An Un-Hollow Force: Readiness in the FY15 Budget Request
The debate about the defense budget suffers a fundamental disconnect:
even as the national conversation focuses on deep cuts, the actual
force remains the most awe-inspiring military force in the world. Some
of that disconnect stems from blurring the distinction between a smaller
force and a hollow force. While a hollow force-a force that claims
capabilities on paper but in reality isn’t ready to execute-is without
doubt a bad thing, it is not inevitably an outcome of a smaller force.
In fact, a smaller force makes a hollow force less likely. And the
president’s recently released budget request takes significant steps to
prevent a hollow force.
The specter of a hollow force arose in the 1970s when the force,
especially the Army, claimed a certain force structure but the actual
units were short people, parts, and training, all exacerbated by the
drugs and social inequity the Army was suffering from post-Vietnam.
General Shy Meyer rightfully called out this hypocrisy in congressional
testimony. But what General Meyer left out is that the Army itself had
decided to add an extra three divisions to its force structure and
compounded the problem by focusing on funding the Big Five:
a new Army tank, a new infantry combat vehicle, a new attack
helicopter, a new transport helicopter, and a new antiaircraft missile.
These acquisitions absorbed funds that might have gone toward training
and people. Coupled with the budget drawdown of the 1970s and the
personnel turbulence, these choices led directly to the hollow force.
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