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The U.S. Military Is Marginal. Even Worse, the Air Force Is ‘Weak’

U.S. Military Marginal
Image: Creative Commons.

The U.S. military is only “marginally” prepared to defend America’s interests at a time when adversaries are ramping up military capabilities, according to The Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength released Wednesday.

Heritage’s analysis examined each branch of the military, as well as America’s nuclear capability. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

On the upside, the report determined the Marine Corps and the nation’s nuclear capability are “strong.” However, the Air Force and the new Space Force were scored as “weak.” The Army and Navy were scored as “marginal.”

“We are going to have to totally change the way we think of things in Congress and in the private sector as we make a change to these new warfighting capabilities, because warfighting in the future is going to look a lot different than in the past,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday at a Heritage Foundation event at which the report was released.

“Some of these capabilities, like the Space Force, we don’t need people necessarily going through boot camp to learn how to carry a backpack and a rifle,” Rogers said. “We need some kid who is really good at computer technology or mathematics, being able to come in and work for and engineer those satellites.”

The release of the report comes after China launched a new hypersonic missile in the past week. Meanwhile, Russia, Iran, and North Korea have touted advancements in military capabilities.

The lack of preparedness for some military branches doesn’t reflect on the enlisted service members, but is about resources, said Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation and a retired Marine lieutenant colonel.

“This is not an indictment in any way of the men and women who serve in the military,” Wood said. “In fact, it really emphasizes the strength of what they do. If you’ve got old equipment, and there are not enough units or ships, and you are still carrying out those functions, what a testament to their dedication and discipline.”

With regard to having enough equipment, or equipment that is too old to keep pace with that of adversaries, Wood said: “On a scale of one to five, one being very weak, five being very strong, we give it a middling score of three.”

The report states that while the Army is “aging faster than it is modernizing,” the majority—58%—of its regular brigade combat teams got a score of “very strong” for readiness. Force capacity is at only 62%, getting a score of “weak.”

The Navy is scored at “marginal, trending to weak” because it needs a larger fleet of 400 ships, the index says. The Marine Corps drew only a “marginal” score last year, but is “strong” this year, as the index cites efforts to modernize and enhance readiness. The Air Force fell from “marginal” last year to “weak” this year, as it has just 86% of the combat aircraft the index recommends.

The newest branch, the Space Force, is ranked for the first time in the index, which began in 2015, and makes a debut at “weak,” as the index asserts that “it does not have enough assets to track and manage the explosive growth in commercial and competitor-country systems being placed into orbit.”

The nuclear capability is scored “strong” but trending “marginal.” The index says the score reflects today’s greater risk of a degradation in nuclear deterrence.

“Recent calls by some elected leaders to reduce defense spending might lead one to conclude that they must believe we live in a world that is completely safe, secure, and free from the need for a robust defense,” Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James wrote in the preface of the report.

“But the unfortunate reality is that our biggest adversaries are working diligently to surpass our military capabilities at a time when much of our military equipment—including planes, tanks, and ships—is decades old and years past its useful service life,” James continued.

“We trust that our work assessing the challenges to America’s interests and our country’s ability to meet those challenges will significantly inform the debate that is so essential to protecting what has made the United States the beacon of hope, opportunity, and liberty for all the world.”

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.”

Written By

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of "The Right Side of History" podcast. Lucas is also the author of "Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump."



  1. Rick

    October 22, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    Meanwhile, in a different article here, Daniel Davis says no American soldier should fight to defend Taiwan against Communist China. Because in his estimation, they don’t do enough for their defense. And while Davis does that, he makes no mention whatsoever of our reliance on Taiwan’s computer chips to have a functioning military, never mind for all their civilian uses. Or the problems laid out in this article with our own military, currently focused on “understanding white rage”, critical race theory, undermining a president they do not like, etc.

    Analysis is not clickbait. Can we afford to have Communist China take Taiwan resulting in our loss of the strategic products we buy from them?

    What are the second and third order affects of the stumbling, bumbling panicked withdrawal from Afghanistan all for a photo op deadline? Can our military deploy and fight effectively in any area of the world including a confrontation with Communist China on any issue?

    The mere fact of having the most advanced weapons and military technology in the world means very little if you’re unable/won’t use it in an effective manner.

  2. Dave

    October 22, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Sorry can’t take any article seriously with adds about tee shirts that have gone wild or enlarged prostates or need a new roof or even dresses worn at country music awards

  3. Frank Maikisch

    October 22, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Reality is the only thing that matters. In reality our political leaders & senior military leadership over the last 30 have allowed our warfighting abilities against a peer or near peer adversary to wither. Billions wasted on platforms that don’t work or were abandoned. With zero accountability. Another reality is that if we allowed Taiwan to be taken by the Chicoms we’re done as far being the world’s leading power & we’ll have squandered the last of our credibility as a strong, reliable ally. Japan, Australia, & South Korea will instantly begin arming up for the new reality in the SE Pacific. There would be other fall outs as well. I for one have zero faith in our leadership. They have consistently proven incompetent in just about anything we do. Afghanistan is the poster child for that.

  4. Tom Hosman

    October 22, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    Heritage Foundation is a radical, right wing think tank. It’s many opinions are always artisan and rarely accurate when it comes strategic analysis.

  5. Quartermaster

    October 30, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Hosman, Heritage is far from radical right wing. However, what your silly opinion shows is that you are a far left radical.

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