Friday, December 28, 2007

Not More, But Smarter Defense Spending

Here's Kim Holmes and Mackenzie Eaglen writing in the Washington Times calling for a increase to 4% of the GDP on Defense:

The 3.9 percent of GDP we now spend on the core defense budget is far lower than during the Cold War and almost a full percentage point below defense spending in 1950. The defense budget is expected to drop even further to less than 3.2 percent of GDP by 2012.

People here and around the world count on a strong U.S. military for their security. We can't afford any more North Korean-style disasters. Our leaders should agree to spend at least "4 percent for Freedom" each year to ensure that our forces remain capable and ready.

Critics of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan bemoan the fact that the expense of the War on Terror is delaying the Pentagon's long overdue modernization of the post Cold War military. This is a puzzling assertion since America's past wars have always provided a boon in extra military equipment for our armed forces.

The massive naval buildup of World War 2 provided the US Navy with a huge superiority in warships for decades, as it transfered from the gun to the missile age. Likewise did the Vietnam Conflict spur the fielding of our current hi-tech and precision weaponry which overcame the Soviet Union and is currently forming the backbone of our fighting forces in the Middle East.

It is not so much the overseas conflict or America's lack of military spending (more than all the world combined!) which are stifling our rearming efforts, but the Pentagon's obsession over hi-tech warfare, weaponry which is often obsolete before it is handed over to the troops. They forget that the armed forces' principle mission is to fight, with many in Washington thinking only whiz-bang wonder weapons are required to deter the nation' foes and maintain peace.

Yet, it was Clinton Era Secretary of State Madeline Albright who once said "What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?" (she was for war before she was against it)As likely she would deny this primary purpose of military power today, the Secretary hit on the correct strategy for the post Soviet Era, with the armed forces filling the vacuum that created rogue states and radical regimes, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. These are missions where giant supercarriers, stealth fighters, and main battle tanks are less required.

Twenty-five year old designs like the F-22 Raptor jet or uncertain technology as the V-22 Osprey tiltroter are now kept in the production stages for decades, with only a handful eventually built, while are troops fight our nation's conflicts with ancient and continually patched weapons. In contrast, we arm our allies such as Iraq and Afghanistan with lo-tech Russian weapons, like AK-47s guns and T-72 tanks. These same arms which once fought against democracy are now being used overseas to further the aims of freedom. If lo-tech is good enough for our friends, it should be adequate for America too!

As much as I do support an increase in our defense budget, it would be more desirable to have wiser spending than is currently happening. For the price of a single supercarrier, a whole fleet of littoral ships could be bought to tackle Al Qaeda pirates and contend with Third World submarines. For the cost of one F-22 superfighter, a whole squadron of counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft could be bought to support the army's efforts in Iraq and elsewhere.

With so much extra weapons on hand, we might finally have the military we need, rather than the one the admirals, generals, and politicians wish for. I consider 4% of the GDP for the military to be desirable, but 3.2% or less adequate, and not "just enough" for our defense as the Left or Ron Paul might contend, but for a superior and dominant armed force, if spent in the correct manner.