This past Monday, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered his speech on national security and his vision to defeat the Islamic State. The speech connected various talking points, but for the professional national security strategist it lacked a clear and focused doctrinal base. Mr. Trump would have been better served to break down the map according to the geographic AORs (areas of responsibility), also referred to as Combatant Commands i.e. CENTCOM, EUCOM, AFRICOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, and Continental United States (CONUS, or NORTHCOM) and apply the D-I-M-E theory of elements of national power to provide a strategic assessment and vision. The DIME theory stands for “Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic” as the respective centers of gravity and power that a nation can leverage to achieve strategic goals and objectives.
This model could have enabled Mr. Trump to easily and more coherently identify and define the current and emerging threats in those theaters of operation, while articulating the respective means of engagement.
However, there still remains a very pressing issue that neither candidate has seen the need to discuss, or confront: restoring a fiscally responsible defense structure. The Obama administration has horribly decimated our military capability and capacity. The current state is beyond alarming, with manpower strengths reduced to early 20th century levels. While technology is a grand thing, that gap is closing thanks to intellectual property theft, and drones are not a panacea. Every budget dollar in the federal government is not equal, and the most important responsibility of the federal government is to protect our way of life and our national interests. But, how do we accomplish providing for the common defense with common sense?
In December 2010, after my congressional orientation, I was invited to appear on Meet the Press, when David Gregory was still hosting. They presumed to trap me into a discussion about budget cuts knowing I was a retired career military officer. Gregory questioned me on whether the Department of Defense should be under the same budget scrutiny, to which I replied yes. That response and impending discussion resulted in a phone call from incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon. I confided in Chairman McKeon that there is wasteful spending in the DoD. Then, in April 2011, while working with the HASC staff, our office found three simple, common sense DoD programs that could be cut. The amount may seem miniscule, only saving the American taxpayer $35M over ten years, but the measure passed 392-0 on the House floor. Imagine if every member of Congress found three wasteful programs and had removed them from the budget?
In full disclosure, I supported the Budget Control Act of 2011. I actually thought the folks on Capitol Hill wanted to get the fiscal house in order and that the Super Committee would do their job. They did not. And, the “nuclear option” of the sequester kicked in, and it has had horrific consequences on our military.
Instead of this draconian avenue of approach, let me provide some common sense solutions to reduce defense spending and rebuild our military capability.
First, we must reform our defense procurement and acquisition system. This can no longer be focused on jobs in respective congressional districts. We must identify the needs of the warfighter, as articulated by the warfighter, not the defense industry. Once those needs are identified, the systems requirements and specifications must be finalized with measures of effectiveness and firmly agreed upon timelines. If the industry does not meet a timeline, the additional cost is subsumed by them. It is imperative that the DoD demonstrates that it has its act together before issuing an RFP (request for proposal).
Let me give you a simple example of a lack of common sense. The U.S. Army is looking to replace the M9 Beretta 9mm as its sidearm. The Army is spending $17M over the next two years to research and identify the right pistol. They have narrowed the search down to three. Common sense would have looked to senior non-commissioned officers in the Infantry, told them to pick up the latest Guns and Ammo magazine, or take a short drive over to the NRA Headquarters and assess the three best 9mm and .40 caliber pistols on the market. Then go to a firing range for a week and allow some privates to fire them and see if they could break them. End of test.
Second, the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense needs to be cut. I refer to the higher headquarters levels, starting at the Pentagon. We are stupidly cutting into the bone, adversely affecting the men and women we send into harm’s way. As we do so, those that remain and their families bear the brunt of multiple deployments. It is time we ask the hard question: do we need the duplicitous and redundant service Secretariats?
Consider this: current Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning has never served in the military. His previous position was as the Acting Secretary of the Air Force. The current Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, has never served in the military. She was a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee and worked at a major defense contractor, SAIC. The longest sitting Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, served two years in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer from 1970-1972. Mabus was a major political donor, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and former Governor of Mississippi. So, the combined military experience of our Service Secretaries is two years. The rest is just defense bureaucracy and politics. The service secretary position has become rooted in political cronyism and nepotism. I understand the need for civilian oversight of our military; that can come from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). To have a completely useless organizational chart and structure replicated at the service level is nonsensical. I think the respective General Officers who make up the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff can be trusted to run our branches of the military.
And I have not even discussed the Combatant Command headquarters.
Lastly, no more nation building for our military. The 21st century battlefield calls for a power projection force that is focused on conducting strike operations against the enemy, especially non-state, non-uniform belligerents -- Islamic jihadist groups. Our force must be strong and provide a deterrent capacity across the geographic AORs. Never again should Americans be under siege for 13 hours and abandoned.