Military leaders, Congress and government watchdogs have all warned for years that the military faces a possible readiness crisis as it has slashed training and maintenance to keep up with budget cuts and increased operations around the globe.
Monday’s collision between USS John S. McCain and a tanker off the coast of Singapore — where one sailor was found dead and another nine are missing and presumed dead — has sparked a new round of questions about the Navy’s readiness and training, as it’s the fourth major collision for the Navy in the Pacific this year.
But the warnings about the military’s readiness problems are nothing new, and the Navy isn’t alone in seeing a spike in major non-combat incidents and fatalities.
“I think it’s probably approaching a readiness crisis,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and Air Force veteran. “You have, in many cases, a Navy that is highly operational and may not get the time or the chance to train as deeply or as much as they want. You have old equipment. You have failing equipment because it’s not being repaired or invested in. These are all concerns when it comes to this.”
After the McCain collision, the Navy ordered a one-day operational pause across the entire fleet in order to examine the root causes of the accidents. The commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, which operates in the Pacific, was dismissed in the fallout.
The issues extend beyond Navy ships. The Marine Corps also issued a one-day grounding for all of its aircraft earlier this month following two deadly crashes. The Navy has said more than half of its aircraft cannot fly, while the Air Force is short more than 1,500 pilots. And all the military services expressed concerns about training and maintenance in the past year following a spate of aircraft training accidents.
“The competitive advantage that the United States military has long enjoyed is eroding,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford warned at a June Senate armed services hearing.
Why it’s on our radar: What we’re witnessing happening to the U.S. military was predictable — and in fact, predicted — as the perfect storm of budget cutbacks, increased op tempo, two wars and funding the Pentagon via continuing resolutions rather than hard-and-fast budgets (which give military chiefs the ability to plan spending priorities long-term) is now turning lethal.
Here’s what needs to happen: Congress and President Trump must spend more to re-equip, rehabilitate and rebuild the U.S. military.
It’s easy to say we should reduce our commitments but we can’t; much of what the U.S. military does around the globe is governed by treaty obligations. Further, the world isn’t getting less dangerous, it’s getting more so, and U.S. leadership will be needed to keep the barbarians at bay. That requires a fully funded, functional, forward-deployed force whose ships are not sailing into commercial vessels and whose planes are not falling out of the sky — and who have some time off for morale, welfare and recreation.