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US Military readiness declining since 2017: Govt. watchdog.

U.S. Military Readiness Declines, GAO Reports

The U.S. military’s readiness has declined since 2017, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, which was presented to the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, highlights issues with mission capability, resource readiness, and maintenance backlogs. While the Army and Marines have improved in the “ground domain,” the Navy and Air Force have experienced declines in readiness across the “sea, air, and space domains.”

GAO Findings

  • Only two out of 49 aircraft types tested by the Navy and Air Force met their annual mission-capable goals
  • The F-35 program has suffered from a variety of sustainment woes, with fleet-wide mission-capable rates declining every year since 2020
  • The Navy deferred $1.8 billion in ship maintenance, resulting in maintenance delays and increased cannibalizations
  • The Army has been criticized for helicopter safety practices and shortfalls in rail support and Sea-Lift training
  • The Air Force has maintenance and supply issues that limit the availability of aging aircraft
  • The Space Force faces unique readiness challenges as the Department of Defense is still figuring out its mission

Flag Officers Respond

The flag officers who testified before the subcommittee agreed with the GAO’s findings and said they are either responding to or evaluating the recommendations. The U.S. Army is investing $10 million in rail capacity to ferry battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, while the Navy has been increasing its number of days at sea and seeking billions to draw down ship maintenance backlogs. The Air Force is also addressing the issues with maintaining aging aircraft.


The GAO’s report highlights the need for the U.S. military to address its readiness issues, which have been degraded by nearly two decades of conflict. While the military is taking steps to enhance its combat readiness, there is still a lot of ground to make up.

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