By Jon Talton
The most supportive emails I received for my column and blog post on the need to reduce defense spending have come not from peace activists, but from retired and active-duty military personnel, along with those with close military ties. Here’s a sample:
We have become used to calling anyone in a uniform a “hero” (which is nonsense and insulting, really) and otherwise ignoring them. We hear that our defenses are weak unless we spend at least N% of GDP on the military, which is a little like saying you can’t get from Seattle to Port Townsend reliably unless your car costs at least 25% of your annual income. In short, the public has no idea what’s going on, and our politicians are their partners in ignorance or willfully wasting money.
At 65 yrs of age and a retired infantry commissioned officer and having been around the military quite a lot since about 1966, I can say that in my travels, I have noticed more military construction on military reservations in the U.S.of A. that I have ever seen, even before retirement in 89. As a former infantry rifleman for 22 years, the large majority of the construction projects are not needed and are not military related.
One important aspect of the problem that has been written about in past news articles is that lawmakers do not require defense contractors to comply with the over 80+ Federal Statutes requiring ‘competitive bidding’ to gain a contract!! This has been complained about since the 1970s in various news columns…The politicians don’t have any money for veteran’s health care, but always tons of millions of cash for contractors.
The thing I love is the revolving door for flag and general officers (I served for 35 years, 7 of which were in the Pentagon in the resources and requirements sponsorship world). Their bread gets buttered by the military-industrial complex once they depart service in many cases, and the last thing they want to see is meaningful but needed reduction to military spending. So they and their active duty peers (soon to join the bread line) look for new enemies that will generate new requirements via “war-gaming” that of course demonstrates the “new” enemy being such a big threat! The party line then goes “now we need this, this and this to “beat” the new threat”. It truly is a never ending cycle.
The Chinese do not need to attack America. They just need patience, and consistent leadership of a willing population to subjugate America. If China remains stable and focused on economic dominance of the world market they should be able to apply the Sun Tzu quote: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” The path we are on as a nation sure does make that a likely possibility.
None of the writers are in favor of gutting defense or making careless cuts. Neither am I. But the conversation needs to move beyond the hype to a careful examination of waste and featherbedding by the Military-Industrial Complex, as well as a holistic view of national security, which includes a strong economy. And then how to fund the best defense to support, not damage, the force. Tomorrow, I’ll offer an informed reader’s perspective on that.