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U.S. Navy, Marine Corps Rated ‘Marginal’ in New Military Strength Report

Marines and sailors stand at parade rest while manning the rails of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) on Oct. 14, 2016. US Marine Corps Photo

Marines and sailors stand at parade rest while manning the rails of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) on Oct. 14, 2016. US Marine Corps Photo

Moscow is a “formidable” potential adversary while the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as “marginal” in meeting today’s requirements, according to a new report from the Heritage Foundation released on Wednesday.

Specifically, in Heritage’s 2017 Index of Military Strength, the Navy was ranked “marginal” in its ability to meet operational requirements, “strong” in readiness and “weak” in capability due to by aging platforms and troubled modernization programs and “marginal” in being able to meet operational requirements.

The report rated the Marine Corps as “marginal” because of its continued high operating tempo and low funding.

“As was the case in preceding years, the Index assess that the Corps has only two-thirds of the combat units that it actually needs, especially when accounting for expanded requirements” including cyber and crisis response forces,” read the report.
While modernization programs “were generally in good shape” aviation from platforms to pilot proficiency were below its ranking standards to meet operational requirements.

While the Air Force, like the Navy and Marine Corps were rated as ”marginal”, the Army was rated “weak” because of declining end strength, possibly soon down to 420,000 soldiers and no major modernization programs under way.

Now in its third year, Dakota Wood, the index’s editor, said to have the sea services ready, capable and with the capacity to fight two wars at the same time the Navy would have to have a fleet of 346 ships and 624 strike aircraft and the Marine Corps would need to have 36 battalions.

The Navy now has about 272 ships with a construction program plan to grow to 308. The Marine Corps now has 23 battalions.

Complicating matters for the Navy, Wood said is its requirement to provide forward presence, conduct freedom of navigation operations and remain on maritime patrol in addition to projecting combat power.

Wood said the Index “is not a futures document” as to what the nation should be doing in terms of national security and defense. “It is a snapshot” of the active-duty force that “only looked at hard combat power” not the support elements of transportation, logistics, etc.

The idea was to also make the Index “more than a scorecard,” so there are accompanying essays and graphics to expand on points, he said.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-1-58-15-pm“Bad actors behave in bad ways.” Wood specifically noted Russia’s aggressive behavior from the Baltics to the Black Sea and its “formidable” capability, China’s militarization of artificial islands in the Pacific, North Korea’s continued testing of nuclear weapons and Iran’s “gathering” capability in its ballistic missile programs and the growing threats to the United States, its allies and partners from terrorist groups operating not only in the Middle East but in Africa and Asia.

For deterrence, “we fully endorse the two-war construct,” but using the Index’s metrics, “the United States military is essentially a one-war force.”

As the launch of the report, Rep. Michael Turner, (R-Ohio), and chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee, told the Heritage audience, “The facts are the facts when it comes to Russian aggression.”

The index notes, “Russia seeks to maximize its strategic position in the world at the expense of the United States” with “every tool at its disposal.”

While differing from President-elect Donald Trump on how great a threat Moscow poses in Europe, Turner said it was time for a new approach in the relationship with Moscow.

As the chairman of the United States’ delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, he said, “Others need to step up” to meet their obligation to treaty obligation to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense and security. Only five of NATO’s 28 members meet that threshold.

“We need to prod, coerce [them] to do more of their own behalf,” Wood said in his remarks.

Turner also warned if sequestration remains in place under the Budget Control Act it “will prevent further growth In the Army and Marine Corps, delay production of the F-35 while Russia and China are developing fifth-generation fighters and eventually lose the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the U-2 and Global Hawk unmanned aerial system.

“Both presidential candidates called for an end to sequestration for defense,” he said. He called offsetting increased spending on defense with higher domestic spending “a false choice. …We have to do this [roll back the Budget Control Act” and increase defense spending.

In his remarks on the index, Wood added, “We are a global power” and “we should be spending commensurate” with that status.

  • MDWhite

    You folks need to get your priorities straight. The truly important things slopped on our plate by the Great Braintrust should continue to be assuring that as many ‘transgendered’ seamen (!?) and pregnant females as possible should assigned to submarines and other units of the fleet; making sure enough women are put into direct combat roles in a nod to continued social engineering in the military; changing uniform styles for the 134th time; and restructuring the USN’s rate and rank structure to better conform to that of the pre-WW Ottoman Empire.

    A heartfelt ‘Bravo Zulu’ and thanks loads to Ash Carter et al. Really…

    BTW: Is Guam still in danger of capsizing?

    • Niki Ptt

      Depends… Still wondering how the Admiral could keep such a straight face.
      But minus one anyway for your mysoginis comment about women in the fleet.

      • Katherine Kelly

        >>But minus one anyway for your mysoginis comment about women in the fleet.

        Oh, buck off. Every “Navy woman” I met was only in it for the getting pregnant now card. Did I meet every women? No, but in my humble survey they (they ones I met) had one defining characteristic.

      • Robert

        You do realize that’s a photograph?

    • Gary

      Nope, Got a new 2 billion dollar flotation/outrigger system going in.

    • AmPatriotSmith

      I agree and I’m a woman. The social engineering must stop. I hate Obama for that. Besides that, some of these modernization programs with new technologies do not seem to be too successful , such as the littoral combat ships and now Zumwalt. Maybe the problems will be ironed out, but who knows?

  • Jay

    Great propaganda! What is it now — $600 billion of the public books — probably a trillion $ when you count the VA, nukes, intell, black ops, interest on the debt for wars — but it’s never enough. The Sky Is Falling and ISIS is buying season tickets to the Yankees.

    • Marcd30319

      Look in the mirror first before you go off on who is the propagandist. Remember to cash that Soros before it bounces, cupcake.

      BTW – are you a dues-paying member of the United States Naval Institute or just some free-loading troll?

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Take your loss and pack it in ,,

    • Robert

      You can spout your BS from the safety of your mother’s basement, while your right to do so is defended by those you refuse to support. The Japanese attacked because our aging fleet didn’t have the funds to operate. For people like you there is never a problem until there is, then you head for Canada.

  • NEC9540

    I have been saying this about my beloved Navy for years. We need to shore up our ships and personnel. The USS Zumwalt has serious issues and is a drain on resources. Instead of sinking ships for reefs, why not refit them?

  • PolicyWonk

    All this weakness, on every front, according to the “Heritage Foundation”, the same bunch that cheered on the policies that led this nation into a massive loss in the GWOT, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, and some of the worst national security and foreign policy disasters in history. Oh yes – they also brought us the Affordable Care Act – a.k.a – Obamacare.

    This nation would be better off if they did their thinking and advising for Al Qaida, based on their record (who donates to keep these people employed?: Russia? China?).

    That said, they recommend a lot of spending – but say nothing about reforming the DoD acquisition practices that ensure the taxpayers the lousiest possible deal for defense dollar spent. We could save hundreds of billions of dollars – trillions in the long run – and buy the weapons we need for the same budget we have now (maybe more).

    One would think that in lean times when national security is supposedly at stake, acquisition reform (not the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic that we see now) would be the highest priority, because it is a “target rich environment” for ridding this nation of waste, redundancy, etc.

    But one would be wrong.

    • Marcd30319

      Funniest thing I have read all day albeit unintentionally by the poster.

      The Heritage Foundation responsible for ObamaCare? Really? I didn’t know know Jonathan Gruber and Ezekiel Emauel belonged to the Foundation! And didn’t former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton offer some kind of healthcare insurance program way back in 1993? Wonkie, you are so darn funny!

      The worst economic disaster since the Great Depression? Well, Wonkie, you need to check out Peter Wallison’s article in today’s Wall Street Journal who lays the blame on the housing bubble inflated by GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who were heavy political contributors to such Democrats like Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Barack Obama.

      “… a massive loss in the GWOT … some of the worst national security and foreign policy disasters in history … ” My, that’s such a wide range but unspecific assertion. If you are referring Iraq, did not President Obama state that Iraq was “stable, secure and self-reliant” when he announced the final withdrawal of US forces on October 21, 2011? What could go wrong with no Status of Forces agreement?

      Like I said, Wonkie, you are one funny guy. Better cash that Soros check before it bounces.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    Hang in two months help is on the way,,,the Bolsheviks are gone

  • The Plague

    Whatever its conclusions otherwise, but the report at least categorically declares Russia and China as enemies, and that in and of itself is already useful.

  • Aaron M

    Reducing military obligations would go a long way in bringing balance to these numbers.

    There is almost zero reason to maintain significant forces in South Korea, for instance. In 1956, the Communists were strong and aggressive. Now they’re starving and relying on nonconventional weaponry anyway. Withdraw.

    See also: NATO. Let the lazy, useless Euros defend themselves for a change.

    • Marcd30319

      Korea – ? Nukes? Heavy artillery within easy shelling range of Seoul? The fact that South Korea pays nearly $1 billion to support of troops there? Can you say trip wire?

      NATO – ? Really? Like they did in Kosovo? Or Ukraine? The fact that, like South Korea, Spain for example supports the forward-basing of our destroyer? Maybe US leadership is something you can’t buy and American influence is still an effective counter-weight against Russian adventurism. And it is better to have forces forward-based and in-theater. Think Normandy.

      • Aaron M

        So you’re explicitly arguing for our soldiers in Korea to be sacrificial lambs (trip wire; lol)… to an artillery barrage? And Korea’s monetary contributions, whatever they may be, have no relevance to the mismatch between US obligations and force strength at issue in this article.

        1) Ukraine is not in NATO and not our problem. 2) Kosovo was basically an aspect of the Yugoslav civil war, which was a communist nation and not our problem. 3) European security in general is no longer our problem. That the alliance still even exists is due merely to inertia.

        Or were US strategic interests fixed in 1965?

        You seem super eager for American soldiers to die for foreign interests that no longer align with our own, to keep alive residual commitments made before today’s soldiers’ parents were born.

        The world changes.

        • Marcd30319

          Aaron, it’s called deterrence, and our forces in ROK are a trip-wire to make Kim Il-Sung think twice about crossing the DMZ and making trouble.

          As Robert notes below, not being in the game has its consequences, and appeasement always costs far more in life and treasure than standing firm against aggression wherever it may occur — in Kosovo, Ukraine or Europe.

          Only idiots fail to learn the lessons of history.

          • Aaron M

            If you have to fall back to petty insults and sarcasm, your position is not as strong as you pretend.

            “It’s called deterrence.” Thanks. That word was never used when I was getting my degree in international relations, despite it being a key concept in works like The Tragedy of Great Power Politics or Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Oh how you’ve opened my eyes!

            You’ve implicitly admitted that US troops in Korea are there to die; to serve as justification for further involvement should the DMZ be crossed. Why, praytell? South Korea is stronger than the North. They don’t need us, and we have no reason to be there. Global communism is a spent force. Even the Chinese are capitalists, now.

            Some vague nonsense language about “wanting to be in the game” fails the BS test. Why not garrison the Congo, then? Ethiopia? Yemen? Why not stick a sacrificial brigade in every global hotspot ‘to deter aggression?’

            Oh, it’s because we have no interests in doing so. No national interests to protect. No reason for the expense and danger.

            Well, friend, we have even less reason to be in Korea because the Koreans are strong enough to defend themselves and the dangers are higher. Moreover, our continued presence complicates the politics of the situation. China, Korea, and Japan could probably come to a regional consensus more easily if the situation didn’t implicate the US, who doesn’t even live in the area.

            Meaningless strategic inertia. Zombie alliances that no longer serve a useful purpose. And with weakened military forces, they should be cut free.

          • Marcd30319

            If deterrence succeeds, then there is no war. That is what deterrence is all about. But for deterrence to work, you must be in a position to back up deterrence through in-theater, forward-deployed forces. Regional players alone cannot contain a potential regional conflict. The presence of American force and leadership provides that extra degree of outside influence to keep a regional conflict contained.

            That said, suggesting that my previous post “implicitly admitted that US troops in Korea are there to die” is really risible. So are calls for “sacrificial brigades” which is nonsensical and blaming the USA for creating regional conflicts which is a falsehood.

            Thank you finally flying your true colors and proving that only idiots fail to learn the lessons of history.

    • Far too simplistic.

    • Robert

      Dean Acheson Truman’s Secretary of State in 1950 drew our defensive perimeter excluding South Korea and almost immediately North Korea invaded. The law of unintended consequences always applies. Crazy people with Nuks.

  • George Ferko

    Can’t be the “hope,” so it must be the “change.”

  • AKA Malthusian Greed Lover

    And STILL no notice of no serious minesweeping capability and no notice of the lack of ASW capability.