The debate concerning the national deficit has increased in fervor in recent years with significant escalating costs associated with military spending including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, large tax cuts for all Americans including the super wealthy and the specter of rising healthcare and social security costs. While discussion of various strategies to head off further accumulation of future debt is appropriate, an interesting element is how obstinate numerous individuals are when it comes to discussion of reducing military expenditures. While it is true that the controversial Simpson-Bowls deficit reduction strategy included military cuts most of those cuts were haphazard and unfocused. The simple reality is that a significant amount of funding will have to be cut from the military budget intelligently to effectively address future deficit problems while maintaining public confidence in the military itself.
There are two central issues when discussing the matter of reducing funds to the military: first, the paranoid belief that national security is somehow greatly compromised by reducing funds at all and second the lack of a clear strategy for the military in modern society. The first issue can be better addressed by highlighting the second issue. At the moment there is no consistent recognized role for the military. While there is a mission statement: “protect the sovereignty of the U.S. of America from foreign aggression” there does not seem to be a clear execution strategy for that mission statement. Basically should the military be offensive, preemptively attacking potential enemies or defensive, counteracting clear aggressive behavior towards the U.S. and her territories? On its face the better execution strategy seems to be defensive, especially when considering future costs.
The biggest concern with an offensive strategy is the dynamic nature of the attack targets. Without an imperial mindset there is nothing to conquer, thus initiating an occupying force is not appropriate, yet large state complexes are no longer the chief threat. The shift away from single sovereign state forces applies focus to stress the moving parts associated with the interrelated groups that exist within sovereign nations and can move between nations. However, without acquiring cooperation from those nations direct attacks against these independent groups can be complicated. A chief example of this complication is the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan with regards to Al Queda and the Taliban. The U.S. cannot simply invade Pakistan to remove Al Queda so they resort to smaller scale unmanned drone attacks, which still cause problems both in their collateral damage and how they influence the relationship between the two countries. These complications decrease cost and probability efficiencies of defending the sovereignty of the U.S.
The administration of a defensive strategy offers numerous financial advantages. First, standing military manpower can be significantly reduced to a reserve force, which can be periodically rotated during non-global war to ensure performance excellence. For example the military could have 500,000 total members with 100,000 on active duty (weekend training, etc.). After a set time period individuals would rotate from active duty to reservists and a pre-determined new 100,000 would move from reserves to active duty. Such a rotation would keep everyone in the military reasonably fresh and up-to-date on new combat techniques and strategies; current focus would more than likely be on urban combat. Rotations would be true to the proportional representations of the total military demographic. Basically suppose the 500,000 troops were 33% army, 28% navy, 22% air force and 17% marine then the 100,000 active duty troops would be 33,000 army, 28,000 navy, 22,000 air force and 17,000 marine.
A defensive strategy could also eliminate the old standing ‘two ocean front war strategy’, highlighted by the Vinson-Walsh Act in 1940, that has been used by pro-military spending advocates, but is no longer appropriate because no real legitimate threat can materialize in the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean Sea front. No African or South American country can field a naval threat that a land-based or air-based counter-attack force could not neutralize effectively with almost zero to zero collateral damage. Currently all Western European countries are allies and if foreign relations change the change will not occur so quickly that some of the existing eleven carrier groups could not be adjusted appropriately.
Of the existing carrier groups two can be anchored in Annapolis, one with a European Ally (if needed due to concerns in the Middle East similar to the 5th group currently in Bahrain) and the remaining eight at various places in the Pacific theater to ensure Pacific maritime rights for all East Asian countries. With the elimination of the two ocean strategy no additional naval forces will be required in the budget until an existing high-value ship is decommissioned saving significant funds over the long-term. As a rule of thumb a single carrier group could be replaced every ten years, thus significantly reducing procurement costs. In addition with the focus on the Pacific Theater some carrier groups will not have to be replaced and could instead be sold abroad when viewed as out-of-date if so desired. Basically no additional naval forces will be required under such a strategy.
With the advancement of unmanned drones offensive air-to-ground capacity can largely be transferred from manned bombers to these unmanned drones. Therefore, no new bombers will be needed in the near future. The emphasis on offensive air-to-air combat is limited as well due to the strength of the U.S. carrier groups and surface-to-air missile defense networks, thus the need for new fighters will be significantly reduced. New fighters would only be required when existing technology is completely out of date and computer analysis identifies kill ratios of greater than 5 to 1 against potential existing opponents. Based on these new criteria unnecessary further procurements like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet can be eliminated.
Playing defense would also eliminate the need for expansion of heavy armor because only two countries have the capacity to engage in a land war with the U.S.: Canada and Mexico; the likelihood of either one of those countries invading the U.S. is incredibly small. If the unthinkable did happen any invasion force can be countered with air superiority and naval counterattacks from both coasts (the carrier group at Norfolk and those in California). Therefore, no procurement of additional heavy armor will be needed in the budget for decades under a defensive strategy. In honest analysis with the increasing likelihood of urban combat, the cost/benefit ratio of heavy armor in general becomes less and less viable.
Some would argue that such cuts to the military would result in lost jobs. Of course it would because that is how a consumer based economic system operates, when spending in a particular field decreases the size and structure of organizations providing goods and services to that particular field decreases. However, it is completely irrational to continue spending money on military equipment that would not be necessary in a real defensive strategy over an offensive-defensive “bi-polar” strategy. Jobs that exist based on this irrational spending can be regarded as pure inefficient government subsidized jobs because the defense contractor that employs person A in that particular job is creating inefficiency in the transaction by siphoning off a large portion of the money for itself which then leaves the economy versus that money going directly to the employee. Any free-market capitalist should be in favor of eliminating such inefficient transactions. For any argument of sympathy for these individuals losing their jobs… why is it that these individuals, most who have had large five to six figure yearly salaries and should have large savings accounts, should receive sympathy yet there is no sympathy when thousands of lower paying, but more essential teaching or police jobs are eliminated?
It is important to note that while a defensive strategy will significantly diminish the number of new military projects and overhead costs of current maintenance, there should be no reduction in funding for DARPA. While there are some instances where research at DARPA may be viewed with a roll of the eyes the overall structure and importance of DARPA cannot be understated for it is these homerun/strike out research projects that have the higher probabilities of creating innovating weapon and armor technologies, which will reduce costs over the long-term. In addition a defensive strategy will reduce the probability that active military personnel enter combat. However, despite this reduced probability salaries and benefits currently granted to military personnel should not be withdrawn or reduced, but can be rearranged more efficiently if need be.
Reducing military costs will also require the expansion of cheaper surface-to-air and surface-to-sea missile systems as well as alternative fuel-based unmanned drones. One means to improve the ability to design these drones is to reduce carrying weight by reducing missile capacity. Also developing localized electrical magnetic pulse weapons due to less collateral damage engagement will be useful. In large part a significant amount of savings will come from reducing use and size of the mobile carriers (drones over fighters and bombers). Finally increasing funding for intelligence operations (CIA etc.) will increase preparation time for attacks against the U.S. reducing the total cost of defense. Basically consider the similar medical analogy in that if one knows the pathogen causing the illness one can deduce its method of attack, thus the cost of treatment is significantly reduced.
It stands to reason that there will be three major areas of global conflict over the next few decades. First, Eastern Asia as India and China continue to via for influence and economic development while nursing old grudges, China competing with other Southeastern Asian countries and Japan for control of local waterways and other oceanic bodies, India and Pakistan continue to via for control of the Kashmir region and the continued saber-rattling of North Korea towards South Korea. Realistically this area has the greatest potential for sparking a larger global conflict. Second, in the Middle East with Iran’s progressing attempts to acquire nuclear arms and the fierce determination of Israel to prevent a nuclear Iran and the continued Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Third, various elements of unrest could breakout in Central and Southern Africa. Fortunately these conflicts will largely remain regional and have little global catalyst effect. The above considerations for military spending in a defensive strategy will allow the U.S. to effectively address these potential conflicts with the ability to protect U.S. sovereignty as well as assist in protecting the sovereignty of other independent nations. It could be argued that all foreign military bases outside these combat areas could be eliminated with no additional new bases being built.
Some raise concerns about how allies would respond to significant cuts in the U.S. military budget. Any negative response would be derived from unnecessary fear and ignorance. First, there are very few nations that even directly make use of an “intimidating” influence of the U.S. military in foreign relations (Japan and South Korea come immediately to mind in their relationships with China and North Korea respectively). Second, there is a lot of overreaction in that any cuts to the U.S. military will somehow exponentially diminish its ability to conduct battle operations. With eleven carrier groups the U.S. navy will be able to effectively intervene in any major conflict area that is not in central Africa for decades to come even if zero new ships are constructed. Third, the emergence of new drones can compensate for losses due to their repeated use without placing pilot lives in danger or requiring new training for who would have replaced those killed. Unfortunately almost all complaints by allies about military spending cuts are largely driven by self-interests and one could wonder why these allies have not planned for the eventuality of a cut in U.S. military spending because one is inevitable one way or another.
There are three keys to significantly reducing military spending without compromising national security. First, prioritize a defensive strategy taking advantage of the geographical location of the U.S. and her surrounding allies in order to reduce the demand for military force. Second, eliminate expansion of the military (no new forces) instead focus on replacing aging technology with relevant significant upgrades. However, one should not replace a piece of technology just because something better exists, only do so when that new technology is a significant upgrade versus perceived enemy capacity. Third, expand FBI and CIA intelligence gathering to eliminate potential attacks before they materialize and create more efficient strike opportunities against mature threats. It is sad how little money is spent on FBI and CIA activities domestically and internationally versus how much money is spent on developing a helicopter or jet fighter that is 2% better than the previous model. Similar to the second point sometimes one wonders if Congress masquerades as Apple consumers in that they need to buy the next model even if there are no real fundamental improvements. Overall controlling military spending is easier if priorities are reassigned to focusing on a defensive front over an offensive one and do not reduce U.S. protection probability.