Edited by Desi Tzoneva
According to Forbes’ reference to an anonymous source in the Pentagon, the United States (US) may soon find itself dragged into a military conflict which Uncle Sam cannot afford. US military officials see Iran, North Korea and Russia as potential enemies and the main problem, in their opinion, is the fact that the army is not ready for conflict in any of those scenarios.
New technologies for upgrading the land military forces seriously lack financing. For example, the weekly revenue of General Motors is much higher than the annual budget which the US army can spend on military transport technical support. The US has to constantly upgrade old-fashioned military helicopters instead of buying new aircraft, since the US Air Force (USAF) simply cannot afford it.
Forbes claims that the Pentagon does not intend to modernise its military forces in the next 10 years. Mac Thornberry, Chairperson of the US Committee on Armed Services, listed five main modernisation problems in his article published in The Heritage Foundation.
First of all, the USAF lacks 4 000 technical staff and 700 pilots. Besides this, the number of aircraft which need immediate maintenance is constantly growing. Thornberry also noted that US Marine Corps pilots have only four hours of flying time instead of the required 10 hours. Finally, the personnel strength of the US army has reached a historic low. In addition, the soldiers who currently serve in the army do not meet the Strategic Defence Guidance Requirements. In other words – they are not ready for a fight.
Thus, is the US army capable of winning a serious military campaign or not? Is it ready for a real war?
On the one hand, the US military budget is high enough to both train its manpower and to produce military vehicles. The trouble is that these funds are spent irrationally.
The Pentagon invests a great amount of funds in new technologies, which often look like science-fiction objects. These include hypersonic aircraft, laser and magneto-electric cannons, super invisible jets and other futuristic projects. Meanwhile, the practical needs of the army, such as tank and artillery upgrades as well as new individual protection equipment for soldiers, lack financing.
The reason for this imbalance lies in America’s efforts to create an illusion of the invincible US army. But an illusion works fine as long as someone believes in it. The potential enemies of America have started to lose faith in this illusion. And just when the US needs to restore the ‘invincible army’ image, it does not have the money to do so.
One small defeat of American forces or a weaponry failure will be enough to break the illusion. That is why the US is not very eager to sell arms to the Ukraine or to allow any Russian-American military incidents in Syria. The consequences of such scenarios could be fatal.
Another aspect which prevents the US army from dominating is logistics. America has to maintain troop contingents in numerous distant parts of the planet. Afghanistan, Okinawa, Europe and hundreds of military bases around the world require serious funding.
As a result, American leaders face two options: they either have to withdraw US troops from some regions and cancel their futuristic military projects or the army will gradually degrade. For example, even now, Russia can attack NATO in Europe without risk of immediate defeat and in five years, the country will have more military power than the US due to the Russian arms modernisation programme.
As mentioned earlier, the current US military budget varies from $600 to $800 billion. This is a tremendous amount of money which greatly exceeds other major countries’ budgets (e.g. the amount of money Russia spends on defence is 10 times less). In view of this, it is quite surprising to hear that the Pentagon lacks financing.
In fact, the US budget is also spent in supporting some groups of the American establishment and for many other non-military purposes. Experts from the US Centre of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) also claim that the army is used as an instrument of classic money laundering by increasing the costs of contracts.
The classical US strategic concept is based on its technological advantage over possible enemies. In the current situation, this obviously does not work. However, Uncle Sam still considers force as the main instrument of maintaining pax Americana and the military budget continues to grow, bringing ever more problems to the country.