The US military is formidable. However, the US military is not what it once was.
One need look no further than incidents over the last five years to be reminded of how things that once were taken for granted, now cannot be and are indicative of how far our capabilities have fallen. In 2017, in two separate incidents in the Pacific, US Navy ships collided with other vessels on the open seas which resulted in a loss of life. The year before, US patrol craft were captured by Iran and last year there was an in port fire on the USS Bonhomme Richard which resulted in its total destruction. That does not include things such as billions of dollars in cost overruns and two year delay in the delivery in the last aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford.
Though those dramatic examples are from the surface Navy, there have been similar concerns about readiness in other branches of the military.
Things such as these ask the inevitable question: what changed and why?
A study commissioned by members of Congress examined that question in the surface Navy, where the problems have manifested themselves most. The study, titled “A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet,” surveyed 77 current and recently retired surface sailors about their insights into the leadership culture of the United States surface navy and how it related to incidents noted above. The findings were revealing.
Among the significant findings, the survey (reported by the US Naval Institute here: Congressional Surface Navy Report ) reports that 94% of the sailors interviewed (across ranks and levels) said that problems were related to the culture and leadership within the Navy. Chief among the issues for the surface sailors surveyed was the emphasis on mounting administrative duties rather than preparing ships to fight, reads the report. Rather than training to fight, and worrying about how to combat Chinese or Iranian capabilities, for example, one officer commented that it had become more important to remember what was being celebrated that month and making sure related training was complete.
Let’s put that ‘academic speak’ into context by looking at an example from Army ROTC. In April, Temple University ROTC cadets wore their uniforms while marching in high heels to show their empathy with the diversity of women in the military. Temple was not the only campus where that happened. Rather than studying logistics or tactics or leadership, the ROTC curriculum had cadets marching in high heels.
I am not quite sure how marching in high heels is part of military training but in the military of recent years it is and has a broad history. Over the last several years, several military bases have posted pictures of events where military members were marching in high heels. On its official blog in 2011, the Defense Department posted pictures of soldiers in high heels walking in an unidentified event. In today’s Defense Dept., apparently that is something to be proud of.
In boot camp, where young soldiers begin their training, recruits can now raise a card if they are feeling stressed or upset and the training immediately is put on pause. So, in order to prepare for fighting against potentially brutal enemies such as the Taliban, we begin training but telling recruits to let us know if they get upset or stressed.
A major problem in the decline in readiness with the US military is that its leaders are more concerned with things other than how to fight and win a war.
We all hope that deterrence works, and that we never have to use our military. But 9/11 and other events remind us that is not how the world works. And so we must have a military that is devoted to their job, who studies and prepares for the job and is ready to be the best in the world at it. That is not achieved by marching in high heels or stopping training when someone feels stressed. The senior officers and leaders who have led our military down that path should be summarily dismissed and we should return to the basic understanding of that the job of the military. To do otherwise is to literally put lives in jeopardy and, at the extreme, to put our country and its people in jeopardy. And we cannot allow that to happen.