(Guest article by Paul Gilbert) The Heritage Foundation publishes an annual Index of U.S. Military Strength, which assesses capacity, capability and readiness of each of the services, and rates them “very strong,” “strong,” “marginal,” “weak” or “very weak”. Based on a broad range of personnel issues; degradation of our forces and equipment from long-term involvement in the Middle East; our inability to adequately maintain and upgrade our current inventory of aircraft and warships … with reliability; and, in some instances, the strategic superiority of our adversaries, our military’s overall rating was “marginal”.
A GAO study released in early 2019 detailed ongoing, critical problems in recruiting, training and sustaining front-line and support personnel across all services and at all levels and, purportedly, the Pentagon has no comprehensive strategy to address them. Given millennials’ attitudes toward the military, this situation will likely worsen.
Even if these issues are adequately addressed, ensuring that our military has state-of-the-art aircraft, warships, equipment and armaments is a must … and requires the application of cutting-edge, but reliable, technologies. There are troubling signs here!
For example, as the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Gerald Ford nears delivery, most of its elevators are not operational, so aircraft and armaments cannot reach the flight deck. Hydraulic systems were replaced with electro-magnetic technology, and the “bugs” have not yet been worked out. Similarly, the dependable steam-operated aircraft catapult and arresting systems have also given way to electro-magnetic ones because they are, theoretically, upgrades … except that they don’t yet work.
Also, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry Truman was taken out of service in August due to the “nagging” failure of its electrical system and no timeline was set for solving the problem … with certainty. This caused the Truman’s escort surface ships to be subsequently deployed without the Truman! The electrical problem was allegedly solved, and the Truman joined its own strike group in late November. Unfortunately, our “carrier problems” come at a time when both the RAND Corporation and the Center for a New American Security acknowledge that China is building surface ships, including carriers, and their numbers will likely surpass the U.S. within a decade.
In the air, the USAF Mobility Command repeatedly halted delivery of KC-46’s due to construction debris found left in the aircraft. After that inexcusable problem was remedied, the planes were restricted from carrying cargo and personnel indefinitely due to cargo restraint devices continuing to come unlocked and posing a potential danger to personnel, cargo … and even the pilots’ ability to control the aircraft. Even worse, the reliable re-fueling technique involving visual cues gave way to a camera system that is flawed, and the boom needs to be re-designed since it scrapes against the airframe of numerous receiving aircraft and, in particular, does not allow the A-10 to properly connect to it … presenting hardware and software troubles that could take 3-4 years to correct. The manufacturer of the KC-46’s is the beleaguered Boeing!
On top of all these “internal” concerns, Russia claims to have put into operation inter-continental and air-to-ground hypersonic missiles that can fly at up to 27 times the
speed of sound and reach the continental U.S. within 30 minutes. Our “real” adversary … China … is testing similar generation of missiles that can fly at 5 times the speed of sound. Sadly, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledges that the U.S. is “a couple of years” from having one. In the meantime, we have placed sensors in space that can quickly detect the launch of these missiles, but we have no dependable defense against them.
The above, as well as many other issues involving our military, need to be viewed within the context of an emerging geo-political and military alliance comprised of Russia, China and Iran. Iran’s role is to continue to stoke U.S. involvement in the Middle East … being the “bright shiny object” that keeps our eye off the proverbial ball, which is the combined military gains by Russia and China. Why is it that our military brain trust cannot see this? Additionally, the arrogance and ignorance of the American “left”, which effectively dismisses external (“existential”) military threats and, instead, concerns itself with undoing the results of the 2016 election and promoting domestic policies that are completely counter to the traditional values held by most Americans. Fast forward: If things remain unchanged, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the advanced weapons and technological capabilities of our adversaries will potentially be such a devastating threat that we might just capitulate … without ever returning fire!