Defining a Hollow Force

Just about every senior military leader in recent months has warned about hollowing out the force through draconian budget cuts. But what exactly does that mean? Well, the term actually has three meanings, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, speaking last week on Capitol Hill. On the personnel side, Donley said the Defense Department risks providing a false sense of military capability if it keeps too many units on the books without keeping them properly manned. On the materiel side, the risk lies with having too much equipment, but not enough dollars to support that equipment. That’s when mission capability rates begin to drop, once again creating a false sense of security since not all aircraft are actually combat ready. “Both of those together, produced impacts on training,” said Donley in his Oct. 20 address, referring to the third meaning when discussing the US military of the 1970s, when the term “hollow force” was first coined. He added, “The personnel and materiel piece together left little opportunity for training at the levels of proficiency necessary to maintain a ready force.” (See also Or Die Trying, Constriction Verses Fundamental Restructure, Panetta Sworn in as Defense Secretary from the Daily Report archives.)