Military Weakness Exposes Vulnerabilities Amid Rising Global Threats

For the second year in a row, a study has categorized the U.S. military as weak and issued a warning that a lack of action could render the armed forces unable to defend crucial American interests.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s 10th annual Index of Military Strength, released on Wednesday, the present U.S. military force faces significant risks in meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also handling various presence and engagement activities.

The report paints a grim picture of the U.S. military’s current state, with the index rating its current posture as “weak” for the second consecutive year. This raises concerns about America’s capacity to fulfill security commitments and safeguard essential national interests worldwide.

In its extensive 664-page report, the Index of Military Strength addresses a broad spectrum of concerns, highlighting that nearly every branch of the U.S. military is ill-prepared to confront a major conflict. The most significant challenges are evident in the Air Force, which received a very weak rating for 2023.

The report assesses each branch of service based on its capacity, capability and readiness, categorizing their strength as very weak, weak, marginal, strong or very strong. The Air Force was rated as marginal in both capacity and capability, with a weak rating for readiness. In summary, the report concludes that the overall strength of the Air Force is currently assessed as “very weak,” marking the lowest possible rating.

However, the challenges extend beyond the Air Force, affecting the Navy as well. The Navy received ratings of very weak in capacity, marginal in capability and weak in readiness, culminating in an overall assessment of weak according to the index.

Robert Greenway, the director of the Allison Center for National Security at the Heritage Foundation, said, “For ten years, this index has monitored the U.S. Navy’s slow decline while China’s Navy has modernized and grown at a fast pace. Meanwhile, the Navy has had too little shipyard capacity to keep its fleet maintained, too few ships to pace the threats and misguided leadership that has instigated a recruitment crisis. Advanced capabilities alone will not offset this, and action is needed to reverse the downward trends.”

The Army received a rating of weak in capacity, marginal in capability and very strong in readiness, ultimately leading to an overall assessment of marginal according to the index. However, despite this relatively better rating compared to the Air Force and Navy, the Army faces its own set of challenges, including concerns about the sustainability of a shrinking force in the long term.

The military’s weak rating is especially concerning given the current global landscape. The report highlights that China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and even non-state actors like terrorist groups pose significant threats to U.S. interests.

China and Iran are categorized as aggressive threats, while Russia is classified as the most hostile. Moreover, both Russia and China are acknowledged to possess “formidable” capabilities, as outlined in the report.