Secrecy News

Specter of a “Hollow Force” Called Into Question

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other officials have warned that if U.S. military spending is cut significantly, the unacceptable result would be a “a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned.”

But a new critique from the Congressional Research Service suggests that the use of the term “hollow force” is inappropriate and unwarranted.

“Historically, there were two periods– post-Vietnam and again in the 1990s– when the term ‘hollow force’ was used to describe the U.S. armed forces.”  It referred to “forces that appear mission-ready but, upon examination, suffer from shortages of personnel and equipment, and from deficiencies in training.”

But a close review of the circumstances that generated a hollow force in the past does not support the use of the term today, the CRS said.  “Most of the conditions that existed in the 1970s do not exist today.”

Among other things, defense procurement spending has surged in recent years to enable significant modernization of military forces.

“Even if modernization funds become more limited in future defense budgets, overall budget data suggest the Services would enter this period after having invested in modernized forces about as substantially as in the weapons-driven buildup of the 1980s.”

“CRS has calculated that when recent amounts for weapons modernization are compared to amounts in the mid-1980s, the total inflation-adjusted dollar value of relatively modern equipment available to forces today (i.e., equipment purchased within the past 10 years) appears relatively robust.”

“Given these conditions, it can be argued that the use of the term ‘hollow force’ is inappropriate under present circumstances,” the CRS report said.

A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See A Historical Perspective on “Hollow Forces,” January 31, 2012.

3 thoughts on “Specter of a “Hollow Force” Called Into Question

  1. Just a question for the bean counters. Have you ever tried to use 8-9 year old equipment that has been used in extended combat operations? Sorry but it’s not the age of the gear that matters, it’s the condition it’s in. You can buy 70 year old Mosin Nagant rifles that are arsenal rebuilds and in mint condition, or you can buy a 9 yr old M4 that has spent 7 of those years in the dust of Iraq or the cold of Afghanistan that is in need of a major rebuild. Just because we’ve spent a lot of money on weapons in the last ten years doesn’t mean that they’re in usable condition. The M4 has aluminum upper and lower receivers. As good as the aluminum may be, it’s still only going to last for 20-30,000 rounds before needing to be overhauled if not replaced. We may have a lot of rifles in the arsenals, but if they aren’t combat ready, what difference does it make? You need to account for how many are combat ready, not how many were purchased. We had a lot of weapons in the arms rooms when I went on active duty. The 1911A1s were 45 years old and hadn’t been overhauled in over 15 years. Accuracy was far less than ideal. Only God knows how old the M116A1s, M60s or M2s were.

  2. Defense cuts? All Rhetoric. The American military is the New World Order’s police force. Iran is next on the NWO’s list of take down. Don’t believe me? What’s the military build-up on Socotra and Masirah, two islands at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz. Up to 100,000 American troops are scheduled to be there by March 2012. I don’t think they’re there for R & R. the defense cut rhetoric is earwash for the ignorant masses.

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