keep up with inflation; and increase public morale to help meet military recruiting goals. Wood concluded, “And so if we want a country that’s free, prosperous, safe, if we want economic vitality, if we want a strong business climate, the military component to national power is essential.”

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