Rebuilding Military Forces: Needed, but in Phases
December 9, 2016
During the campaign, President–elect Trump laid out his vision for military forces: a regular Army of 540,000 soldiers, a Navy of 350 ships, an Air Force of 1,200 fighter attack aircraft, a Marine Corps of 36 active-duty infantry battalions, plus increased missile defense and cyber capabilities. (For additional detail on the president-elect’s proposal, see my analysis here. For a discussion of the status and issues regarding U.S. military forces, see my monograph U.S. Military Forces in the FY 2017 Budget).
There is broad agreement in the national security community that additional forces are needed to meet the demand of on-going conflicts, crisis response, and wartime surge. The new administration should therefore begin some force expansion immediately. However, it should implement the force expansion in two phases to ensure that it is fully executable and consistent with the administration’s national security and fiscal strategies.
The administration is right to rebuild military forces. However, it should not put out a hasty plan that it later has to walk back in future budgets as strategic needs and fiscal constraints become clearer.