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The Building Blocks of a Ready Military: People, Funding, Tempo

As the global security environment becomes more complex and unpredictable, the U.S. military’s state of preparedness has become a central focus for policymakers on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon. Military readiness is the metric commonly used to discuss whether the military is prepared to confront a multitude of threats. Top defense leaders have sounded the alarm over the current state of military readiness, especially when speaking about the military’s ability to succeed in a conflict against a near-peer or high-end adversary.

Before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2016, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, “Nothing is more important to us than readiness, which is why it was the highest priority we had in preparing the 2017 defense budget?partly to rebuild full-spectrum readiness after 15 years of counterinsurgency operations and partly to restore damage done over the last several years that was caused by the effects of sequestration cuts.” Discussions around readiness levels most often revolve around resources (whether the military is adequately funded) and operational tempo, or “OPTEMPO” (whether the pace of military operations is too high or too low). Often missing from this discussion is how readiness levels are impacted by the military personnel system.

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