While branch rivalry appears to be alive and well among troops serving in today’s military, a new study from the Heritage Foundation may have just outlined a definitive service ranking.

The big report, called the 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength, found the entire U.S. military’s warfighting capabilities to be unusually deficient.

“In the aggregate, the United States’ military posture can only be rated as ‘weak,’” the report notes.

One branch, however, the U.S. Marine Corps, has managed to rise above the rest despite the collective failures outlined in the report.

Branches were rated on a scale of “very weak,” “weak,” “marginal,” “strong,” and “very strong,” with the criteria deciding these categories comprising capability, capacity, and readiness. The breakdown of the ratings were not reflective of troops themselves, meanwhile. Rather, the study looked at “current assessments of force levels likely needed to defend U.S. interests against major enemies in contemporary or near-future combat operations.”

And while the Marine Corps was labeled as the only “strong” branch, Heritage also noted that the rating isn’t enough to make a major difference.

“The Marine Corps and nuclear forces are ‘strong,’ but the Corps is a one-war force, and its overall strength is therefore not sufficient to compensate for the shortfalls of its larger fellow services,” the study’s authors wrote.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Air Force received a grade of “very weak,” with reasons including pilot training and retention issues, reduced flight hours, and an ever-aging fleet of aircraft.

The statuses of the Navy and Space Force, meanwhile, were reported as being “weak,” while the Army was viewed as “marginal.”

“This is the logical consequence of years of sustained use, underfunding, poorly defined priorities, wildly shifting security policies, exceedingly poor discipline in program execution, and a profound lack of seriousness across the national security establishment even as threats to U.S. interests have surged,” the report concluded.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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