The left-leaning Center for American Progress has a new report out -- which co-author and fan of the blog Sean Duggan valiantly attempted to send us a few days ago -- outlining suggestions for the incoming Obama Administration with respect to military spending and policy. If you were a blog following, say, health care policy, you would think the Republican Party to be a bunch of conservative budget hawks while the Democrats were tax-and-spend liberals. And this would conform to national stereotypes. In defense policy, though, the caricature is often reversed. Reading this report from CAP, for example, you would think the Democratic Party a gang of hard-boiled realists considering the number of times our scarcity of resources is mentioned.
I found a lot to like in this report, though. Among the key recommendations:
Prioritize people over hardware. Developing high-tech expensive weapons programs should never take priority over the investment, support, and development of those serving in our all-volunteer professional military. Our primary investment should always be in the men and women serving in uniform. Investing in their development—in education, training, and quality of life—is investing in the greatest weapon we have.
Embrace a new vision for the U.S. military. Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have highlighted the changing threat environment for the United States. It is increasingly likely that, in this post-9/11 world, U.S. troops will more frequently be assigned to non-traditional warfare tasks, including both kinetic and non-kinetic counterinsurgency operations, rather than full-scale conventional wars with near-peer competitors. While proficiency in conventional warfare cannot be allowed to lapse, the next administration should consider the type of conflicts most likely to be encountered when allocating limited funding to procurement, training, force expansion, and other budgetary requests.
Include supplemental war funding in a consolidated budget. Long-term U.S. interests in Iraq and Afghanistan require that an American military presence will be maintained in those countries for the foreseeable future, most of the cost of which should be paid for through supplemental appropriations. However, the services have taken advantage of these ostensibly "emergency" war-funding bills to request money for significant non-war-related projects. DOD should in the future submit appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the baseline request in one consolidated budget. This procedure will allow lawmakers to scrutinize the items from the supplemental and force Congress and DOD leaders to make trade-offs and hard choices when considering the FY 2010-13 defense budget priorities. Scale back purchases of weapons systems designed for conventional warfare and reorient the force based on the need for greater irregular capabilities.
It is too late to make changes in the FY 2009 defense budget, but American taxpayers can save as much as $24.75 billion over the next four years by eliminating weapons systems designed to deal with threats from a bygone era—weapons and programs that are not useful in defending our country from violent extremists or the other threats we now face.