A panel of experts wants President-elect Barack Obama to end the practice of long-term military occupations and banish the so-called “presidential military,” where “Congress has lost all control over going to war.”
In a 271-page report titled, “America’s Defense Meltdown — Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress,” the Center for Defense Information gives Obama and his transition team a grim picture of a Defense Department that lacks proper resources and guidance.
Newsmax obtained an advance copy of the report, which includes frank advice from 13 nonpartisan Pentagon insiders, retired military officers and defense experts.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and Marine Corps have been stretched to the limits of their strength to fight enemies not even a tenth as numerous as those they faced in Vietnam,” the report says. “We have become a pampered, sluggish, weak-muscled elephant that cannot even deal effectively with mice.”
The editor and overseer of the project, CDI’s Winslow T. Wheeler, said he hopes the new administration reads and heeds the report — no matter how painful the exercise.
“Following the recommendations of this book will mean the cancellation of numerous failing, unaffordable and ineffective defense programs, as well as the jobs, and more importantly careers, those programs enable,” warns Wheeler.
“The acceptance of data and analysis presented in this [report], and the conclusions and recommendations that flow from them, would require the elite of Washington’s national security community to acknowledge the many flaws in their analysis of weapons, Pentagon management and leadership of the nation in a tumultuous world,” Wheeler writes.
“In too many cases, it would also require those elites to admit their own role in the virtual meltdown of America’s defenses.”
The Presidential Military
Nowhere in the report do the expert authors mince words: “Our military forces have become high-cost dinosaurs that are insufficiently lethal against most of the enemies we are likely to face.
“Our forces have also broken free of their constitutional controls to the point where they have essentially become a presidential military. Congress exerts meaningful control neither in peacetime nor in wartime — and has lost all control over going to war.”
The exhaustive report, however, is not just about big-picture defense policy; it goes into highly specialized recommendations for the new president.
One example is the set of recommendations regarding the strategic and tactical movement of military forces and material: Reduce the number of strategic airlifters from approximately 300 to 260. Immediately retire 39 of the 59 C-5As [The largest military cargo/troop airlifter in the U.S. inventory]. Double the capacity of fast strategic sealift, then retire the remaining 20 C-5As. Stop the buy of C-17s at approximately 205. [The C-17 is also an airlifter, somewhat smaller than the huge double-decked C-5A.] Employ a portion of the KC-X and/or KC-10 fleets for both passenger and cargo carrying capability. Increase the cargo capacity of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) by about 10 percent. Develop innovative options (e.g. encourage more allies to focus on strategic airlift, etc.). Develop new cost-effective alternatives for specialized cargo that do not require military-unique aircraft.
If the above example sounds as if the report authors want to embark the Defense Department on a Brave New World of common sense austerity, that is correct.
The author-experts emphasize that the old way of doing business must cease under the new leadership in Washington.
A key part of the old way, say the authors, is the standard accepted practice of picking an arbitrary percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product, usually 4 or 5 percent, and spending that amount on something every year.
“The constant percentage argument . . . overlooks the enormous growth in the U.S. economy since the 1970s, which would increase spending on a constant percentage basis even if all other nations eliminated their weapons, and it does not account for other priorities in the early 21st century, including the fall of the dollar, rise in energy prices, and impending retirement of the baby boom generation,” the authors write.
“Examined in this light, the arguments for holding defense spending at a constant percentage of GDP appear designed more to ensure a money flow to the defense industries than to improve the security and well-being of the rest of our citizens.
“It is important, therefore, that the new administration conduct a legitimate examination of our defense needs and make recommendations accordingly.”
A Way Forward to Change
With regard to that last imperative, the experts present a plan for how the Obama team should proceed in bringing change to the Department of Defense, answering along the way why, despite the largest defense budgets in more than 60 years, we have a smaller military force structure than at any time during that period — one that is equipped to a great extent with worn-out, aging equipment.
The authors of the report want the new president to quickly establish a new panel of independent, objective professionals (with no contemporaneous or future ties whatsoever with industry or other sources of bias and self-interest) to assess: The extent to which Defense programs and policies do or do not fit with current world conditions. The president’s national security strategy. And, very importantly, realistic assessment of the reduced budget that will be available for the Department of Defense.
The next administration, conclude the authors, will have the golden opportunity to find a new strategic formula for America’s national security: “This new formula needs to be a better fit for the American people than our current mobilization-based military designed to re-fight World War II. The new formula should also reconsider our political ideology of exporting democracy through long-term military occupations and should not assume that we have found a formula for occupations.”
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