The Un-preparedness of the American Military
*Author’s Note: I wrote this paper almost a year before the cowardly attacks on the United States of 9/11. The
situation has definitely changed. For instance, the $1 trillion surplus has disappeared thanks to a downturn in the
economy, which was further staggered by financial fallout after 9/11. Also, American has learned that we cannot
count on our “allies” in Europe and in the world (except for England and Israel) to support us in protecting the West
from the rise of radical Islamist states and terrorist organizations. 9/11 should have shown the world that the policy
of complacency and appeasement are fatal. Instead, it seems to have further galvanized most of the world to stick
their heads further in the sand. To my mind, this only makes my proposal more relevant, as America moves further
into the uncertain political and military landscape of the 21 st Century.
Today, in the United States and around the world, US military bases of every branch of
service are lying vacant. Every branch of service, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, are
failing to meet the minimum enlistment quotas set by Congress. The American military machine
that brought down Saddam Hussein’s army no longer exists. The United States military is in a
serious state of un-preparedness, lacking both the personnel and the funds to field an effective
fighting force, which is crucial to national security.
Currently, every branch of the military will fall critically short of personnel this year. In
fact, most of the branches have been falling short for the past few years. The Air Force does not
have enough pilots for its fighter aircraft, falling short of its 1999 goal by 1,401 pilots (Richter,
par. 8). The Air Force also is having trouble retaining the pilots it does have, because, after a few
years of service, the pilots can make excellent pay as an airline pilot. The Army and the Marines
are critically short of new recruits, leaving some units understrength and many bases closed. The
Army, despite spending $1 billion on recruitment advertising, has fallen short of the minimum
personnel requirements for the past several years. The Navy is also falling short of its personnel
requirement. Not only short of pilots (the Navy is having the same problem as the Air Force, in
this respect), the Navy is short of crewmen for its warships (by 22,000 recruits in 1999), leaving
them dangerously undermanned, or sitting in the harbor for lack of a crew (Richter, par. 8).
The military is also suffering from a lack of funding to purchase critically needed
supplies. The military is having a hard time buying all the necessary replacement parts it needs to
keep the US war machine operating. Munitions are also in short supply. Mr. Baker, a former
corporal in the US Army and the Indiana National Guard, said that there were times that his
artillery unit had to cease firing to conserve ammunition in training exercises. This profound lack
of readiness was demonstrated by the mishaps during the bombing campaign in Serbia, when the
US ran out of cruise missiles. Had that been an actual two-sided conflict involving an invasion
force of US soldiers, the US forces would have received heavy losses from not having adequate
Not only lacking funding for spare parts, the military is sorely pressed for funds to
introduce new technologies to maintain our military superiority.
The Army has already designed a new infantry rifle (The OICW, the Objective Individual
Combat Weapon, a rifle integrating a 5.56mm battle rifle, a semi-auto 20mm HE launcher, and a
computer for targeting, ranging, and changing the settings of the munitions.) to replace the aging
M-16/203, which has been in service since Vietnam. However, due to lack of funding, the rifle’s
production has been delayed. The OICW, according to Alliant Techsystems (the manufacturer of
the OICW), is currently slated for entry into active service in 2007. The OICW would have been
ideal for many of the combat situations faced (and ones that will be faced) by US ground forces.
Also, the funding for research on military battle suits (armored Kevlar and ceramic suits with
integrated computers, heads up display, and resistance to chemical weapons that would allow our
soldiers to have a massive advantage over enemy soldiers only carrying a rifle) has virtually
Many of the Navy’s war ships have been in service for decades, some since WWII. They
are becoming seriously outdated. Naval warfare has changed from large, heavily armored
dreadnaughts slugging it out with cannon, to primarily focusing on military aircraft and swift
moving destroyers, armed with anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles. Virtually all of the new ships
that have been planned for by the Navy have been put off. These include several new super-
carriers (necessary to project our air superiority around the world), missile cruisers, and stealth
The Air Force, while being the best in the world, is starting to fall behind in the
technology race. Our best air superiority fighter, the F-15, is a 20-year-old design. Russia has
designed two new fighters, the Su-37 and the Mig-1.42, which would out class the F-15 in
almost any given combat situation. Thankfully, due to a lack of funding, Russia has not been
able go into full-scale production of either of these fighters. However, should another nation
pick up the bill (say China), cash-strapped Russia would leap at the chance to build the fighters.
Several European nations (England, Germany, France, and a few others) have formed a joint
project to produce the Euro-fighter 2000. It too would out class the F-15, and the project calls for
the open sale of the fighter around the world. The Air Force’s answer to these fighters, the F-22
Raptor, has had virtually all its funding cut pending even more extensive tests. The current
funding allows for only 6 of the stealth fighter to be produced, at which point the project will be
reviewed. Other designs, such as the Bird of Prey switchblade fighter, are languishing on the
Finally, the joint US-Israeli anti-missile laser weapon has also been under-funded, despite
its successes. The anti-missile laser not only successfully shot down a Russian artillery missile in
its first test, but in later tests, the system successfully shot down multiple missiles fired in rapid
succession. Such a system, put on a mobile platform, like a modified M-2 Bradley fighting
vehicle, would give our ground forces virtual immunity from enemy missile fire to go along with
our nearly 100% first shot accurate counter-battery artillery fire.
Several solutions have been proposed to solve the staffing and funding problems faced by
our military, but most are so weak (such as the 4% pay increased recently proposed by Congress)
that they have little appreciable effect. At this point, more drastic measures are required.
To completely solve the lack of personnel in all branches of the military, a universal draft
could be implemented. In such a draft, everyone, man and woman, would enter into several
months of training and at least a year of active service, upon turning 18. Of course those with
mental and physical defects would not be require to service (most likely adhering to the current
standards used by the military). Also, those with criminal records, at least of the felony level,
should be likewise barred from serving. According to the US Census Bureau, this would provide
the armed forces a pool of roughly 4 million additional recruits a year (though this number will
likely go up as the population increases). These recruits, in addition to volunteers, would provide
each branch with more than enough personnel to bring them back up to full strength. The extra
manpower would allow the US to expand its forces (about 1 ½ to 2 times), allowing us to
maintain forces where they are required in hotspots (such as in South Korea) as well as
committing soldiers to peacekeeping missions and police actions. Incentives would also be
implemented to allow young people to volunteer, rather than be drafted, allowing them to choose
the branch of service they would like to be in. Also, funding permitting, under the GI bill, all
people of college age, having served in the military, would be eligible for some financial
assistance for college and trade schools. Should the amount of potential draftees raise to a level
high enough to not require all of them, a partial draft could be implemented, where people would
be drafted by random selection, until all of the spots are filled.
The additional manpower would allow the US to potentially create new branches of
service. Considering the number of peacekeeping missions the US has committed troops to
during this last decade has risen appreciably, the creation of a branch of Military Police might be
in order. These soldiers, in addition to standard basic training, would also receive police training,
particularly in crowd control and riot tactics. Along with being equipped with high grade riot
gear (bullet proof armor, riot shields, tear gas, and rubber bullets), the Military Police would
have the training to better handle the peacekeeping missions, which do not require the ability to
conquer a region, but the ability to control it. So, after the Army and Marines have pacified a
region, the Military Police could be brought in to hold or be committed to areas, such as Bosnia,
to maintain the peace. Another branch that could be formed would be a Military Engineering
branch. While not only being used to remove obstacles, such as land mines and tank traps, and
building up roads and bridges to allow for troop movement, the Military Engineers could be
brought into war-torn regions where peacekeeping is being done, such as Somalia, and help the
local people rebuild the infrastructure of their country. This would help regions from backsliding
back into chaos, and helping more countries begin their recovery from decades of war.
However, some would have harsh criticism of this plan. They might bring up several
objections to such a change in US policy. Would such a draft be fair and constitutional? With the
bad feelings of the Vietnam War still lingering, many would not particularly care for a re-
instatement of the draft. Another possible protest would be about including women in this draft.
What of those who are conscientious objectors? How would the military deal with an influx of
women and also many new “soldiers” who feel it is morally wrong to try to kill another human,
no matter the cause? Perhaps the biggest objection would be the question as to where the funding
for such a large undertaking would come from.
In reference to the fairness and constitutionality of the universal draft, one only has to
look at past precedence. The US constitution has provisions for Congress to raise an army for the
defense of the country and its interests. To accomplish this the United States had enacted several
draft laws over the past 150 years. The constitutionality of the laws has been challenged again
and again over the years, and has generally been upheld. The Supreme Court has held the view
that the military powers of Congress are, in fact, unlimited by the Constitution (Fitzpatrick 350).
In fact, even today, though there is no active draft, every man, when he turns 18, has to register
for selective service. As to the fairness of such a draft, since everyone would be drafted, how
could it be unfair? During the Vietnam War, due to college deferments and other political favors,
the military was primarily made up of men from poorer families. Because of this, minorities,
particularly African-Americans and Hispanics, were over-represented in the drafted soldiers.
However, a universal draft would take everyone, regardless of race and financial background,
preventing any favoritism, making it a fair system. As Americans, we have responsibilities as
well as rights. It is rather hypocritical to sit back and enjoy the protection of the Constitution
without being willing to defend it. In fact, the universal military training will provide discipline
and focus to many thousands of youths, who otherwise may have ended up in gangs or as
criminals. Society would benefit from this system.
Much controversy has ensued from the question of whether women should serve in the
military. However, several countries, such as Israel (which also employs a universal draft), have
had women serving in active combat roles for years. Women are completely capable of serving
in military capacities, and currently are in the Air Force and the Navy. Anyone who questions
whether women would be capable of serving in the armed forces in a reliable capacity, following
that assumption, must question whether women are then equal to men. If the answer is no, then
perhaps they shouldn’t have the right to vote and other privileges enjoyed by those who would be
serving. In fact, several studies have shown women to be better suited to some military roles,
such as a combat pilot, than men. First off, women tend to be lighter. Women (on average) also
have a higher pain threshold and faster reflexes than men do, making them ideal fighter pilots.
The question of conscientious objectors has already been answered in past conflicts. In
the past, if a soldier declared he was a conscientious objector, they were placed in non-combatant
roles (though not necessarily safer ones). These roles include the hundreds of thousands of
support personnel required to keep our soldiers in the field, combat medics, and engineers. In
each of these roles, the soldier is generally not call upon to fight, but rather assist their fellow
soldiers (or in the case of medics and engineers, considering recent military activities, to help the
people of the regions that our troops have been committed). These roles should not at all conflict
with the objectors personal views, and still allow them to contribute to the defense of our nation
and its interests.
The problem of funding is possibly the easiest one to deal with, and could potentially be
used to bolster the current system without the universal draft. This nation has a projected $1
trillion dollar surplus over the next ten years. It would be relatively easy to heavily increase the
budgets of the various branches of service. The increased funding would not only pay for the
expansion of the ranks and higher pay for the troops, but also allow the implementation of the
new technologies and the introduction of new equipment. The problems in buying spare parts to
keep the military machine running would be eliminated, virtually overnight. The US would then
possess a large, technologically superior force, that will finally be able fulfill the military
doctrine of being able to fight a two front war at any time.
Of course, one could look back only two and half decades to see what a recession could
do to the US economy. During the 70’s, inflation was out of control. So, if our booming
economy should fall back into recession, what will become of the projected surplus? Not only
could the surplus shrink, it could actually become a deficit once again.
However, merely looking back at the recession itself would be a flawed method of
predicting potential problems. In fact if one takes into account the entire 2 decades of the
recession and its recovery, the picture becomes much clearer. In 1981, President Regan took
office, while the country was still struggling with “Stagflation”, as President Carter called it.
Reagan called for increase spending to fund an expansion of the military to counter the Soviet
threat. Not only did the large increase in the military spending force the Soviets to match it,
eventually brining about the downfall of the Soviet economy and the Cold War with it, it also
helped stimulate the economy, promoting growth instead of stagnation and decay. A large
military industry could be the hedge against a future downfall of our booming economy.
Currently the United States military is desperately short of personnel and funding for the
upkeep of its equipment. Only through measures of instituting a universal draft and committing
resources to the military will the US maintain its superiority in the world. If the US should lose
its superiority, the many enemies the US has made over the past 200 years will not hesitate to use
its weakness to plunge the world into chaos and war.
Alliant Techsystems. 17 Oct. 2000. Alliant Techsystems. 19 Oct. 2000 <http://www.atk.com>.
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Washington D.C.: The Aspen Institute, 1995.
Baker, Craig. Personal interview. 14 Oct. 2000
Blechman, Barry M., et al. The American Military in the Twenty-First Century. New
York: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1993
Fitzpatrick, Edward A., Universal Military Training. New York: McGraw Hill Book Co.,
Richter, Paul. “With Recruitment Down, Draft is Gaining Support.” Los Angeles Times
28 Jul. 1999.
United States. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States. 119th ed.
Washington: GPO, 1999.