Defense Strategy and Defense Budget are Mismatched

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , ,

It pains me to read articles like The budget crisis should usher in a new era of innovation in defense.  Why?  Because of trite and vacuous phrases like “no more blank checks from the American taxpayer.”  This article is a perfect example of why we should let a budget crisis go to waste.

The linked article asserts, among other things, “If you ask soldiers on the ground in Anbar province, not one of them will demand an advanced nuclear submarine or a hundred-million dollar fighter aircraft.”  While that may be true at a particular point in time, if those soldiers have to fight Iran, North Korea, or China, they might change their story.  In fact, having those things might even keep them from ever having to fight in the first place: it’s called deterrence.  Has the author ever heard of the idea of using the right tool for the job?

So the point should not be a forehead slapper like “DoD needs to be made more effective,” but rather to first address more profound issues like what exactly are our vital national interests?  Are they humanitarian, regime change, stabilization, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, near-peer or what; that is, what is the need being met and what is the requirement?  The author himself points this out but then seems to miss the bigger point:

In Afghanistan, for example, perhaps the most obvious job to be done is to destroy enemy forces at will, even in hard-to-pinpoint and hard-to-reach locations. The correct business model would align the resources, processes and technologies that are needed to produce a small, relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicle capable of reconnaissance and attack, which soldiers can load into their backpacks – next year. Not ten years from now.

The problems within this block quote are legion.  Will a backpack UAV be able to discern between civilians and combatants?  Will it somehow laser paint the bad guys, help minimize collateral damage, and be compliant with the laws of war such as proportionality?  The point is this: there are many precursor steps before “destroying enemy forces at will” including having the mission to do so. 

Insurgencies and terrorism are terrible things but they pale in comparison to the events which can ruin our nation, economy, and way of life such as nuclear war or full-on conventional conflict.  Our existing conflicts (they aren’t even called war any more, nor are they declared although of course, they are still war) are really on the margins of the national security need the United States must address so here it is again: what does the nation need the military to do?  Once we know that, we can press ahead with more efficient and effective ways of meeting that need.

And while we’re at it, since the U.S. foots about three-fourths of the funding for NATO, it’s fair to ask if we reap three-fourths of the security benefit of the alliance.  If we do, it seems to be an equitable or even beneficial arrangement.  If not, the free (or nearly free) riders profit to our budgetary and policy detriment.


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