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Military Readiness: Actions Needed for DOD to Address Challenges across the Air, Sea, Ground, and Space Domains

GAO-24-107463 Published: May 01, 2024. Publicly Released: May 01, 2024.
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Fast Facts

We testified that DOD faces many challenges restoring desired levels of readiness across the military while also modernizing its forces.

For example, we previously reported:

Service members' fatigue led to fatal accidents and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to ships, vehicles, and aircraft

Maintenance and supply issues limited availability of mission-ready aircraft

Navy has made minimal progress modernizing its shipyards

To meet the U.S. military's goals for readiness in the coming decades, DOD officials will need to continue balancing their work on rebuilding existing forces with their efforts to modernize.

Maintenance on F-35 Aircraft

Service members working outside on an F-35 aircraft.

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What GAO Found

The top priority of the 2022 National Defense Strategy is to defend the U.S. homeland by addressing the growing multi-domain threat posed by China. As the Department of Defense (DOD) addresses this priority, GAO's body of work has shown that U.S. military readiness has been degraded over the last 2 decades due to a variety of challenges, including high operational demands. Implementing GAO's open recommendations will help DOD address these challenges and enhance readiness. The figure below shows selected GAO recommendations that DOD has not yet implemented.

Selected Open GAO Recommendations to Address Persistent Military Readiness Challenges

Selected Open GAO Recommendations to Address Persistent Military Readiness Challenges

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD is continuing its work to maintain the U.S. military's advantage across all domains in a new security environment characterized by great-power competition. To meet that goal, DOD's focus is rebuilding and restoring readiness while also modernizing its forces. DOD's readiness rebuilding efforts are occurring in a challenging context that requires the department to make difficult decisions regarding how best to address continuing operational demands while preparing for future challenges.

This statement provides information on readiness challenges across the air, sea, ground, and space domains.

This statement is primarily based on published GAO reports since 2021 that have examined aspects of military readiness, operations, and sustainment in the air, sea, ground, and space domains. This statement also is based on a draft report on space readiness that was provided to DOD in February 2024 for review and comment. To perform all this work, GAO analyzed Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force readiness, maintenance, personnel, and training data and interviewed cognizant officials.


In the reports summarized in this statement, GAO has made over 100 recommendations to help improve readiness across and in each of the domains. Most of these recommendations have not yet been implemented, as discussed in the testimony.

Full Report

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Military forcesMilitary readinessAircraftNaval shipyardSpecial forcesBallistic missile defenseNavy shipsRailSpecial operationsCost estimates