Those familiar with the Constitution know that the federal government is given certain enumerated powers but in general is not required to exercise them. For example, Congress has the power under Article One to enact a bankruptcy code, but felt no urgency in doing so, and in fact did not pass a permanent bankruptcy statute until the end of the 19th Century.
Only one federal power is obligatory. Article IV, Section IV of the Constitution states that the United States “shall protect each of them (the States) from invasion.”
In other words, the only thing the federal government must do under the Constitution is provide for the common defense. So how is the government doing on that?
Every four years, the Department of Defense issues its “Quadrennial Defense Review” which is supposed to be a thorough evaluation of the state of the military and its plans for the future. The latest “QDR”, as it’s typically called, came out last spring. In the meantime, Congress passed a statute creating an Independent Panel to analyze the QDR and make recommendations regarding the armed forces.
That panel was co-chaired by Bill Perry, former secretary of defense under President Clinton, and retired General John Abizaid. There were eight other members appointed on a bipartisan basis by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. (I was one of them.)
The panel issued its unanimous report yesterday. It’s a stunning rebuke of the government’s defense policies over the last three years. The report is available at USIP.org, but here are excerpts from its analysis:
via A Stunning Rebuke of Our Current Defense Policies | National Review Online.
At the institutional level, the services really, really hate war.
Not for the reasons the warrior does.
It really screws up the military.
Equipment gets used far more than in peacetime, driving maintenance costs through the roof. Personnel costs escalate (and they’re effectively a ratchet, and won’t go back down in peacetime, at least on on a per person basis).
Some big defense acquisition programs are deferred, delayed, or cancelled to pay for current operations. At the end of a conflict, the services find themselves with equipment a generation out of date, and badly worn at that.
Worst of all, at the end of every conflict is the rush to eviscerate the defense budget in the name of a fictional “peace dividend.”
It’s not like anyone expected the Obama administration to be stalwart supporters of the defense budget.
And to be honest, the current mess has some GOP fingerprints on it as well. For the first time in well over a generation, the GOP was willing to hold DoD spending hostage in an attempt to curb the stupendous levels of non-defense related spending. The primary problem with the sequester was more a matter of it being a blunt force trauma, rather than the actual dollar levels involved.
And the services themselves are also somewhat guilty of spending money poorly on quite a few acquisition programs.
And while I concur that the DoD budget, and more importantly, the force structure is too small for the security challenges we’ll face in the coming decades, it’s hard to link the budget to the National Defense Strategy, as the NDS is so much vaporware given that the administration has never been able to coherently state what our policy and goals are.