For the past several years, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been painting a bleak portrait of the state of the armed services. Testifying to the senate Armed Services Committee in January 2015, recently retired Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno admitted that Army readiness “has been degraded to its lowest level in 20 years.” This year, Odierno’s successor, Gen. Mark Milley, went farther: the Army is not well prepared to engage a major power. “If we got into a conflict with Russia then I think it would place our soldiers’ lives at risk,” he said.
Today’s global security crystal ball is murky, but a safe assumption is that the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe will remain unsettled and nests of terrorist activity, motivation, and recruitment; with sanctions lifted Iran’s conventional military re-emergence in the region will further challenge the security environment in the Middle East; Northeast Asian allies, China, and the U.S. will continue to react to an unpredictable regime in North Korea.
In the years immediately following the (first) end of the Cold War, the search for elusive readiness metrics in the Department of Defense was all-consuming. As the pressures mounted, first to write and then to cash the “peace dividend” check, policy pronouncements were made and working groups and war rooms were established, all asserting the existence of and searching for the Holy Grail: a suite of detailed readiness metrics that could precisely detail the impact of every procurement dollar cut and every training event curtailed.