Further to this post last year (note links at end), here’s more along similar lines. Although the critique comes from Republican congressional staffers under a Democratic president, the critique is refreshingly non-partisan–which would certainly not be the case in Canada:
A “Readiness Crisis”: Would America Lose a War to Russia or China?
The United States military is at a crisis point in terms of readiness against high-end threats such as Russia or China—at least that’s the view of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee majority staffs. While part of the cause stems from the counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, much of the blame can be attributed to a moribund acquisition system that chokes the life out of innovation.
“We’re in a dramatic crisis now. There is no question that we’re capable against the threats on the counter-terrorism side, but we’ve reached a point where we’re in fact—not heading towards—but we’re already hollow against a high-end threat,” said House Armed Services Committee majority staff director Bob Simmons speaking before an audience at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on June 21. “We lack the capacity and capability that we need to effectively deter on the high-end.”
The problem manifests itself in many ways—and it spans across the Pentagon’s entire range of capabilities in the air, on land, at sea and in space. One immediate example is U.S. Marine Corps aviation—where the service does not have enough trained maintainers to fix their aircraft. Out of a total of 271 Marine Corps strike aircraft, only about 64 are flyable at any given time, Simmons noted. The Air Force—meanwhile—is not doing much better with only 43 percent of its aircraft being full mission capable.
Because of the aircraft shortage, the Marine Corps’ naval aviators who fly those warplanes are getting far fewer hours in the air than their Russian and Chinese counterparts. These days, Marine pilots are flying only four to six hours per month instead of the twenty to thirty per month they once used to—that creates permanent experience gaps. “To put it bluntly, we fly about as much as the North Korean pilots do and about three times less than Chinese pilots do today,” Simmons said.
Meanwhile, the aircraft themselves—except for the handful of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirits—are not able to penetrate into the teeth of enemy air defenses. Be it the Fairchild Republic A-10, Boeing F-15, Lockheed Martin F-16 or the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet, none of those warplanes can survive against the current generation of Russian and Chinese high-end air defense systems…
Fundamentally, the House and the Senate are trying to reform the Pentagon’s procurement system so that new technologies are developed and fielded faster…
As a solution, both Simmons and [Chris] Brose [Senate Armed Services Committee majority staff director] advocated for an incremental, decentralized approach to acquisitions. Instead of building an all-powerful Death Star—or perhaps F-35—that is massively expensive and might take decades to bring to fruition, development should be completed in smaller incremental chunks that could be fielded much faster, Simmons said. That would also allow the Defense Department to take more risks—which would spur innovation…
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.
One particular aspect: