The US military may find itself in a readiness dilemma while complications in Syria continue to expand. The continued span of wartime fighting during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has left the military depleted and spread thin. Additional duties such as food and water security, political stabilization, and training local forces have increased. The extended wartime operations paired with the 2013 sequestration of military budgets have poised the military to potentially not operate at full capacity.
The chart from a Congressional Research Service report on July 22, 2015 shows the difference between President Obama’s defense budget requests and the funding allocated by congress.
Congressional budget allowances have fallen short of the funding requested by the Obama administration. These challenges persist through all of the armed forces. For example, last week Gen. Mark Welsh of the Air Force warned that it might have a possible shortage of bombs. This is obviously not ideal, as the Air Force has been involved in the fifteen-month bombing campaign against ISIS.
While there is no clear end for the Syrian conflict, especially through a pure military solution, public pressure continues to rise to assist in the conflict. CNN’s latest poll asserts that public opinion is rising in favor of ground troops. This change in public opinion may reflect the refugee issues facing Europe and the US, as well as the recent ISIS attacks in Paris, and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The American public is becoming more affected by the situation in Syria, which may lead to increased pressure on the executive office to change current strategic plans.
The Obama administration has long avoided full ground troop intervention in Syria, as the outcome is unpredictable. However, American public opinion can sometimes pressure an administration enough to change policies—also Congressional support and backing could mean a change in policy towards Syria. In this case, the military would need to ensure that it is ready to engage in a more conventional role in the Syrian conflict. The ramifications of this are huge if all aspects of the situation were to evolve and for the military to take on a more traditional role. As unlikely as this has seemed for the past year an a half, it may now be time for a stronger US intervention.