Military Readiness
House Armed Services Commitee, June 2006

[of the House Armed Services Subcommittee]

FROM:   Chairman Joel Hefley

RE: Closed Subcommittee Briefing to Receive an Update on Current Military Readiness

On June 28, 2006, at 2:00 PM in room 2212 Rayburn House Office Building, the Readiness Subcommittee will meet in closed session to receive an update from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps on current readiness ratings, historical readiness trends since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, deployed versus non-deployed readiness rates, and a highlight of the changes in readiness trends since the Subcommittee was last briefed in February. . . .


Army and Marine Corps:

When considering the readiness trends of Army and Marine Corps ground and aviation elements, the availability of equipment and its combat capability continues to be a challenge. Due to operational needs and the positioning of equipment in theater ("stay behind equipment"), equipment shortages exist across the Army and Marine Corps. Moreover, high operational tempo and harsh conditions in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) place a great deal of stress on equipment. The committee has been actively engaged in oversight of the Army and Marine Corps' ability, in terms of both resourcing and capacity, to reset (repair or replace) its equipment in a timely manner.

The equipment shortages noted above affect not only equipment readiness, but training readiness as well. Due to in-theater operational needs many types of equipment are not available in the United States for training purposes. Although the biggest challenge to maintaining healthy readiness is equipment shortages, some key personnel shortages in high-demand/low-density fields can also degrade readiness ratings of certain units.

Overall, units are deploying in a combat ready status, but at the expense of units that are remaining behind. Resources that are needed for OIF/OEF are funneled to units that are deployed or are about to deploy. Therefore, units that are not scheduled to deploy in the near future suffer equipment and personnel shortages, which contributes to training challenges. As an example, deployed Army and Marine Corps aviation units continue to exceed most mission capability goals despite flying at three times their normal utilization rates. Non-deployed units, on the other hand, struggle to even meet a much lower, non-deployed standard.


The Navy has implemented readiness transformation under the Fleet Response Plan (FRP), turning the fleet into a more effective force by pacing greater emphasis on readiness. The focus of the Fleet Response Plan is to maintain the fleet's traditional forward deployed presence with the Carrier Strike Group while implementing a substantial surge capability to meet emerging conflicts. Under the FRP, the Navy will be able to double the traditional number of deployable Carrier Strike Groups.

The Navy faces unique challenges in sustaining its aviation fleet because aircraft, such as the F-18, have design limits on the number of carrier landings an airframe can sustain over its life-cycle. The years of increased operations tempo have resulted in many more carrier landings or "traps" per aircraft than originally anticipated. As a result, aircraft inventories are being reduced at much higher rates than originally projected because airframes are running out of "trap-life" and must be retired. Normal depot maintenance actions do not wholly correct or compensate for the stress placed on an airframe in a carrier landing. While the Navy is developing procedures to extend the service life limits of these aircraft, the procedures are extensive and time-intensive. Operational procedures are also in place to reduce stress on the aircraft during missions. While this mitigating step slows the aging of the fleet, aircrew training is also reduced.

Air Force:

There are nearly 63,000 airmen forward stationed and over 25,000 deployed worldwide in support of the Global War on Terrorism. The extensive use of Air Force assets strains resources, and Air Force readiness continues to be impacted by this high operational tempo. As with the other services, the Air Force is meeting combat readiness requirements by reallocating resources from non-deployed units to deployed units. This policy results in reduced training opportunities for non-deployed units. In addition to coping with aging aircraft and increasing maintenance costs, many units are suffering personnel shortages. While some of these are long-standing shortages in unique career fields such as linguistics, shortages in maintenance personnel has a second order effect as the required number of aircraft to meet a training schedule may not be readied. In turn, it is difficult for pilots to get the training they need to maintain proficiency and train new personnel in between combat rotations.

Despite claims that Air Force readiness levels are stable, it must be noted that readiness is at an historic low and the factors associated with current shortfalls will likely fuel a continued decline. It is anticipated that recapitalization of legacy systems will provide relief from declining readiness, but this recapitalization takes time and the personnel and raining challenges will continue to exist, only to be heightened by a reduction on force of 40,000 airmen by FY 2001.

New Department of Defense System for Reporting Readiness:

The Department of Defense (DOD) is currently transitioning to a new system for reporting readiness. Under the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRSS), the services will provide current, mission-focused capabilities-based information to a common DOD network. Combatant commanders, military services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other key DOD users will then access this information to evaluate the readiness and capability of U.S. forces to carry out assigned and potential missions. Traditionally, military units report readiness information through the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS). SORTS calculates a unit's readiness based on available or completed personnel, training, and equipment supply and maintenance. Although DRRS implementation is still incomplete, this new system promises a more complete, functional portrayal of the readiness of U.S. forces. . . .

[The above material, the first half of this briefing paper, has been transcribed from the full PDF format version. The latter part, containing questions for the witnesses, has not been transcribed.]

Contact:   info (at)
Invitation to join this effort