Chief of Staff: U.S. Army at 33% Readiness – Forward Observer Shop

Chief of Staff: U.S. Army at 33% Readiness

In a speech last week, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said that budget cuts were negatively affecting unit readiness in addition to downsizing the Army to historically low numbers.

“Right now, we are at 33 percent readiness,” Gen. Odierno said, referring to the Army’s 32 Brigade Combat Teams.  “What keeps me up at night more than anything else is that I might get a mission to send some of our soldiers and we haven’t properly trained them or given them the right equipment to do their job.”  Now at less than half the desired level of readiness for its Brigade Combat Teams, the U.S. Army should be maintaining 70 percent readiness, he said.

“If sequestration occurs [in 2016], for the next three to four to five years, we’ve moving towards a hollow army,” Gen Odierno said in a January speech.

Since Gen. Odierno became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff three years ago, the Army has shed 80,000 troops, with another 40,000 likely to be dropped through attrition.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to understand that further reductions simply will put us into a place we simply cannot go,” he said earlier this month.  In 2016, when budget cuts come into full effect, “modernization would come to a standstill, training would go unfunded, and readiness rates, both unit and individual, would fall to very low levels.”

Meanwhile in a speech on Monday, U.S. Marine Corps commandant General Joseph Dunford expressed deep concern with Corps-wide unit readiness, stating that the current status of non-commissioned officers “does not meet our force structure requirements.”  And considering the rate of future budget cuts, the Marine Corps is more likely to be fighting the effects of fewer dollars than anything else.

“We’re probably going to change the demographics of the Corps,” Gen. Dunford said.  Of the 190,000 Marines currently serving, 40% of them are ranked E-3 (lance corporal) or below, making the Corps more bottom-heavy than desired.  To further expound those problems, 60% of Marines are still in their first enlistment, in other words having fewer than four years in service.

NCO retention has been a problem, said Dunford in a speech in January.  As further budget cuts loom in 2016, dwell time will become shorter, further straining an already tight NCO corps.  About 31,000 Marines are currently forward deployed, 22,000 of them in the Asia-Pacific region.  Dunford said dwell time now is 14 months in home garrison for every seven months deployed.  After 2016, when the full effects of budget cuts are felt, Marines would see a 1:1 dwell time.  Dunford is concerned that it will further negatively affect NCO retention and expand leadership and experience gaps.

(Analyst Comment: First, understand that this drawdown is a repeat of what occurred after World War I, and then again after World War II, and then again after the Korean War, and then again after the Vietnam War, and then again after the Gulf War.  This is the ebb and flow of military spending, however, this trend accompanied by additional information suggests that another major war may be within the next five or ten years.  Instability around the globe has never been higher.  There are several flash points that could trigger world wars, and we have certainly resumed a continuation of the Cold War with Soviet-esque Russia under the leadership of president Vladmir Putin.  If faced with another large scale conflict within the next five years, the future of that conflict will likely largely hinge on who wins the general election in 2016.  If an isolationist or non-interventionist or even weak president is elected, then we will continue to see the manipulation of political landscapes and boundaries in Eastern Bloc nations and former Soviet satellite states.  And we wouldn’t just be limited to conventional war – cyber war would likely be a factor potentially targeting civilian and financial infrastructure.  If a hardline, pro-military force, warhawk president is elected, then the possibility of a draft is certainly not out of the question.  That likelihood would further depend on the size and scope of the conflict; i.e. peacekeeping operations versus a world war.  But never has there been a time in this nation that’s so dangerous for geopolitical power structures; never has there been a time when power and money in the hands of so few have ruled national and foreign policy; never has there been a time where nuclear weapons or technological advances in the hands of regional powers created such a disparate imbalance in measures of force required to keep the peace.  Foreign governments are taking note of a weakened state of military readiness, even if Americans aren’t.)



Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Dod 2016 budget request of 585.3 billion and we are at 33% readiness. Time to re-look at our mission, structure, and how the money is being spent. Find leadership that gets better bang for buck.

  2. 33% Readiness got you bummed? No worries, the III% got you covered while you figure it out. Quick solution: desolve the ATF and NFA. Allow for purchase of modern machine guns and dd’s. That sends a very clear message.

  3. I concur that a 33% readiness level with a defense budget larger than any other country in the world is ludicrous. We need to be smarter with how we spend that money and the entire civilian support portion of the DoD needs to be drastically overhauled. The current system we have actually encourages waste with a “gotta spend all I can get and then beg for more or they will cut my budget next year” and “the more money I control and people I have in my little fiefdom-no matter how useless- the more powerful I am” mentalities.
    As for a draft? Good luck. Much of the populace of the nation that would eligible for a draft is unfit for service for one reason or another, and obesity is a major detractor. I’m not talking about obesity where you can whip a recruit into shape through boot camp, but extreme obesity that cannot be overcome in the short period of basic/advanced training; and related health issues like diabetes and other disqualifying conditions. Taking this into consideration, factoring in the growing complexity of the actions we are asking our soldiers to carry out, the technological knowledge required for many of the systems used by our military, and a general lack of a desire to serve in many of our youth; and you have a recipe for disaster. I just don’t think a draft is viable in our current model with our current citizenry.

  4. Why should we worry about military strength? Obama has insured the respect and esteem of the world. Look at our allies and how peaceful the world is. Wouldn’t you want your fire and police departments to be 33% ready?

    1. Yeah, we can get away with, and be better off with, a 67% reduction in the POLICE STATE. They aren’t investigating property crimes here in Spokane county, we KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE. There is no REVENUE in it. The BASTARDS are mostly concerned with writing tickets where there is revenue to justify themselves.

  5. NWO Wars from Vietnam onward for sure. DemocRats and Chamberpot Repubs both love throwing Feral Reserve paper from helicopters. So am I supposed to be upset at the decline of the USSA? Am I supposed to be comforted by Jade Helm? McCain led the tweaking of the Russians with the “Kiev Spring” and funding ISIS via Benghazi courtesy of the black accounts of the CIA. Empires are necessarily ham fisted and brutish to foreigners, but nowadays these homegrown crackers and negroes are getting a case of the jaws. What’s der Homeland Sekurit to do, but crack a few skulls? Fairly and Equally of course. These pompous 4 Stars can kiss my grits. Most just want a pension and retire near a gubmint golf course, not “that” much different from their CIC. McChrystal hates civilians with guns and WTF happened to Petraeus? We need more Veterans in civilian status to form and train Militias, which scares the hell out of the Oligarchs. BLM thugs now acting out in Oregon, ATF always acting out, FIB is setting up stooges, IRS….. why go on? Feral Offal.

  6. Maybe the U.S. is going to be like the Russians and just have strike teams for regional conflicts. Maybe things aren’t geared up for another Iraq or Afghanistan, but what were those wars really good for anyways?

  7. Sam, why do you have a picture of Putin at the end of the article about military readiness only being at 33%? You just did a whole podcast last week about how idiotic it is for people to run around saying that Putin is going to invade the USA, and you outlined all the issues the Russians have with their own readiness. Then you try to play up our fears by putting the Putin picture at the end of the article. Seems like this runs counter to your stated goals of not being one more prepper-hype fear-mongering pot-stirring website that only wants to stoke everyone’s irrational fears. Just how I see it from my little corner of the den.

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