There's a frightening report in a recent issue of the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper which covers all branches of service around the world.

The headline reads: "Navy facing 'alarming' deficiencies' in combat readiness, lawmaker says."

The article states that more than a fifth of Navy ships fell short of combat readiness in the past two years, and fewer than half of the service's deployed combat aircraft are ready for their mission at any time."

It continues, "With an ascendant China on the high seas and a potential $400 billion in Defense Department budget cuts over the next decade, the Navy is facing 'glaring deficiencies that are nothing short of alarming,' the ranking member of the House's Readiness Subcommittee said at a hearing."

This is very disturbing.

We all know our military land forces are already stretched thin with Afghanistan occurring and by assisting the United Nations at many other trouble spots, including Iraq.

It's also obvious that our country's finances are stretched to the breaking point, meaning cuts in military spending are virtually certain.

What happened that America has let itself get into such a rut economically and militarily?

Our manufacturing climate is kaput. Our banking system is shaky.

It's very hard to not sound like a pessimist with so many negatives occurring.

Meanwhile, our leadership in Washington is proving to be very weak. Instead of bipartisan success in achieving a budget that will prevent a default on the nation's debt, the parties are divided with a vindictiveness that the north and south endured 150 years ago.

The report in Stars and Stripes on the Navy's readiness is very troubling. Maybe there should be a committee formed to review the military's overall abilities in general.

Vice Admiral Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, stated, "When you have these additional deployments, you sometimes impact the maintenance, or you impact the training, which will impact the maintenance. So what we have here is one event cascading into another, so we don't get either of them quite right."

Is this happening to other branches of the military? Is our air force suffering the same problems?

At what point are we stretched too thin? Certainly there is a lot of oppression going on in the world. Should we be the proverbial world cop?

Finally, would our economic situation improve if we weren't stretched militarily?

Our lawmakers can't even make their own individual decision on budget matters, having to stay in a party line like a good little ducking in a political pond.

Let's hope more independent rhetoric can occur on how to improve our nation's military readiness. We've got too much to lose if Vice Admiral Burke's assessment is accurate.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com