DOD needs to rebuild the readiness of the U.S. military, and modernize its systems and equipment to address future threats.
Reductions in the size and capability of the military, as well as 19 years of conflict, have degraded U.S. military readiness. To adapt to growing threats posed by major powers (such as China and Russia) and other adversaries, the Department of Defense (DOD) must make urgent changes.
However, the department faces a number of challenges in doing so. For example, senior DOD leaders are not getting the information they need to make important decisions because military analyses largely support the status quo. Additionally, DOD needs to improve its ability to use the electromagnetic spectrum—which is critical for communications, navigation, weapons, and more. DOD could also improve its efforts to develop cyber mission forces to defend its information networks and bring cyber skills to the battlefield.
The military services also face challenges to ensure readiness. For example:
- The Army faces challenges with staffing, repairing and modernizing equipment, and preparing its forces for potential large-scale conflicts. For instance, the Army and Marine Corps operate large industrial depots to maintain weapon systems and equipment. However, both services could improve depot performance measures and efficiency. The Army is also developing Next Generation Combat Vehicles to provide more firepower, protection, and mobility. The Army's plans for these tanks and other armored vehicles prioritize rapid development—which can limit insight into potential risks. Additionally, the Army is preparing new cyber and electronic warfare units. However, it activated these units at an accelerated pace and experienced considerable staffing, equipping, and training challenges.
U.S. Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle Crews Train at Camp Aachen in Grafenwoehr, Germany
- The Navy has had systemic maintenance issues with every type of ship that it has built—which will cost billions more to repair than expected. Additionally, the poor condition of Navy shipyards and aviation maintenance facilities have impeded the efficient maintenance of equipment. The Navy’s aircraft, surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines have all experienced maintenance delays that have resulted in less availability for operations and training. For example, one measure of the health and readiness of a military aircraft fleet is the mission capable rate—the percentage of total time aircraft can fly and perform at least one mission. But Navy and Marine Corps aircraft have generally not met their goals for this rate over the last decade. Finally, the Navy has had a number of issues with how it trains its forces—especially the training it provides to Navy officers that drive ships.
A Submarine Undergoing Maintenance at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (left) and F-35B Exercising Its Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing Capability on the USS America (right)
- The Air Force has experienced a number of issues, including staffing. For instance, it does not have enough pilots or aircraft maintainers for its manned aircraft or enough pilots and sensor operators for its unmanned aircraft. It has also had problems ensuring that it is meeting its pilot training requirements. Additionally, the Air Force plans to procure 1800 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but has faced a number of challenges with this aircraft, such as spare parts shortages and poor performance of information technology systems. Finally, the Air Force is developing the Advanced Battle Management System—a network to connect U.S. forces during military operations across land, sea, space, and cyberspace. However, the Air Force has not developed a complete plan for this system—like identifying which technologies would be included and what it will cost.
Air Force Airmen Conducting Maintenance on a C-17 Globemaster III