On Friday, Donald Trump visited the Pentagon and signed an executive order that requires Defense to do an in-depth assessment of US military readiness.
The order calls for new Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to carry out a 30-day “readiness review” that is expected to examine needs for the war against the Islamic State, along with training, equipment maintenance, munitions, modernization and infrastructure. A draft of the order obtained by The Washington Post on Thursday also said it would examine how to carry out operations against unnamed “near-peer competitors,” a term that U.S. officials typically use to mean China and Russia, but that language is not in the final version.
Within 60 days, Mattis also must submit to Trump a plan to improve overall readiness in the military by fiscal 2019. It will focus on everything from maintenance backlogs to the availability of training ranges and manpower shortages, and the time needed to coordinate and carry out military training.
Trump also called for reviews of the U.S. military’s nuclear arsenal and of ballistic missile defense. The draft document suggested that the Pentagon also would suggest programs that might be cut, but that language did not appear in the final order Trump signed.
Trump’s proposals for the military during his presidential campaign were drawn heavily from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and could cost between $55 billion and $90 billion per year, according to outside experts. The plan included adding tens of thousands of soldiers until the service reaches 540,000, expanding the Navy’s fleet to have at least 350 ships, adding about 100 Air Force fighter or attack jets until the service reaches 1,200, and increasing the number of Marine Corps infantry battalions from 24 to 36, which would include thousands of Marines.
This is long overdue, but, then again, the Obama administration held the US military in the deepest contempt and never had any use for it other than as an incubator for various social pathologies that it wanted to mainstream into society. The coddling of Bowe Bergdahl and the early release of Bradley Manning demonstrate, as no mere words can, the depth of contempt the administration feels for the military culture.
More properly, this executive order compels Defense to compile a shopping list of requirements to bring the US military back to a baseline of readiness where we can hold our own with a regional power like China.