Third Way Perspectives
Archive for the ‘National Security Program’ Category
October 6th, 2014
The Pentagon is more top-heavy than ever before. How much does this bureaucratic bloat cost taxpayers? The Pentagon has no idea, and neither does the Government Accountability Office. Pentagon officials know they need more generals and admirals, they just can’t tell you why. Those are the conclusions from a GAO report released earlier this month.
In 2011, I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and explained the problem, which I dubbed Star Creep—the Pentagon’s propensity to have generals and admirals (also known as Generals and Flag Officers, or GFO) fill positions once performed by lower-ranking officers. This has resulted in an unprecedentedly high ratio of generals and admirals to the troops they command.
- The number of generals and admirals increased by 8 percent from 2001 to 2013, while the enlisted ranks shrank by 2 percent;
- “The ratios of enlisted to non-GFO officers and enlisted to GFOs are both at their lowest levels since prior to 2001 (5:1 and 1,200:1, respectively).”
Unfortunately, the study could not answer the burning question that we at Third Way and many members of Congress have: How much has this increasing top-heaviness at the Department of Defense cost American taxpayers? Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have all introduced legislation to combat Star Creep, but we still don’t have a full cost estimate.
July 18th, 2014
The foreign policy civil war inside the Republican Party is spilling onto the op-ed pages. The latest battle began Friday when Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to brand Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as an isolationist for Paul’s stance on Iraq. The senator was quick to reject the label.
Why was the senator so eager to dodge the isolationist moniker? Because it’s electoral kryptonite with the American public, whom, despite what you may have heard, do not support isolationism. Americans are not asking for a retreat from the world. They’re a pragmatic public that’s rejecting neo-conservative interventionism, but they’re also opportunistic, engaging and diplomatic. And, they’re looking to Washington for a foreign policy that matches those traits. Read the rest of this entry »
May 22nd, 2014
Sixty words have defined the last 13 years. In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Congress voted overwhelmingly to give the president broad authority to use force against those who had attacked us. But those 60 words, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, have been in effect for far longer, in more places, and invoked against more groups than anyone could have suspected in 2001. After bin Laden’s death and with the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, now it is time to revisit the AUMF.
May 20th, 2014
As Russia’s stock market continues to plummet, so too has Russia’s stock among the American people. Polling from earlier this year indicates a majority of Americans view Russia “as unfriendly or an enemy,” the highest unfavorable rating since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Some in Congress are capitalizing on this discontent by inserting a section into an upcoming defense bill that suspends “contact or cooperation” between the Pentagon and its Russian counterparts. This break in relations would continue until Moscow left Ukraine alone and fulfilled its obligations under two military treaties.
Slashing military ties with Russia after its Crimean land grab might feel emotionally satisfying in the short term, but it’s ultimately counterproductive in the long term. After all, unilaterally halting the Pentagon’s contacts in Russia would undermine our ability to collaborate on shared interests, confront shared threats and manage global crises.
April 22nd, 2014
China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is currently engulfed in the worst corruption scandal in its history. Two of its top officials have been detained and accused of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, including a cash-for-promotion racket that benefited hundreds of officers. More heads will roll as dozens of senior personnel must have offered bribes — or had been bribed — to get ahead in the ranks, calling into question the very leadership of the 2.3 million-strong army.
It’s easy to look across the Pacific and feel a twinge of schadenfreude. But if Beijing can’t get this metastasizing scandal under control, it’s bad for America’s strategic interests for three basic reasons.
April 11th, 2014
The 1980s are all the rage once again—from neon clothes to Robocop and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even America’s 1980s foreign policy is back in fashion amongst Neo-Cold Warriors longing to return to the Reagan era.
President Barack Obama quipped to Mitt Romney during the 2012 election that, “The 1980s called—they want their foreign policy back,” and he’s giving the military more money, even adjusted for inflation, than President Ronald Reagan ever did. But, the Neo-Cold Warriors still can’t abandon their Reagan nostalgia, especially after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, which has led some to ask “Was Mitt Romney right about Russia?”
Obama’s military outspends Russian President Vladimir Putin’s by more than seven to one. Yet, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.,) rails against the president because, “For decades, defense spending made up roughly 50 percent of the federal budget. Today, it’s just 18 percent.” While ignoring the fact that defense spending hasn’t made up more than 50 percent of the federal budget since we put a man on the moon, Ryan is also concerned about the decline in defense spending as a percentage of GDP. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., similarly bemoans the fact that America’s defense spending falls short of the 6% percent of GDP it was under Reagan, and The Wall Street Journal claims that by this metric Obama will leave his successor a “weaker” country than he inherited.
Whether or not you think the current level of spending is sufficient, defense spending as a share of GDP measures militarization of our society, but that does not necessarily mean strength. Applying Reagan’s magic percentage today ignores changes in our economy, the threat environment and our capabilities.