All That We Can Be?

This week Opportunity 08 takes a closer look at closer look at how the next president should ensure the military remains ready and capable.

Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified last week that security in Iraq has significantly improved, but that troop drawdown would jeopardize that progress. Petraeus acknowledged, however that he is "keenly aware of the strain" on the military and would not endorse a troop buildup. Following their testimonies, President Bush ordered an indefinite suspension of troop withdrawals. With long-term engagement of troops overseas, the next commander-in-chief will face the challenge of maintaining progress and ensuring the military isn't stretched too thin.

Without plans for adequately filling the armed force's personnel and equipment needs, says military expert Peter W. Singer, the next President could risk breaking an already stressed military.

"The U.S. military's ability to field sufficient, high-quality, well-equipped forces is at a 'tipping point.' It is certainly far from broken, but warning symptoms are clearly mounting," says Singer, who is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Small compromises—such as accepting gaps in personnel and equipment—are beginning to have huge consequences." Singer addressed military readiness at an Opportunity 08 event in Miami with University of Miami President Donna Shalala and former presidential advisor Kenneth Duberstein. Singer cited downward trends in recruiting and retention contributing to strain on the military. He says the next president must alleviate troop pressures, but keep troop quality high. Worn-out equipment and equipment shortages also weaken the armed forces, adds Singer, further challenging an administration that will inherit economic woes. Says Singer, "The next President should follow Congress's bipartisan recommendation that future defense budgets include funds for predictable wartime spending."

A proposal for adequately filling the military's personnel and equipment needs is available at

About the Experts and the Project

P. W. Singer Peter Warren Singer is a senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings. He has written two books on changes in modern warfare. Singer lectures frequently to U.S. military audiences. He also has served on the Balkans Task Force in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Opportunity 08 Opportunity 08 aims to help 2008 presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation, presenting policy ideas on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy questions. The project is committed to providing both independent policy solutions and background material on issues of concern to voters.