Reactionary measures that tinker on the margins of a fiscally unsustainable defense establishment will not rescue American military power from the budgetary Armageddon that lies ahead. American national military power is based on “capacity”, not just “capability” – capacity is dependent on economic prosperity for a sustainable tax base. America’s true power is eroding under our feet as too many Americans cling to the illusion of limitless threats and the need to preserve military power based only on today’s capabilities.It’s time for a new approach. The plan outlined in the essay: “Lean, Mean Fighting Machine,” , published in Foreign Policy.Com on 26 April 2011, is not just an accounting exercise. The plan achieves annualized savings reducing the national defense budget by 40 percent or 2.79 Trillion Dollars over ten years. It is new strategic thinking; thinking that avoids direct American military involvement in conflicts where the United States and its vital interests are not attacked and its national prosperity is not at risk. Recommended actions from the plan are highlighted below.
First, audit the Department of Defense and the armed services. This action is no less important than auditing the Federal Reserve. Before trusting anything the leadership of the Department of Defense says about “efficiencies”, “cuts” or related initiatives, Americans must know where trillions of dollars invested in defense since 2001 have actually gone and, in many cases, are still going. KEY POINT: Defense cuts without accountability mean nothing.
Second, acknowledge there is no existential military threat to the U.S. or to its vital strategic interests. Scale back America’s overseas presence. Combatant commanders must be compelled to reevaluate “presence versus surge” requirements given improved long-range precision strike and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities of smart “lighter footprint” presence alternatives. These actions offer opportunities for additional savings through a modification of the current Unified Command Plan (UCP) and U.S. Code Title 10 to reduce the current number of regional and functional unified commands. KEY POINT: Cutting defense costs “from the outside in” has the beneficial side effect of preserving American investment in its own economy versus other nation’s economies.
Third, recognize the United States is of necessity a global aerospace and naval power, but it is not nor does it need to be a global military power. Warfare has changed. Fewer, smarter soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines — with intelligent technology — can accomplish more than masses of troops with the brute-force tools of the past. This description points toward new Army ground forces (480,000) designed for operations of limited duration and scope, ground forces that do not beget second- and third-order budgetary effects we see in the current bloated “services and logistics” contracts; contracts that run into the billions of dollars over time. KEY POINT: Reductions in the ground force should preserve, and, where possible, increase the numbers of professional soldiers (480,000) and Marines (120,000) that can actually deploy and fight.
Fourth, reduce all flag ranks in the military bureaucracy by one star effective immediately. Exceptions to this mandate would be limited to the chiefs of service, regional unified commanders, and commanders of functional commands. This action will assist in eliminating redundant single-service bureaucratic overhead and administration (uniform and civilian), especially in the setting of requirements and management of acquisitions. Also, disestablish the Armed Forces’ duplications in separate intelligence services, transferring these capabilities to national intelligence agencies — retaining only operationally unique and tactical intelligence within the branches of the Armed Forces. KEY POINT: Reduce overhead, not capability.
Fifth, “right size” the Navy’s surface combatants, supporting vessels, forward deployed naval forces, and shipyards, depots and other support facilities, excluding submarines. Disband the 20-plus Marine Corps F-18 fighter jet and AV-8B Harrier jet squadrons. Marine manned aviation should be limited to an appropriate number of V-22 Ospreys or rotor-driven aircraft within new Marine Corps end-strength limits (120,000). Eliminate the F-35B version of the JSF for the Marines, especially given the disbandment of the Marine Corps jet aircraft wings. KEY POINT: Reorganize America’s three manned Air Forces — the Air Force, Navy, and Marines — into two affordable air forces; one sea-based and one land-based.
Sixth, pass legislation to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The agencies combined under DHS at the time of its inception should return to their former departments and its former national security responsibilities should shift to the Department of Defense. Defense of the nation’s borders should not be hampered by a misapplication of posse comitatus. KEY POINT: The million dollars a year it costs to keep one American soldier on station in Afghanistan makes no sense when, for a fraction of the cost, Washington could easily protect America’s borders from the wave of criminality, terrorism and illegal immigration washing in from Mexico and Latin America.
Other sources of potential savings in national defense are addressed in the plan too. But what’s needed now is more political courage, not more defense spending.
posted in Defense, Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Foreign Policy, Pentagon.