RIGHT-SIZING THE PENTAGON (how to reduce military spending and maintain security)
RIGHT-SIZING THE PENTAGON
(how to reduce military spending and maintain security)
By Philip Anderson
I believe we can reduce military spending without hurting national security. Reducing the huge cost of our military requires many reforms large and small. It requires reducing waste. We need to take the profit out of war. We need to demilitarize our foreign policy. And we need to “right size” the military.
- Reduce the waste.
Waste is endemic in the military and is the obvious place to begin reducing costs. Waste happens everywhere at every level from large weapons programs to small everyday activities. In my 20 years of military experience I observed a lot of waste. Everything had to be locked up and signed for or it “walked.” I remember many “training” exercises that accomplished little or nothing. I have never been to a rifle range (an annual ritual) where excess ammunition wasn’t wasted rather than being returned. Dress uniforms that never get worn are another example.
All this takes place in a huge bureaucracy overflowing with paperwork, operating procedures, inspections, and annual records reviews. The General Accounting Office can’t even audit the Pentagon because it is too big and in too big a mess. This must change.
2. Take the profit out of war
The abuses of the military industrial complex are legendary. But as long as there is money to be made, the waste, fraud, and abuse will continue. At a minimum the entire military procurement and contracting system needs reform. Cost-plus contracts (where the company is guaranteed a profit over expenses) should be abolished and no-bid contracts severely restricted. We should end cost overruns. Military contractors, like other businesses, should bid accurately or they lose money.
A better way would be to nationalize the defense industry. Eliminate the for-profit system by having the government own and operate the weapons development and manufacturing facilities. Where contractors are needed, they should be required to be non-profit. Companies should be required to serve their county out of patriotic duty the same as the privates on the front line.
3. Lead with diplomacy
We should demilitarize our foreign policy. We will be better off when the State Department gets 57% of the federal budget and the Defense Department gets 3%. The world will be a better place, and we will be safer, when the United States is a leader in arbitration and dispute resolution rather than military actions and arms sales.
We should lead the world in building the international institutions, policies, and practices that ensure peaceful resolution of conflicts. Organizations like the United Nations and World Court are examples. These structures should be strengthened. Too often we ignore or undermine these institutions whenever our “interests” are affected. We should lead by honoring our current treaty obligations and living up to our stated national ideals. We must stop using war as an instrument of national policy. We should stop creating wars of choice like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
4. “Right size” the Pentagon
The Department of Defense is an offensive not defensive organization. It stated purpose is to “project power” around the world. It is much bigger than is actually needed for adequate defense. We obviously do not need military bases in 140 countries to defend our borders. These bases, and much of our military, exists to dominate the world economy, suppress other nations deemed to have anti-business policies, or to enact “regime change” as we see fit. Historically these are the real reasons for our use of military power.
Adopting a truly defense military posture would allow significant cuts to personnel, equipment, and bases. A truly defensive military would rely much more on the National Guard. Given our geographic situation, the Coast Guard should be the primary service of national defense.
There are many specific, practical ways to reduce unnecessary military spending. These do not involve cutting service members pay or benefits, or scrimping on veterans’ healthcare. Here are some specific suggestions.
- Close the unnecessary overseas bases. Officially, the U.S. has 662 overseas bases in 38 countries. Other estimates put the total at 900 locations and 140 plus countries.
- Stop maintaining troops in Europe and Japan. WW2 and the Cold War are over.
- Close many unneeded and redundant domestic bases.
- Cut the nuclear weapons programs and abolish ALL nuclear arsenals. We cannot and must not use these weapons. They do not deter war or keep us safe.
- Cut cold war weapons programs like the F-35 fighter. We have the best planes in the world now. We don’t need more arms or arms races.
- Get rid of the obvious waste like military bands (estimated at $500 million a year) or golf courses (at unknown cost). Many base facilities like churches, retail stores, bars, and theaters get little use and duplicate available civilian services. They may be necessary on foreign bases but not on most domestic bases.
- Consolidate the five armed services (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard) into ONE organization. To my knowledge this has never been proposed. This is a simple way to reduce a great deal of duplication of effort, programs, and facilities. This could streamline procurement and reduce administrative overhead. This would lead to better military preparedness in addition to being more efficient.
The military industrial complex will resist these sensible changes. But it can be done. It must be done if we want to seriously address budget deficits and set better priorities for our tax dollars.