It is easy to cook up a 1970s-style decline in force quality over the next decade. Start with tightening Defense budgets. Add a series of broken promises to careerists and retirees. Cut cost-of-living adjustments, and delay future retired pay.
“Free” health care disappears for active duty families and retirees. More bases close, straining personnel support services elsewhere. Exchanges and commissaries merge to improve efficiency, but the value of discount shopping falls. Military pay raises continue to lag behind private-sector wage growth.
Externally, the U.S. military’s role changes dramatically, from defender of freedom to a less satisfying status of international policeman. Patriotism as a motivation to serve declines. Demand soars for high-tech skills, both in the military and in private industry, but a failing U.S. education system cannot keep pace. In the ensuing competition for high-quality youth, industry wins. Before Congress reacts, recruit quality and reenlistment rates plummet. A new “hollow” military arrives.