Pentagon cuts don't cut it. Want to really save money? Get a new security strategy.
Billions in Pentagon cuts touted by Gates and Obama recently don’t represent real decreases to defense spending. With troops in more than 150 of the world's 195 countries, the US needs to abandon its cold-war era deployment strategy. It's time for our wealthy allies to pull their weight.
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US needs new strategy, not more spending
Moreover, the military is not the best way or means to deter or defeat the terrorist threat that confronts us. It is important to remember that the large US military, with its forward-deployed global presence, was not an effective defense against 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. And virtually every terrorist plot that has been thwarted since 9/11 has been the result of intelligence and law enforcement, not US military operations. Finally, the US military presence in foreign countries – particularly Muslim countries – is a root cause for fueling the anti-American sentiment that is often a first step towards terrorism, making it easier for terrorists to recruit to their ranks.Skip to next paragraph
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The real challenge is not to find “efficiency savings” in the DoD – reducing overhead and growth, but continuing to perpetuate an outsized budget to sustain “the US military’s size, reach, and fighting strength” as advocated by Gates. The real challenge is to redefine our strategy, one that focuses on defending America, rather than the whole world, through scaling back the sprawling US military footprint around the globe. (There are some 195 countries in the world, and the US has military forces deployed in more than 150 of them.) This is the only way to truly save money.
The plan Gates has touted amounts to defense spending legerdemain to find $100 billion worth of efficiency savings to maintain the defense budget at or near it’s current level over the course of five years. That’s merely a promise to stop budget growth by the end of the next five years – a promise not to spend an additional $100 billion dollars.
But if we redefined our strategy to meet our true national security requirements (rather than broad global security), we could instead realize a real reduction of $100 billion (perhaps more), in the defense budget, phased in over five years – starting now.
Charles V. Peña is senior fellow at the Independent Institute and an adviser on the Straus Military Reform Project. Mr. Peña is the author of the award-winning book, "Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism."