OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The U.S. military has always been busy as the various service branches are deployed around the world to protect American interests and those of her allies, but under President Joe Biden, it has been stretched to the breaking point.
Amid now-chronic recruiting shortages and a stepped-up presence in simmering trouble spots around the globe during Biden’s tenure, a new analysis says the U.S. is at a dangerous crossroads with its military now at risk of being unable to defend the country adequately.
According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2024 Index of U.S. Military Strength, which serves as a report card on the armed forces, editor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dakota Wood told The Daily Caller that he rated the current states of the American military as “weak.”
In 2023, the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, coupled with the United States’ reaction to escalating turmoil across the Middle East, brought the U.S. military into sharp focus. These conflicts revealed shortcomings in the nation’s ammunition and weapons reserves, as well as the capability to effectively respond to the president’s simultaneous calls for intervention in multiple crises.
“As currently postured, the U.S. military is at significant risk of not being able to defend America’s vital national interests,” the introduction to the index reads. The U.S. military received a ‘weak’ rating for the second year in a row ‘relative to the force needed to defend national interests on a global stage against actual challenges in the world as it is rather than as we wish it were,’” the report said.
In general, all branches of the armed services, along with U.S. nuclear and missile defense capabilities, are suffering from age, inadequacy, and unreadiness, according to Wood, Heritage’s senior research fellow for defense programs, who shared these concerns with the DCNF during a briefing before the report’s official publication.
Heritage attributed the erosion of U.S. military potency to several factors, including the Pentagon’s prolonged deployment of forces beyond initial plans, insufficient funding, shortcomings in the discipline of developing and acquiring weapon systems, and the constant changes in priorities and policies.
“When we say that the U.S. military is weak, it’s not an indictment of the individuals,” the men and women in service, Wood clarified. “If you had to go up against Russia or China or Iran or some other actor in the world, you’re just not going to have a sufficient amount of military power to go out.”
“If we now get super real, this is not just about recognizing the threat,” Elbridge Colby, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, noted at a Heritage panel Wednesday. “We have to reevaluate like a business that’s about to go bankrupt.”
The Daily Caller added:
Heritage rated the Army as “marginal,” the Navy as “weak” and the Air Force as “very weak.” Only the Marine Corps came out as strong, thanks to its monumental modernization efforts focused on a worst-case-scenario fight with China, according to Wood, but it remains too small to accomplish the missions the Pentagon tasked it with in the previous year.
The Air Force fared worst of all, receiving a “very weak” rating. Besotted with a pilot shortage, it operates just 75% of the ready fighter aircraft needed to devote to two major conflicts at once, according to the report. Pilots also aren’t getting enough hours in the cockpit — less than 130 each year on average, which in the Cold War era would have rendered them combat ineffective, Wood told the DCNF.
“There is not a fighter squadron in the Air Force that holds the readiness levels, competence, and confidence levels that are required to square off against a peer competitor,” the report added.
Writing at FoxNews.com, Chad Robichaux, a former Force Recon Marine, an Afghanistan veteran, and founder of The Mighty Oaks Foundation, placed much of the chronic recruiting shortfalls on the Biden administration and Democrats in general.
“This alarming trend is a self-inflicted wound from authoritarian pandemic policies, irresponsible and woke military leadership, and increasingly anti-American sentiments in society, all of which have drastically weakened national security,” he wrote in December.