New report: U.S. military having trouble protecting “American interests”

Years of involvement in the Middle East has done a number on the quality and readiness of key services in the US Military, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday.

Military officials had troubling tidings for government accountability auditors stating, “the result of the current state of readiness is that military forces are not strong enough to protect vital U.S. national security interests from worldwide threats.”

These are not small threats either; they include North Korea’s continued insistence on building a nuclear weapons program and Russia’s push into western Europe.

Other than readiness, the GAO reports highlights for other areas of concern for the U.S. Military: threats in cyberspace, escalating costs of weapons and health care, and better management of its people and business practices.

Getting at the core of the report is that consistent military involvement in the Middle East since 2001 has overextended the military’s resources. One official stated the constant conflict has placed “unrelenting demands” on soldiers, particularly Special Forces.

Compounding the overextension was the sequestration in 2013, when automatic budget cuts and spending caps kicked in after Congress and the Obama Administration couldn’t agree on a budget.

“No enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration,” said Defense Secretary James Mattis in his prepared remarks to Congress Tuesday.

On paper the list of issues is daunting. A summary of issues by military department notes that the Army reports gaps in their ability to fight other nation-states, the Air Force reports “historically low levels with less than 50% of forces at acceptable readiness levels and shortages of over 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers,” the Navy reports only 28% of scheduled maintenance has taken place over the past two years, and the Marine Corps has “acute readiness problems” in its aviation units.

The Pentagon put it mildly, stating they “must make difficult affordability choices” as they attempt to plug the holes exposed in this report.

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