Cutting Defense to Fund National Security?

We’re about to see a great shift in resources from the military to other actors, David Sanger argues.  In a New Atlanticist piece called “Obama’s Foreign Policy Shift,” I join Matt Yglesias in proclaiming this “a really good idea.”

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    I think that the cuts needed to be made in the DoD budget is in the big ticket acquisition items like F-22, F-35, FCS, and alike. Just cutting one of those programs will fund all the things they want in State and AID.

  2. Bithead says:

    DC, you under estimate the dedication of Leftists to the workings of government, and the support thereof.

    Frankly, this is a bad idea on stilts.
    Obama, clearly, plans to lean on law enforcement and negotiation.

    Look, gang… Someone whose idology has pushed them so far out as to want to don brand new form fitting Fruit Of The Boom underwear, particularly if they think they’ve got a reward wating for them on the far side of the explosion, does not seem to me someone likley to back down on the strength of mere negotiation, or for that matter, of law enforcement, both of which our own left would have us totally reliant on.

    We’re at a point where there’s only one thing left that will be at all effective…a nd what Obama proposes ain’t it.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I’d hope that the incoming administration would assess the security challenges in front of us now and as they’d foresee it, say, ten years down the road. If they want to do more nation-building excercises, we’re going to need more boots. If they foresee near-peer warfare, we need to equip for that. And so on.

    Like James and MY I’d like to see more spending on State even if it’s at the expense of DoD. I don’t believe we going to face a high tech near-peer for the foreseeable future. If that changes, our defense policy will need to change, too.

    However, I’d also like to see greater emphasis on direct investment overseas as a factor in our foreign policy and security arrangements. This isn’t the world of a century ago or even 70 years ago. Private companies and NGO’s are an important factor and we need to do a better job of harnessing that to our larger foreign policy and security goals.

  4. just me says:

    I think whether or not this is a positive depends a lot on where and how the cuts are made and where and how the money is spent elsewhere. I think one huge failing of the federal government when it comes to any kind of spending is they tend to throw money at something without realistically assessing what the real problems are and how the money will help meet the goals of solving the problem.

    While I am not keen on cutting defense when it comes to manpower, I think there are places cuts can be made without harming the ability of the military to fight wars and protect those things they are mandated to protect.

  5. odograph says:

    If the Border Patrol gets some of that enforcement money conservatives might be happy.

    In terms of actual defense against terrorists I think it’s FBI, Coast Guard, and Border Patrol.

  6. ken says:

    The military is bankrupting our nation.

    It is too large, too expensive and too wasteful. It needs a reorganization and a serious trimming of fat. We do not need four service bureaucracies. Get rid of the Air Force. With cruise missiles we don’t need long range bombers. The Army, Navy and Marines have their own air resources that support their missions.

    We should also trim the size of the Army and close most of our bases in Europe. Invite NATO to build bases in Texas and Florida instead. We could use them on our southern border. Plus, while not on patrol they would be supporting the local tex-mex restaurant industry.

  7. Eneils Bailey says:

    It is too large, too expensive and too wasteful. It needs a reorganization and a serious trimming of fat.

    Good deal…Whoa …wait a minute, I thought you were speaking of useless social programs, earmarks, and an entire federal budget capable of spending everything we produce while pleading the case that in this day and time that everyone that objects to higher taxes are greedy and rich.

    And those, expecting the government to pay for their every desire have become victims of the aforementioned dastardly human capitalists and will use their “hope and change’ to usher us into future prosperity and wealth.

  8. Brett says:

    I think that the cuts needed to be made in the DoD budget is in the big ticket acquisition items like F-22, F-35, FCS, and alike. Just cutting one of those programs will fund all the things they want in State and AID.

    Cutting either the F-22 or F-35 would be pure insanity. Right now, we’re still relying on F-16s and F-15s for our air superiority, which are now nearly 20 years old and barely stand up to the latest Sukhoi fighters (not to mention that they’re going to start dropping out of the sky without reconstruction very soon). That’s only because back when they were introduced (the 1980s), they were ultra-modern state-of-the-art. If we want to maintain air superiority for the next 20 years, we need the F-22. As for the F-35, it’s less necessary, but cutting it at this point would piss off a lot of friendly nations who have invested billions.

    Rather, what they should do is set a target order for it, and stick with that number. The problems with the F-22s have come with the fact that Congress keeps shrinking the total order amount, which drives up the unit cost and forces delays for the company to re-tool.

    Like James and MY I’d like to see more spending on State even if it’s at the expense of DoD. I don’t believe we going to face a high tech near-peer for the foreseeable future. If that changes, our defense policy will need to change, too.

    Keep in mind, Dave, that these things (a conventional military build-up and modernization) take a lot longer than they used to. This is especially true with regards to things like planes; as I mentioned above, the only reason why we have air superiority now is because back in the 1980s, we invested in the most ultra-modern planes available in the F-16 and F-15. Some of the latest Russian stuff, especially the Sukhoi fighters, can go toe to toe with them. Not to mention that China has hardly stopped a military build-up and modernization of their own.

    This is what I’m worried about. If we shift too heavily towards counter-insurgency and peacekeeping, then one day an enemy power might think “Hey, they have a counter-insurgency army! That’s like, well-armed policemen! If we just use tanks and planes we can roll over ’em if they get in our way.”

  9. charles johnson says:

    from wikipedia:

    the United States government is currently spending at the rate of approximately $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.

    This is utterly ridiculous.

  10. Bithead says:

    mumble…. percentage of gdp…. mumble…

  11. tom p says:

    This is utterly ridiculous.

    beyond merely ridiculous, Charles… From here:

    “The USA, responsible for about 80 per cent of the increase in 2005, is the principal determinant of the current world trend, and its military expenditure now accounts for almost half of the world total;”

    “The USA is responsible for 46 per cent of the world total, distantly followed by the UK, France, Japan and China with 4-5 per cent each.”

    Just exactly who, or what, are we afraid of?

  12. just me says:

    tom p I would also point out that part of the reason we spend so much when other countries do not is because we have bases in their backyards and help them with their own protection. We are still part of the protection force between North and South Korea and still have a presence in Japan.

    I think one thing that may be wise is for the US to pull back on some of the places where we keep military members permanently based outside the continental US. I am not convinced all of our foreign bases serve no purpose and should be closed, but I bet we could close a good many of them and not even notice, because the base has no real defense purpose.

  13. anjin-san says:

    Just exactly who, or what, are we afraid of?

    Well, if you are bithead, that would be everyone…

  14. DC Loser says:

    I just want to throw in that we don’t really pay to maintain the overseas bases. I believe the ones in Germany and Japan, and possibly Korea are paid for by the host country under SOFAs or other agreements. We can debate the utility of maintaining our presence in those countries, but I think the economics are a wash.

  15. tom p says:

    I would also point out that part of the reason we spend so much when other countries do not is because we have bases in their backyards and help them with their own protection.

    Indeed, jm,

    I just want to throw in that we don’t really pay to maintain the overseas bases. I believe the ones in Germany and Japan, and possibly Korea are paid for by the host country under SOFAs or other agreements.

    DC, as I understand it, it is hardly a “quid pro quo” arrangement. While they may or may not contribute to the expense, by far the vast majority is underwritten by the US.

    Is this correct, James?

    My point is simply this: There is no one country that spends any where near what we do on defense… and this includes all the countries of the European Union (in total???). But just exactly what are we defending them from? The Soviet Union?

    So, we underwrite their economies by defending them against imaginary (the USSR) and real (a nuclear armed Iran) enemies. One is gone, and the other (if it actually exists) the EU needs no help with. Does any one really beleive nuclear weapons are a threat to the EU? If Iran actually used them, the EU (UK and France) could instantaneously blow them off the face of the earth… with out any help from the US. (WMDs are useless as anything other than a deterrent, “attack us, and we will use them”)(thank you GWB, if Iraq had actually had them, would we have actually invaded? This is the lesson Iran learned) And yes, I do know that the EU is not a mutual defense organization, but who is Iran going to hit that would not require a retaliatory hit? Luxembourg? And no,I do not now count Russia as a military threat to Europe. For now, they prefer economic weapons. It is exceedingly hard to fight that with military force, as Japan proved so well in WW II.

    And before anyone screams “terrorist”… haven’t we learned by now that military force is no deterrent to stateless actors?