When Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, the American military was already fragile. The last major military build-up had happened 25 years before, in the Reagan administration. Years of high deployment rates beginning in the 1990s, coupled with inefficiencies in the Department of Defense and underfunding of procurement and modernization projects, had caused the armed forces to shrink and rust. The Navy and Air Force were too small, and all three services desperately needed to replace their ships, planes, and vehicles with new, technologically more advanced equipment.
In 2010, Congress created a National Defense Panel to review the status of the military. It unanimously concluded that under then-current budget trends “a train wreck was coming” for the armed forces.