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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The US should cut military spending in half

Although I believe that Secretary of Defense Gates (pbuh) is doing as well as he can in his battle against the entrenched defense industrial complex, The Christian Science Monitor lays out a great argument for cutting defense spending even more.

To really keep us safe, we should slash defense spending. Americans should prepare for fewer wars, not different ones. Far from providing our defense, our military posture endangers us. It drags us into others' conflicts, provokes animosity, and wastes resources. We need a defense budget worthy of the name. We need military restraint. And that would allow us to cut defense spending roughly in half...

consider how much we spend on defense relative to both our purported rivals and our past. Our defense budget is almost half the world's, even leaving out nuclear weapons, the wars, veterans, and homeland security. It is also more than we spent at any point during the cold war. When that struggle ended, we simply gave back the Reagan buildup and kept spending at average cold war levels. Then we began another buildup in 1998 that nearly doubled nonwar defense spending.

There are no enemies to justify such spending. Invasion and civil war are unthinkable here. North Korea, Syria, and Iran trouble their citizens and neighbors, but with small economies, shoddy militaries, and a desire to survive, they pose little threat to us. Their combined military spending is one-sixtieth of ours.

Russia and China are incapable of territorial expansion that should pose any worry, unless we put our troops on their borders. China's defense spending is less than one-fifth of ours. We spend more researching and developing new weapons than Russia spends on its military. And with an economy larger than ours, the European Union can protect itself. Our biggest security problem, terrorism, is chiefly an intelligence problem arising from a Muslim civil war. Our military has little to do with it.

I do not agree with this piece's assessment that defense cuts need to be accompanied by personnel end-strength cuts. Personnel are the most valuable commodity in the military. It takes a career to make an effective O-5/O-6 and E-8/E-9 and I argue that the Clinton-era personnel cuts have in part led to the lack of effective flag and field grade leadership we saw in the beginning of these wars (e.g. identifying an insurgency, effective small war tactics versus the force-on-force wars they trained their entire careers for). I see no problem with keeping a relatively large, well-trained active force that, if a war of national survival were to break out, could be augmented with the Reserves, National Guard, and activation of the draft. It is just wasteful military technological spending that is not needed, and cuts in that arena is what Secretary Gates (pbuh) is focusing on.

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