All of the services have undergone cuts to equipment and manning and will undergo additional cuts as the budget limitations continue. To a greater or lesser degree, all the services have come up with rationalizations that the new, reduced manning levels are appropriate for their roles and missions. I find that type of rationalization reprehensible but that's not the point of this post. The Marines are, perhaps, the notable example of coming up with an almost entirely new rationale for explaining and accepting deep cuts. Regardless of whether you believe that sequestration is a good thing or bad and whether you believe the new rationales or not, the point is that all the services have emphasized that the resulting equipment and manning levels are still appropriate and that the services stand fully ready to defend
What’s not loudly stated is that it’s not just equipment acquisition and manning that has been impacted by budget constraints. The resulting forces are hollow and readiness is getting worse. For example, in 2013 the Army cancelled the rotations of seven brigades through their highly realistic Combat Training Centers. Similarly, the Navy has cancelled the deployments of individual ships and entire groups. Remember that as part of deployment workups, the ships and groups undergo training – training that does not occur if the ship or group does not deploy.
It’s not just ships, either. Non-deployed air wings have been reduced to minimal flight levels. There are no non-deployed air wings that are fully trained and ready to surge.
So, while the Navy (or any other service) may claim that their numbers are still adequate, the reality is that those numbers are undertrained and not ready – the definition of a hollow force.
There’s nothing deep about this post – just a reminder that equipment and manning are only two aspects of the overall military might picture. Readiness, or hollowness(?), is even more important and we need to keep that in mind as we discuss numbers and deterrence and Pacific Pivot and whatever else.