- The U.S. military earned a rating of “weak” for the first time since the inauguration of the Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of U.S. Military Might, according to the report released Tuesday.
- Under the Biden administration’s leadership focus on other domestic priorities, the military’s ability to meet rising threats abroad has severely declined, the report found.
- “There has been a distraction from warfighting as the focus and purpose of the United States military in recent years,” Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The U.S. military deserves a rating of “weak” for the first time, according to Heritage Foundation’s annual analysis of American military might, released Tuesday.
The appraisal was given after the organization found the U.S. military lacks the capacity to manage a major war and attend to its smaller commitments across the globe at the same time. As adversaries such as China and Iran are improving their forces to threaten U.S. interests in the world, the military has seen an “erosion” of strength across all the services exacerbated by the Biden administration’s hyper-focus on domestic priorities, the think tank alleged in the 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength.
“Biden’s reckless, naive foreign policy continues to embolden our adversaries, while his domestic agenda undermines the strength of our military,” Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts said in a statement. “There is no question that under his failed leadership the strength of our military has hit an all-time low.”
Degradation in the military’s capacity, capabilities and readiness for the first time became so extensive that the “military’s ability to fulfill its primary mission is in jeopardy,” according to a press release.
Of the services, only the Marine Corps earned a score of “strong,” while the U.S. nuclear deterrent also received a “strong” rating. The remaining services — Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force — all earned a score of “marginal” or worse, with the Air Force ranking as “very weak,” the lowest possible score.
No service was seen as “very strong.”
The Air Force and the Navy have seen the greatest decline since 2022, according to the report. That has lawmakers concerned, as a conflict with China would involve those two services predominately, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin explained to the DCNF. (RELATED: Biden’s New China Strategy Is Hamstrung By Competing Democratic Priorities, Experts Say)
One of the main culprits for the military’s plummeting strength levels is funding, according to the report. The military has lost $59 billion between 2018 and 2023 as a result of budget cuts and inflation, which has reached historic levels under the Biden administration.
“It kneecaps us from the start,” Gallagher said.
In addition, the Biden administration’s defense leaders have elevated issues like climate change and “divisive” ideology to the forefront of national security policy, crowding out needed investment in other military priorities, Roberts said in the statement.
Top echelons of Department of Defense leadership have seen a “distraction from warfighting as the focus and purpose of the United States military in recent years,” Gallagher said to the DCNF.
“That’s a harder thing to quantify — it doesn’t lend itself to sort of a number on a chart — but I think it’s evident in a variety of peacetime accidents that we’re seeing, a lot of controversial issues that I believe are contributing to our recruitment crisis” and the “perceived politicization of our general flag officers,” he added.
.@SecDef: Patriotism knows no gender, and neither does courage. Men and women hear the same call to serve our great country, and American women have always, always answered. pic.twitter.com/uB11hbJF8q
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) October 16, 2022
The administration’s insistence on “integrated deterrence” — that is, prioritizing other forms of American power to prevent wars — has undermined the U.S. ability to accomplish defense objectives, according to Gallagher. However, integrated deterrence fails if the military cannot present a credible threat, particularly to adversaries like China, whose rapid modernization agenda and increasingly aggressive behavior suggest an imminent confrontation with the U.S. or allies.
“If the military loses focus on its sole purpose, why do you have one?” retired Lt. Col. Dakota Wood, Heritage senior research fellow and editor of the Index, told the DCNF.
Heritage creates the Index using data from public sources to inform lawmakers on the state of the military and its major challenges, according to Wood.
The index analyzes the U.S. military’s posture against the geopolitical environment, focusing on areas such as China and the Middle East where U.S. vital interests are at stake. Each service is assigned a score for “capacity” to address the range of magnitude of issues facing the U.S.; “capability,” or use of modern technology; “readiness” and “overall.”
“We have not reviewed the report and do not have a comment to provide on the index,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the Air Force. “The U.S. military is the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. Every day around the globe, the men and women of our Armed Forces safeguard vital U.S. national interests by backstopping diplomacy, confronting aggression, deterring conflict, projecting strength, and protecting the American people.”
This story has been updated with comment from Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder.
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