“Readiness” is the ability to operate our forces in the field. Forces are not “ready” if their equipment lacks spare parts or if too many are in the shop for repairs. Forces are also not ready if the people do not have the training to perform effectively in the field or if they lack the supplies and ammunition they will need once there. At times, the Pentagon has tried to preserve funding for new weapons by shortchanging the amounts spent on readiness. This can result in a “hollow force,” which looks good on paper, but cannot operate effectively and which often experiences low morale by the people who must try.

7/13/06 Air Force preparedness at ‘historic low’, House Memo: Army Unit Readiness For Iraq, Afghanistan is Lagging, by Elaine M. Grossman, Inside The Pentagon

12/19/05 Learning to Adapt to Asymmetric Threats. If the key to 4GW is the ability of small units to adapt to unexpected situations, how do we train people to do it? A major study from the Institute for Defense Analysis (524 KB PDF).

11/22/05 Fall From Grace, by Jason Vest. One of the Army’s top generals was forced out for an affair with a civilian. But his real legacy may be a much better Army, thanks partly to another “prematurely retired” officer. From, November 1, 2005. Republished with permission.

Preventable Deaths (2MB .pdf) by Victor O’Reilly, November 2003. Our soldiers are great, but to win at 21st Century warfare, we need a smarter Army. In depth look at Army programs in the light of 21st Century realities.

Introduction to Asymmetric Warfare, Fourth Generation Warfare, and Maneuver Warfare, GySgt Bob Howard, USMC. Teaching 4GW concepts to the folks who are actually going to have to do it. (43 chart, 547 KB MS PowerPoint briefing)

Congressional Aide Finds Spending On ‘Core Readiness’ In Decline” by Elaine M. Grossman, Inside the Pentagon, June 28, 2001. Succinct coverage of the “Spartacus Report,” detailing how spending on core readiness has declined despite huge increases in defense spending, much of which was justified on the need to improve readiness.

Information on the Use of Spare Parts Funding is Lacking,” GAO 01-472, June 1002 (182 KB .pdf). For FY 1999, Congress gave the Pentagon an extra $1.1 billion in emergency supplemental funds specifically earmarked for spare parts. We know that $87 million actually did go into an account for Navy aircraft spares; the rest disappeared into general operations and maintenance accounts and could have been used for most anything.

Trip Report: 10th Mountain Division, Ready or Not? by a Senate staffer. 26 September 2000. Although the 10th MD may officially be “ready” by Pentagon reporting statistics, this trip report to Ft Drum details “multiple, serious shortages of people and material resources, training deficiencies and other impediments to readiness, a large number of them resulting from policies imposed by Washington.” The report also describes the heroic efforts many 10MD personnel are making to ensure that combat effectiveness is maintained as well as possible, despite these policies.

Trip Report: Navy and Air Force Air Combat Training, by a Senate staffer, 30 January 2000. A primary reason America’s fighter pilots rule the skies lies in the training the very best of them receive at the Navy’s Topgun and the Air Force’s Fighter Weapons School. Unfortunately, misguided policies emanating from inside the Beltway are letting these crown jewels deteriorate. These disturbing facts are documented in a detailed report by a Congressional staff member with many years experience working defense issues.

Trip Report: Staff Trip to Army Training Facilities, by a Senate staffer, December 1997. The first visit by this veteran member of the Senate staff to advanced training facilities that are supposed to give US units the edge in combat. Despite the uniformly high dedication and professionalism of the OPFOR units, decisions made at DA, DoD, and Congress are seriously degrading the effectiveness of the training at these facilities and the readiness of combat forces Army-wide.

The Tillson Report, October 1999. John Tillson, West Pointer, Vietnam combat vet, and analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis examines the reasons for low retention among the Army’s best and brightest. It’s not just, or even primarily, the deployment rate or low pay and benefits (although these do matter). Warriors and true leaders resent an antiquated personnel system-long ago abandoned by the best corporations-that treats people like interchangeable cogs in a machine and rewards those who master the arts of bureaucracy and careerism. (416K .pdf file)