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This book's main point is that numbers matter. We need well trained and motivated people to provide the defense our country needs. Those people need the best in equipment that is well maintained and in sufficient quantities not only to fight but to train. The book demonstrates that the Clinton administrations cut defense spending far too much and to historically low levels and that the Bush administrations have not done enough to replace the equipment used up in the current wars and that gap is harming readiness through cutbacks in training as well as supply to the battlefield.
The book has five chapters. The first by Gary J. Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly take us through the problem and show us why spending 5% of GDP on defense will get us where we need to be and still be within the historic norms - and actually low for wartime.
Chapters 2-5 take us through the major branches of the military. Frederick W. Kagan walks us through the issues with the army. Loren Thompson makes a case for our air power being eroded and how wasteful mistakes have been made. Robert O. Work looks at the Navy and Francis G. Hoffman, the Marines.
Not surprisingly, all see a need for more money and more equipment and some more soldiers. Kagan points out how are using the National Guard as active army is not only a poor plan for the Army, but breaks faith with those who signed on to the National Guard. I think he is correct. One point that kept nagging at me during all this discussion of high tech equipment is one raised by Ralph Peters and others. What good does a $50 million jet fighter or a billion dollar ship do against a suicide bomber or an IED? This must be addressed and really was not dealt with in this book.
Still, it is a great way to get up to date on some of the issues our military faces in a short and easy to read manner. There are some charts and tables to aid in the discussion.
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Co-edited by American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Gary J. Schmitt and resident AEI fellow and "Armed Forces Journal" contributing editor Thomas Donnelly, Of Men and Material: the Crisis in Military Resources is a collection of scholarly essays discussing a very real problem - the erosion of cores strength in American military forces. From the billions of dollars spent on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, to the under-replenishment of military equipment, to the difficulty in successfully recruiting sufficient warm bodies for the Army and Marine Corps, the United States military has undergone a "hollow buildup" with dangerous shortfalls. The essays are "Numbers Matter", "Protracted Wars and the Army's Future", "Age and Indifference Erode U.S. Air Power", "Number and Capabilities: Building a Navy for the Twenty-First Century", and "The Marine Corps: A Hybrid Force for a Hybrid World". Each underscores key weaknesses and sizeable gaps between America's strategic ends and military means, and exhorts difficult choices that must be made soon given the current rate of expending resources while failing to properly replenish them. Highly recommended.
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