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View Diary: Take military and veterans benefits off the Grand Bargain table (96 comments)

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  •  A step toward saving money at the Pentagon (4+ / 0-)

    There is tremendous waste at the Pentagon, probably 30% or more. For years, "national defense" has been equated with throwing money at the DoD, in spite of Eisenhower's prescient warning. The Global War on Terror is just the latest example. But any time a suggestion is made about reigning in defense spending the first reaction is that we will have to cut ships, troops, or airplanes. Or benefits for those who are serving or who have served. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do need a strong Navy; after all, we are a maritime nation. But we can also be secure at a fraction of the cost we are spending today. We will not have an empire but we will be secure.

    First, we need a Grand Strategy, in the Clausewitzian sense, and we don't have one. In fact, we have no idea what one is. Second, we need to ban flags and field grade officers from going to work for defense contractors after they retire. Is there a downside to this? Of course, but the revolving door of project managers going to work for the contractor they were working with just invites problems. Do you really think that wasn't discussed before the member retired? Third, we need to transfer back to the military many of the tasks that we have contracted out - particularly in the last dozen years or so. We used to have the finest logistics program in the world. Now we don't - it's largely been contracted out to Halliburton and the like. "Beltway Bandit" consultants and contractors fleece the country and kick back, in part, some of their fees via campaign contributions (bribes) to the congressmen that enable the arrangements in the first place. Civilian DoD employees have formed a bloated, self-perpetuating bureaucracy that wags the dog. Fourth, we need to bring back a national service draft at least in the style advocated by Tom Ricks. With the elimination of the draft we lost one of the last unifiers that this country had. We also lost a link with Main Street that kept this country from going to war without consequence for all but the 1% (the other 1%) that wear the uniform. We lost the link with Congress where sacrifice and service are abstractions and few have served in uniform. If we had a draft, people would have been in the streets as the obscenity of Iraq unfolded and the lost mission in Afghanistan has droned on. Patriotism is more than wearing a flag on your lapel. More than half my life was spent in uniform supporting and defending the Constitution of these United States and I can tell you that there is a lot more to national security than numbers of ships, tanks, and airplanes. We need a well-educated population and up-to-date-infrastructure. We also need a fine social safety net for those who need help through no fault of their own; right now the deck is stacked against Joe Average and a lot of people are hurting.

    Volumes could be written on how to reform the Pentagon and national security establishment. Set forth above, in my view, is only a start, just the high points.

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