Top officials from four branches of the US military warn that the armed forces are currently not ready to respond to an unexpected crisis after years of combat and budget cuts.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, General John Paxton, assistant commandant of the US Marine Corps, warned lawmakers that the Marines might not be able to deter a potential enemy.
“I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” Paxton said.
The top general said that long military engagements have taken a hard toll on aviation, intelligence and communications units.
He said approximately 80 percent of the units lack the number of aircraft required for training and operations.
“In the event of a crisis, these degraded units could either be called upon to deploy immediately at increased risk to the force and the mission, or require additional time to prepare thus incurring increased risk to mission by surrendering the initiative to our adversaries,” the general said.
Paxton testified before the Senate panel along with the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who also voiced similar concerns about readiness challenges facing each force.
“Twenty-five years of continuous combat, coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned top lines [budgets], have made the Air Force one of the smallest, oldest and least ready in our history,” said Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff.
US military spending has declined from nearly $700 billion in 2010 to $560 billion last year.
“We are consuming readiness as fast as we are building it,” General Daniel Allyn, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said.
The vice chief of naval operations, Admiral Michelle Howard, said that the Navy continues to delay repairs and upgrades for its infrastructure because of the “readiness debt it” it has accrued over the last decade.