Two decades of direct and indirect conflict involving the US military has degraded its combat readiness, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found.
Washington went to war in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks and invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple former leader Saddam Hussein.
Last year, the US government began sending billions in military aid to Ukraine to help counter Russia’s invasion of the country. The aid included Patriot missiles, HIMARS rocket launchers, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.
The GAO stated that while the military is working to rebuild and restore its readiness, it continues to face major challenges.
For example, the US Navy is experiencing a ship maintenance backlog of $1.8 billion. Maintenance and supply issues also limit the readiness of some aircraft.
GAO director Diana Maurer also reported that the US military’s mission capability has declined since 2017.
She said that while the US Army and Marine Corps improved in the ground domain, there were significant declines in the sea, air, and space domains.
“For example, only two of 49 aviation systems met their annual mission-capable goals. The vast majority missed by over 10 percent,” Maurer explained.
In addition, the country’s F-35 program suffers from a variety of sustainment woes, causing a yearly decline in its mission capable rates from 2020.
The US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps are also facing substantial gaps between the costs of operating an aircraft and what they can actually afford.
Maurer told Congress last week that the US Army must improve its helicopter safety to avert fatal incidents, including the recent crash in Kentucky that killed nine soldiers aboard two Black Hawk choppers.
The military must also address shortfalls in rail support and sealift training because they have a negative effect on its readiness and ability to conduct logistical operations.
The GAO further pointed out that dozens of recommendations have already been made in prior reports to improve military readiness in all domains, but some of them reportedly remain unimplemented.