Mackenzie Eaglen, defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Mackenzie Eaglen, defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

She’s baaack! After having the temerity to give birth to a child and thus deprive us of her insights for several months, Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute has penned an op-ed on the 2015 budget. She casts it in a fairly gloomy light, pointing to the haunting possibility of a hollow force in the too-near future and the possible loss of American military dominance, a fact of global life since the surrender of Imperial Japan on the USS Missouri. These warnings are not new. Many outside DoD have been observing these alarming trends for years. With turmoil in the highest reaches of defense lawmaking — Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Buck McKeon, chairs of the Armed Services committees, retiring, as is Rep. Jim Moran of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee — the need for policy guidance from right and left grows increasingly important. Congress and friends, read on. The Editor

As Washington prepares for another defense budget submission and another new strategy document, lawmakers and policymakers would be wise to step back and attempt to glean the collective impact that “change fatigue” and four years of defense budget reductions and uncertainty have caused for the US military.

The budget relief provided in the recent omnibus spending bill was simply a Band-Aid. Unfortunately, all the trend lines appear to be moving in the wrong direction. America’s waning military strength should be worrying Washington much more. Perhaps the ugly 2015 defense budget request will be the one that finally forces politicians into action.

A quick sampling of recent observations and predictions from senior Pentagon officials does not bode well.

“If we stay on the path that we’re on, I think that we will, at least in the short term until we can get back into balance, have a hollow force,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Science and Technology Forum and Exposition conference.

He then highlighted diminishing US military technological superiority across the services and domains, stating that, “Unless sequester is reversed, nations such as China and Russia could become more militarily powerful than the United States.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Kendall expressed similar concerns, “I’m very concerned about eroding technological superiority and where we’re headed. … We’ve had 20 years since the end of the Cold War [and] sort of a presumption in the United States that we are technologically superior militarily. I don’t think that that’s a safe assumption. In fact, I think that we’ve gotten complacent about that and we’ve been distracted for the last 10 years fighting counterinsurgencies.”

At another conference across town, Admiral Sam Locklear, head of Pacific Command, reiterated the same point. “Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question,” he told the Surface Navy Association.

This should come as little surprise given the military’s shrinking investment in the future.

“The Navy took a modernization and maintenance “holiday” from 2003 to 2008 because of deployment demands. The sequester budget cuts in 2013 added to the backlog,” Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of Pacific Command’s naval surface forces, reportedly told the same association meeting.

Meanwhile, the cancelation or termination program casualty list is getting longer each day in the lead up to the release of the 2015 budget request. Thus far, it looks likely the forthcoming budget will seek to:

And that’s just the beginning. Much more will surely be lost once the official budget is released in late February or early March.

Yet there appears to be little let-up in demand for US military power — even as forces exit Afghanistan over the next year.

The Navy is moving to lock-in eight-month long deployments as the new normal for sailors and their families. “We’re trying to get our deployment lengths back in line to an eight-month deployment,” Admiral Bill Gortney said this week.

As forces serve longer, equipment ages more rapidly and the dollars for next-generation replacements are dwindling. This is having a direct impact on the US military’s global presence.

“But I’m not saying there’s not a reduced presence there — there is,” Admiral Jon Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, was quoted in Politico when referring to the fact that there were no warships operating in the US Southern Command area of responsibility at the Pentagon last July.

Army General David Rodriguez, commander of Africa Command, “estimated to Congress last year that the U.S. military needs to increase its intelligence-gathering and spying missions in Africa by nearly 15-fold,” highlighted by the Washington Post. The general told Congress that Africa Command needs assets given that it “receives only about 7 percent of its total intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has warned that one consequence of full sequestration would be a “decade-long modernization holiday.” Policymakers should not then be surprised that sequestration-lite will bring similar outcomes beginning with the 2015 budget.

As Congress prepares to consider the next defense budget, members should take full stock of the state of the US military. The military’s historical dominance is eroding, its investments are falling and global requirements are unrelenting.



  • PolicyWonk

    Hmmm… I find the analysis of anything sourced from a neoconservative organization, some of who’s members were either directly advising the previous administration or indirectly doing so – given the track record of total failure – to be questionable at best.

    The short-sighted policies of that administration caused the worst string of foreign policy and national security disasters in US history, while systematically sending 8+ millions of jobs, dual-use technologies, and hard won manufacturing techniques to the communist Chinese. And that doesn’t count causing the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, after inheriting an $800B annual surplus – or – leaving behind a military at its lowest state of readiness since Viet Nam.

    The neoconservative policy record, at best, can only be described as lamentable. But, that’s only judging from the results.

    • alohageedub

      Perhaps you could get out of your ivory tower and come down and talk to some the troops. Then go to a military cemetery and count the grave markers for those who did their duty with a hollow force.

      • Gary Church

        Maybe you should go visit. More money has been spent on this “hollow force” than any military establishment in history. Several times more generals than we used to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan- (and satellites in space!)- to fight a couple thousand illiterate tribesman with Kalashnikovs and RPG’s. Puh-leez

        • alohageedub

          Vist… been there done that! Did my time shed my blood, how about you? Would you prefer we went back to the metal muskets? As for the Flag Officers, I agree 100%.

          • Gary Church

            Aircraft carriers are about as useful as muskets against missiles. Missiles are what the world is about in the 21st century A; everything is just a target to these micro-chip kamikazes. All this stuff they are buying is junk. The greatest victory we could possible give to our future enemy is blowing hundreds of billions of dollars on stuff that does not work. 90 billion in the last ten years for missile defense when interceptors are soooo easy to defeat. It is a scam.You can’t hit a bullet with a bullet. But you can hit what is firing the bullet. It is called offense and the advantage has shift overwhelmingly to offensive missiles. This whole left and right and distracting those either side of center is great for destroying the middle class. They are laughing at us all the way to the bank my friend. I WANT the U.S. to spend money on defense- but that is not what is happening. They are making money off fooling us into thinking it is defense we are buying when it is just checks going out to shareholders. Those flag officers are in it up to the hips and so are the politicians. Ike was right. He kicked Hitlers ass and threatened to nuke China and ended the Korean war- and left office warning us about this. He was a republican.

          • alohageedub

            I of course disagree. Both the close in weapons systems and missle’s have had pretty remarkable effectiveness, including satellite destruction. Of course satellite destruction is the key component, no satellites no GPS, which works both ways.

          • Gary Church

            There can be no easier target than a satellite. Close in weapon systems do not work against modern missiles except in rigged tests designed to generate profits. I just do not understand how someone like you that seems to care can be gullible enough to buy into all these infomercials designed to steal money from your pocket.

          • alohageedub

            Could it be I have first hand information?

          • Gary Church

            Yes. But if you did you would not be saying so and giving away valuable intel to those collecting on this very discussion. If you were trying to dis-inform you would not be wasting time here- you would be writing articles for Janes. So I don’t believe you.

          • alohageedub

            That’s your choice…

    • Scott Heckman

      Anyone that begins their opinion by throwing around words like Neoconservative loses all credibility as they are obviously a liberal, military-hating wonk….see how that works.

      And FTR…
      – the “worst economic disaster since the Great Depression” was not caused by the Bush admin. That course was set by changes to the CRA and conforming mortgage standards by HUD in 1997 by Clinton’s undersecretary, Andrew Cuomo. This cannot be disputed. Google ” Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie” to find the Village Voice article and read up. Bush, to his credit, tried to reign in Fannie and Freddie on at least 2 occasions, but was slapped down by Barney Fwank and Chris Dodd. Bush, like Clinton, did tout increased home-ownership however and he should have tried harder.

      Bottom line, the Left in this country has an uncanny ability to take all of their policy failures, cast the blame on boogie men like “neo-conservatives” and the “Tea-Party”, and prescribe more and bigger government as the remedy to the more and bigger government they previously enacted with poor results. As evidence, I will submit that there is not a single example of a successful or wealthy nation in the world that has embraced progressive, socialist policies. NOT.ONE.

      • PolicyWonk

        Before regurgitating nonsense, lets count the number of policies on the part of the previous administration that worked out well for the American people. Simple answer: NONE. That’s simply the evidence, regardless of liberal, conservative, fascist, etc. This is also largely the conclusion of multiple years of National Intelligence

        Estimates, NATO, the worlds press (regardless of friend or foe), and a simple review of the raw facts.
        And even the GOP agreed: not even ONE republican candidate for POTUS in the last GOP primary even mentioned the very name of George W Bush – let alone seek his endorsement. This cannot be disputed.

        And, while the democrats were certainly not without fault, the Congressional Budget Office report on the causes of the Great Recession laid 90% of the blame on the GOP, after they inherited a nation at peace, and an $800B annual surplus. These also cannot be disputed.

        Hence, the so-called left (and independents) is/are loaded with mountains of evidence of conservative/neoconservative incompetence, while all the conservatives have done is attempt to foist the blame for their disastrous “reign of error” on the democrats.

        However, the evidence is clarified even further by making one simple comparison: State of the Union inherited by George W Bush, versus State of the Union inherited by Barak Obama.

        Obviously, there isn’t much room for dispute there either.


        • Scott Heckman

          Funny. you typed a thousand words and didn’t actually say much…mostly just broad assertions that you deem “evidence”.

          Bush was “toxic” in the election largely b/c the media largely poisoned the well. But, by your own logic then, Obama has been an unmitigated disaster. Every congressional candidate he tried to help in the last election lost and now you have Senators like Mary Landreu making up excuses to not be seen with the President. THIS cannot be disputed either.

          I will respond in detail to the only thing in that actually approaches substance in your reply..
          1. Any clear political objectives – I think you’re wrong here. The political objective was always the removal of Hussein/Taliban and the establishment of a secular democracy. The miscalculation was the inability of a the Iraqis and Afghans to form a democracy after so long under totalitarian and loose decentralized structures respectively.

          2. Sufficient resources to get the job done – Agree with you here. The Rumsfeld doctrine was as wrong here as it was in Vietnam though it was not the military resources to enact the regime change, it was the resources to prevent/counter the insurgency.

          3. Strategy to win – You are wrong here. The Military strategy was overwhelming and convincing. The failure was the miscalculation re: the aftermath in Iraq to fill the power vacuum and prevent the insurgency from forming.

          4. Plans to bring our troops home – This assertion is as absurd as Obama having a plan to bring them home with no regard for the success or status of the operation. You bring troops home when the job is done. There is your plan.

          • PolicyWonk

            The mean old “liberal media” being blamed for the *results* of the Bush Administration? C’mon – you ought to be able to do better than that. Our so-called “liberal” media happens to agree with the entire planet’s media regardless of friend or foe. Facts are facts, regardless of whatever political leanings you might have.

            As far as strategy to win – my comments are the same as and are culled directly from Gen. Stanley McCrystal’s Afghanistan Assessment (you could also reference Thomas Ricks excellent book: Fiasco – now required reading for all command staff at the pentagon). The gross failure to plan for the aftermath, having sufficient forces on the ground to secure either nation after either invasion were repeatedly pointed out not only by US officials (Eric Shinseki being one of them), but also by the British and numerous others.

            Taking a country’s leader out is one thing – stabilizing the nation afterwards is an entirely different matter.

            Regardless, invading Iraq was the beginning of the worst foreign policy blunder in US history (that also according to NATO, the Israelis’, and multiple years of our own NIE’s).

            W/r/t plans to bring the troops home – not even a decent try. Without any political objectives, strategy to win, resources to get the job done – and totally and willfully ignoring the entire US intelligence community (let alone military commanders, Department of State, and our many experts), no plan could’ve been put in place. This demonstrates a flagrant disregard for our military and its people – especially given what they knew was the flimsiest evidence (if not what they knew were outright lies) to justify the invasion of Iraq.

            Sorry – according to multiple years of our own NIE’s, plus assessments from NATO, the Israeli’s, the Saudis, British, Germans, and many others: The Bush Administration’s military and foreign policy efforts were managed at a level of incompetence that could only be described as breathtaking. And none of that counts for causing the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.

        • 10579

          uey wonk please don’t lump conservatives in as republicans.There are conservatives who are republican and democrat,not visa versa.And by the way it is liberal/progressives who are ruining this great nation with your socialist wont be hgappy until this country is a 3rd world nation like haiti.Them you will be screaming ” what the rep cons did when all along it was you socialists who poisoned our nation since kindergarden.

          • PolicyWonk

            The so-called liberal/progressives have been trying to fix the problems created by the GOP-managed houses of representatives during 2001-2006 that directly denoted to the severe economic recession this nation is still recovering from (let alone the rest of the planet.

            The blame (90%) for the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression has been awarded to the GOP, by the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the causes of the recession. According to the CBO, it all started with the Bush Tax breaks for the uber-wealthy, two unfunded wars, and the worst string of flagrant corporate welfare programs in history.

            Believe me, I’m not happy about it. And no one should be.

      • Gary Church

        – the “worst economic disaster since the Great Depression” was not caused by the Bush admin”

        THAT’S A LIE!!!

        • Scott Heckman

          You’re argument is compelling Gary. Thank you for bringing facts and evidence to the debate.

          • Gary Church

            You are sooooo welcome Scott. Your “facts” are so much more compelling than mine. Like “Hussein/Taliban” as if the two go together, and “You bring troops home when the job is done” (like Vietnam?) Liars, all of you.

        • PolicyWonk

          Blame the Congressional Budget Office report on the conclusion that the Great Recession was caused by the Administration of George W Bush, and the Republican-“managed” Houses of Representatives from 2001-2006.

          The CBO, however, is considered the “gold standard” for such reports and assessing the root of severe national problems.

          The facts may be unpleasant – but you can’t expect to recover from a problem until the GOP gains enough backbone to admit their part in what became a global recession. But my bet, is they will remain the cowards they’ve already proven themselves to be.

        • PolicyWonk

          Gary –

          Here’s a simple exercise you might want to try just to amuse yourself. Check out this simple comparison, and see if you can find a convincing (fact-based) argument to support your point of view:

          What was the State of the Union inherited by George W Bush (neoconservative/republican), versus, what was the state of the union inherited by Barak Obama (democrat)?

          • 10579

            Check out the date,Nov5,2008 the unemployment was 4.7 our economy was still moving ahead.Now check the polls and charts Nov 6 the day obama was elected we went into a recession employment started an up tick and the economy stopped growing. Now wait until obamacare kicks in Im sure you will have a wonderfully reasonable answer for all the unemployed now the jump in food stamps ,unemployment pay to keep people from looking for work and on the government dole,I guess like you.

          • PolicyWonk

            Your opinion is not supported by the facts. Each POTUS inherits the military and economy of his predecessor.

            Blaming the mere election results for the economic disaster imposed on this nation by years of irresponsible economic and financial policies flies in the face of reality, and again, the report written by the Congressional Budget Office regarding the causes of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (amongst other reports from reputable economists)..

            And the evidence regarding the so-called “free stuff” everyone is supposedly getting from Obama has been debunked so many times its ridiculous you would bring it up.

            Even Patrick Buchanan (hardly the leader of liberal thought) is urging the GOP to drop that asinine line of attack, because it was GOP policy that caused the strategic manufacturing base (plus 10’s of thousands of dual-use technologies) to be transferred to China. The 8+ million added to the welfare, food-stamp, and unemployment rolls were added because of lousy GOP policy that sacrificed US national security and compromised the US economy in return for short-term profits for GOP donors. All this, and a bona-fide national security disaster as an added bonus according to the US National Intelligence Estimates.

            Try again – this time, use some facts to support your opinion.

    • Reginald Bronner

      I agree. It is hard to believe someone who has so wrong in the past about our defense needs vis-a-vis real defense threats. We started the two biggest current wars – Iraq and Afghanistan and are having a tough time distancing ourselves from their “blowback” Anything from the American Enterprise Institute is definitely biased to the neocons and their rationalizations left over from the last administration. .We need to rethink our priorities outside of the box of maintaining an iron grip on outmoded weapon systems.

  • Don Bacon

    Weeellll, it’s about time we saw Ms. Eaglen hereabouts. Sure beats all those photos of planes and ships. While I usually disagree with her as an effective spokesperson for the MIC there is nobody who is better qualified to extend that mistaken point of view than she is. In fact, reading her for some time now, she has gotten so much better expounding intelligent points of view that I’ve even found myself agreeing with her occasionally since the old days on Battleland. (I got over it, though.)

    In a nutshell, the US has no demonstrable need for a large standing army, or any army, and paying for half a million unnecessary people simply deprives the US defense effort of R&D and necessary important resources. As I recall, even Ms. Eaglen is partway down that road.

    According to the geniuses in Washington, the top US threats are cyberwarfare, terrorism and …China (questionable). The US doesn’t need an army for any of that.

    And hey — good luck with that Rodriguez Africa thing. Try convincing the American people that THAT’s necessary. Africa is threatening us! The commander of AFRICOM wants more troops! That’s a shocker. Talk about seven percent intelligence.

    Anyhow welcome back, new mom. I hope your child gets to go to a real schoolhouse, not a “temporary” one like the kids in the next town have while we waste money on corporate welfare.

  • ziggy1988

    Welcome back, Mac! And US military superiority is already largely a thing of the past. China and Russia have already caught up with the US on most metrics and are working hard on closing the remaining few gaps.

  • bridgebuilder78

    Is she Jewish? Don’t you have to be Jewish to work as an ‘analyst’ at AIE?

    • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

      That asbestos for the moment if you are on fire is pretty handy, later cancer probably but the moment must come first. The Money Plague upon the World is going to hurt all including the military. But we’ll keep the nukes til the end then I would think when the money plague infects the Elite they will turn them loose in a last hope to keep their collections of ‘Forks and Spoons’ they gathered not caring about the World in General but themselves. That was the policy to Extinction and we have been great at it. The Stock Exchange hit a new high today?

      • bridgebuilder78

        I was alluding to Lewis Brown, a founder of AEI, who made his fortunes manufacturing asbestos.

        • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

          I was in his product he got rich off of quite a bit, cleaning dust and stuff in a building where it was at. They ran some of us out one day and next thing plastic all around and people cleaning in suits and oxygen. But we was all okay they said? We also use to run dry scrubbing pads on the asbestos floor tile and they told us later that was a no-no. I also worked a little around the Brake dust of cars. Doomed aint I!

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    And we let them speak, who runs the world? Pants or Skirts? Diversity or Whites? Corporations or the Politicians? Who will kill you in a second the ones with guns or the ones with flowers in their hands crying for Peace?

    • Gary Church

      Jeez, go away. You are an idiot.

      • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

        Sorry Disqus can send me away but you won’t! I’m not Blind to the World.

    • 10579

      how many did we lose in Nam with the flower power generation and LBJ doing there bidding.

      • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

        We lost 58+thousand. It’s one thing to lose those. It is another to have power to stop that and have the power to not draw lines in the sand. Today we got Green Zones to replace the stupidity of Vietnam.

  • ebocrew

    The US short sightedness is only matched by the British. ‘Sow the Wind’

  • CarlosAJM

    What the heck is this:“Unless sequester is reversed, nations such as China and Russia could become more militarily powerful than the United States.”? Really? None can believe this. If you are telling me in the very long run China may be military superior, ok, but that’s not related to a sequester nowadays but economic and demographic growth.

    It is not that sequestration has no negative effect but we shouldn’t trust people who overstate these things, it seems more like the industry lobbying (and a government department, in this case, DoD).

    • Don Bacon

      Their military power is actually because they build more capable ships and planes, rather than focusing on spending money on worthless ships and planes.

  • sferrin

    “Hollow force” is almost par for the course when a Democrat is in the White House.

  • Dean Jackson

    The article reads, ““The Navy took a modernization and maintenance “holiday” from 2003 to 2008 because of deployment demands. The sequester budget cuts in 2013 added to the backlog,” Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of Pacific Command’s naval surface forces, reportedlytold the same association meeting.”

    Which is one of the principal reasons why Moscow & Allies tasked their agents in Washington, DC (and other co-opted Western capitals) to mount the “War on Terror” operation, after the Moscow-tasked September 11, 2001 attacks…to weaken the United States Armed Forces. Not mentioned in the article though is the sabotage going on within the United States Armed Forces.

    Have you noticed what Congress and the media aren’t mentioning when they discuss sexual assaults in the United States Armed Forces? Well, the number of sexual assaults reported in a 2012 survey* was 26,000. 12,000 were reported by females, and the remaining 14,000 were reported by males. I’ll repeat it one more time…14,000, or 53.8%, of those experiencing sexual assaults are males! That 14,000 number for male respondents is impossible unless the United States Armed Forces is being sabotaged. It’s impossible to have so many males sexually assaulted otherwise.

    There can’t be that many homosexuals in the United States Armed Forces to account for that 14,000 number. The number of homosexuals in the United States Armed Forces would have to be in excess of 2 million in order for there to be 14,000 such criminal homosexuals, otherwise one would expect no more than 14 sexual assaults committed by homosexual military personnel! And those 14 would be risking their lives if they tried to rape another serviceman; just not smart, if you know what I mean.

    In order to crystallize the impossibility of the 14,000 number, imagine a proportionate statistic for any police department in the United States! Get it now?

    Now, if Congress and the media were to discuss that 14,000 number, people would naturally raise their eyes, intuitively knowing that there was something wrong with the number. That’s why Congress and the media refuse to discuss that number, because Moscow and Beijing doesn’t wish for such a discussion.

    Back to the equipment.

    Another subject the articles fails to touch on, and is critical for improvements in military technology, is the dearth of net (new) investments in the civilian economy, applications of which can be utilized by the military to not only improve current weapons systems but create new weapons systems.

    The reason for this drought in net (new) investments is due to Moscow & Allies tasking central banks of the West and Japan to maintain net (new) investment-retarding low interest rates, that effectively cut off such investments; higher, market-based, interest rates act as the lure for the increased savings that goes towards net (new) investments. This allows Russia and ally China to (1) catch up with the West in weapons technology while at the same time (2) stunting improvements in the West’s weapons technology.

    Here’s an example of how net (new) investments were achieved before the use of medium of exchange:

    In order to build a new and better fishing implement…a fishing net for capturing greater amounts of fish per attempt…a community would need to spend less time foraging for food while the fishing net was being built. Less time spent foraging for food = less consumption of food = savings; and time spent on the production of the new fishing net = net (new) investment for the future; present consumption has been “saved” for net (new) investment, investment being the same thing as greater future consumption.

    Result when the fishing net is completed: Thanks to a sacrifice in present consumption in order to build the fishing net, the community now can increase its consumption of fish, resulting in a net increase of food intake, even when one factors in the time now spent in repairing the fishing net, called depreciation costs in the modern economy!

    In modern economies, where money is the entity saved (not “time saved” searching for food, as in the example above), the lure for such savings is interest. In the example above, the lure was the fish, that is catching more fish per attempt.