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Photo: Oliver Barrett

American Military Superiority Under Threat

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WASHINGTON – January 30, 2019

There used to be an unspoken rule in America: It was impossible to doubt the power and might of the army. The Espionage Act of 1917 (still in force) provides for 20 years in prison "for disseminating false information about the U.S. Armed Forces in order to thwart its operations, cause a riot, or prevent recruitment into the army." That’s in the past--Americans are now openly talking about how the country’s military potential has gone to hell.

Recently, the Pentagon also openly said that the US is losing its military advantage over its rivals. Military experts actively discuss how the government can solve this nearly-global problem.

National Interest magazine reports that the US army is experiencing an acute shortage of troops, whose number is now at the lowest level since the end of the Second World War. Experts call this a serious problem that requires an immediate solution, otherwise, the country will not be able to confront the five main threats -- China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorism. Here, of course, America is fooling around  a little bit --the army’s  numbers are not so small. In 2017, according to open sources, the army had 476,000 in the regular army, 343,000 in the National Guard, 1,018,000 in the general military, 330,000 civilian personnel, and 200,000 in the reserves.

The army's ground forces have indeed declined by 11% in the number of brigades compared to 2001 (9/11 is the starting point for comparisons) and are now 38% below the size recommended in the Global military strength index. There are problems with readiness -- only a third of the teams are ready for "high-class battles." Gen. Mark Millie, army chief of staff, claims that the military will face a high degree of danger if they wage a serious war. At the same time, the General recently declared his readiness to smash any enemy to smithereens. Now he is openly calling for his government to strengthen its military power.

The American army now stretches around the world--no wonder, therefore, the lamentations about the lack of troops in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, according to the National Interest, "the ground forces say that they are lacking 476,000  soldiers." That is, is it possible to close all problems with the replenishment of human resources with 24,000 rangers?

Recently, the bipartisan Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States, approved by Congress to assess the state of American defense, published its final report. It concluded that the weakening of American military superiority puts "the security and well being of the United States at greater risk than at any time in decades." The authors of the report warned: "If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting." In other words, this crisis requires Washington to take immediate decisions.

From 9/11 to the present, the Defense Department has not received sufficient funding, according to their estimates, to support the operations, combat readiness and modernization of the United States armed forces. As a result, the Pentagon was forced to constantly postpone modernization in favor of the priority of combat readiness of the units, which in accordance with the plan should be deployed immediately.

American Military Superiority Under Threat

Here the reason is seen not so much in the reduction of the Pentagon budget by Congress (since 2011 it has decreased by $539 billion), but also in the fact that the overall prestige of military service in the US army has now decreased significantly. Especially unhappy are recruits being sent to the “hot spots”--no one wants to go to Afghanistan, for example. Apparently, that's why the United States lifted the ban on the recruitment soldiers with mental problems last year. Now the US Army can take into its ranks people engaged in self-harm, suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, and alcoholism or drug addiction. In this, in the truest sense of the word "crazy squadron," it was planned to recruit 80,000 people by September 2018, but, apparently, the potential recruits had their own mind and not all went ot serve.

Not everything is fine, as the Americans themselves believe, with the replenishment of resources and equipment. The Navy has said it needs 355 ships for national defense, but it has only 286 at its disposal. The navy has shrunk 13% as compared to 2001, and by 48% since 1991 and the end of the Cold War.

The navy has 11 aircraft carriers, with only 5 of the top 10 being full speed--the rest in a stage of permanent repair. The “Gerald Ford” cost $13 billion and despite becoming part of the fleet in 2017, has not yet passed all the necessary tests, with full operation beginning most likely only in 2020. The US plans to finish construction on two more Fords by 2023. In any case, the US currently has more aircraft carriers than Russia and China combined.

The number of tactical fighters has dropped 21% in recent years. Many aircraft have long since retired. Speaking in the House of the Armed Services Committee, ex-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James warned that the gap in technology and capabilities between America and its opponents is shrinking fast. Moreover, there are problems with readiness, as only half the standing aircraft are prepared for serious battle.

The reference points of the American army with their own scale of measurements, in the end, turned out to be just a myth. The US Army still positions itself as the strongest, most powerful and invincible. According to the same portal Global Firepower Index, which regularly analyzes the state of the military power of 126 countries of the world, the United States really is in first place in the ranking of the most militarily powerful states. Experts assess, as a rule, the state of the armed forces, in accordance with the total population, the economic state of the states, as well as compare specific indicators of technical equipment of the army and navy. That is, the championship is modeled on a computer that provides data on the information embedded in it. And it’s not the first time there are signals indicating the discrepancy of these rating studies with the real situation.

In addition, as recent events show, the Department of Defense is now in a military situation with Trump determining the solution of the issue on the US-Mexican border.

Meanwhile, China and other major powers are constantly working to modernize their nuclear capabilities and traditional capabilities. Work is actively underway to weaken the US position in a number of areas, such as space and cyberspace. In addition, according to the report of the National Defense Commission, China is already in clear superiority over any other opponents in the military market.

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Another global problem of the United States is the economic and information war, in which the current state of affairs leaves much to be desired. To do this, officials are ready for anything: from the announcement of a trade war to China, in which the US is known to lose, to accusations of other states interfering and violating US rights. Other current events in Venezuela show that the government is ready to do everything to strengthen its position in the world.

American Military Superiority Under Threat

The purpose of strengthening its position in China is to weaken the power of the United States, the use of their vulnerability. As a result, they seek to undermine an international order led by the United States that deters aggressors and supports political and economic freedom.

Washington's reaction has not yet produced the necessary results. American military superiority has weakened or disappeared in significant areas of defense, and the balance of power in strategic areas, such as Eastern Europe and the Western Pacific, has changed in favor of our rivals and opponents, thereby increasing the likelihood of conflict.

This crisis, of course, arose not in one day, and its recovery will take more than a decade. One-time financing of the Defense Department is not enough to get away from the problem in an instant, experts say. A sustained response to this crisis will require a consensus between the two sides on the issue of national security, which should be maintained in the work of subsequent administrations. Unfortunately, today the United States is much more divided than in the past.

However, there are some factors that can serve as a basis for the resumption of consensus in the field of national security.

American Military Superiority Under Threat

The first is that the system of US allies, which is quite extensive and represents a unique strategic asset, should be ahead of the curve right now and accept any proposals that will be useful for the government in one way or another. Pressure on allies will not work if they are aimed at deterring others in favor of their potential. As long as this continues, the US is unlikely to be able to contain aggression, prevent wars, reduce the burden on its army and protect national interests.

Secondly, to ensure the security of the American people, the United States will have to start negotiations with China and Russia. The question is whether any of these countries will offer the US if they take advantage of your "another chance" to acquire wealth in their favor. Here it is worth noting that when opponents doubt the potential of the United States, they often resort to provocative actions.

The goal of the United States should not be to destabilize Venezuela and resolve the differences between the major countries through diplomatic means. Although it must be said that success is unlikely without the support of reliable allies and military capabilities. Now instead, the US is actively losing its allies.

And thirdly, the Defense Department should build a consistent dialogue with the President, who supports the Pentagon. As long as there are persistent disagreements between Congress, the White House and the Department of Defense, one can hardly expect a successful domestic and foreign policy.

Another military observer of American Thinker Robert Kaski said: "While Moscow and Beijing are armed, preparing for future conflicts, and modernize their armies, the Democrats decided to start a brutal hunt for the US armed forces. Through sequestration, they have reduced costs, leaving the US military without the means they need to carry out their tasks. Washington sharply cut the military budget, reduced the number of troops and forced allies and enemies to think and wonder whether the United States, as before to protect their friends and defend their interests."

The Americans are now ringing the bells -- it is necessary to arm the army, otherwise, there will be a problem with restraining the growing global influence from China in the first place. And if the PRC and Russia unite, the US will not stand the blow from the East (China) and the West (Russia) and then the influence, and the presence, too, both in the Indo-Pacific region and in Europe, will weaken. Nobody wants to throw nuclear warheads, but the current state of the American army will allow driving the "Russian bear" and "Chinese tiger" of the American "cowboy" into its traditional habitats, to the North American continent. Americans are most afraid of this, and therefore will now start a new round of the arms race, in which they are still hopelessly behind.

So far, it is worth noting that $686 billion in the Pentagon's budget for 2019 is a significant increase compared to the level of 2017. Importantly, the Ministry of Defense also received this funding immediately, starting the tax year with a fixed allocation for the first time in a very long time.

American Military Superiority Under Threat

Now it is important that the process does not stop because of the next clashes between departments. The National Defense Strategy Commission recommended increasing funding from 3% to 5% above inflation for at least five years. With increased funding, the Pentagon may continue to pursue U.S. defense priorities. This can improve the combat capability, lethality, combat readiness and modernization of our army. The increase in funding will expand the training activities of our army, as well as to participate in joint exercises with us allies. It will also provide major investments in important technologies such as autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, directional energy and supersonic missiles.

Without increased funding, all these problems are much more complicated. The inability to adequately finance the US defense strategy will increase the chances that the troops will be involved in a large-scale conflict between the powers in the future, which will be difficult to win. The Pentagon is obliged to provide the troops with the resources necessary to implement the strategy they were ordered to support. This principle need to overcome party differences.

The threats facing the United States are as serious as have been seen in decades. The great power competition is a serious challenge, but the US must also deal with Iran, North Korea, and terrorism. With a new national security consensus, the United States will be able to strengthen the military power and political will necessary to ensure security in the coming decades.

Author: USA Really