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2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength: Assessing America’s Ability to Provide for the Common Defense

In aggregate, the United States’ military posture is rated as “marginal” and is trending toward “weak.” Overall, the Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies. The consistent decline in funding and the consequent shrinking of the force have placed it under significant pressure. Essential maintenance continues to be deferred; fewer units (mostly the Navy’s platforms and the Special Operations Forces community) are being cycled through operational deployments more often and for longer periods; and old equipment is being extended while programmed replacements are problematic. The shift (since last year’s Index) in two services—the Army and Air Force—to a lower category in the course of a single year is surprising and should be seen as evidence of the rapidly accumulating effects of inadequate funding during a time of higher operational demand and policies that have traded long-term health for near-term readiness. The cumulative effect of these factors has resulted in a U.S. military that is marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.

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