Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this unique study reexamines the existence of a "hollow army" which became a part of the American political vocabulary more than 30 years ago, in another election year, 1980. Highlighted by a reporter in an article about the U.S. Army Chief of Staff's congressional testimony concerning the fiscal year 1981 defense budget, the term became a metaphor for the Jimmy Carter administration's alleged neglect of U.S. national security by political opponents as well as disapproving members of his own party in Congress, who believed him to be a liability. In the decades following, the expression broadened to a "hollow force" and its meaning expanded, serving as a way of describing the state of ill-prepared military forces in characterizing a presidential administration's shortfall in the resources needed to meet U.S. military commitments.
Today, the term remains a relevant and potent idiom in this so-called "age of austerity," with the U.S. defense budget in decline. Both the Barack Obama administration and its critics have used the term. The former to explain how its recent strategic guidance and budget priorities will prevent the "hollowing out" of U.S. forces and capabilities, the latter as an epithet suggesting that proposed budget reductions will create such a force.
This study assesses it within the context of the Carter administration's defense policy, strategy and budgets, and the challenges it faced in the early years of building an all-volunteer force. Using primary sources, including recently declassified documents, he presents a more nuanced picture of the political dynamics at work in both the executive and legislative branches as well as the press. He argues that the notion of a "hollow army" represented a policy argument not only among members of the two branches of government but also between political actors: the commander in chief and a service chief.
Ultimately, this is a story of how the use of metaphor can create a dominant narrative existing for decades and how it is now time to regain perspective. This is especially true in the current budget environment, where national interests and risk must be examined soberly and rationally given the strategic and economic realities that the United States confronts in the coming decade.
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