Sequestration, is it really the 'greatest threat to US national security' or the optimal opportunity? The answer is not simple. However, if you listen to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the Congress and the military industrial complex, the world will come to an end if it happens. Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration nevertheless, ten years of war and overzealous military spending has clouded our brains.
As long as the US has a commitment to a strong military it will have one. The US, however, not only has other needs at the moment, it must stop investing solely in this unending quest for ultimate security, which can never be achieved.
This country can take steps to remain stellar on its national security structure to address threats and protect interests and still cut costs in the Department of Defense. The challenge will be to create an American, not bipartisan, but a holistic vision for the US with - oh my - an open mind that thinks and leaves out the politics for at least a period of time.
Now, considering the current and shameful state of the US government and all this party posturing and bickering, you too are probably saying "good luck with all that." Yet, as we become complacent with the current state of affairs feeling that our representatives are not accountable and never will be, we are wasting more time and money than any sequester may require. More importantly our government leaders are putting this nation at risk. Everyone is too so busy making the case that we need a huge security budget, but not one person is outlining why.
At a recent speaking engagement at the Brookings Institute, the Chief of Staff of the Army, Raymond T Odierno, said it well, [the military] must "develop a new strategy based on fiscal realities"....well I say about time! The trouble is that instead of developing a strategy, the military JCS are spending time and money on rhetoric and lobbying Congress to see it their way.
The Army is holding the jobs of over 200,000 civilians over Congressional heads to demonstrate why they can't handle cuts. Each force has basically laid out a state-by-state example of what types of hits each will take if they don't get their monies. That tells me nothing as far as national security goes or how the military intends to work in the next century.
I for one am worried. I'm also disappointed in our Senate leaders. The whole deal with former Senator Chuck Hagel is embarrassing and so is Senator McCains incessant focus on the tragedy in Libya and Hagel's comments on Israel. Why aren't they asking more questions that pertain to the military future of America. Where were the questions on how Senator Chuck Hagel would handle a sequester? Where were the questions about why the JCSs are lobbying instead of planning? Where were the questions about why the Army has some 90,000 soldiers deployed in 160 countries? What about the tanks, planes and ships that we are spending tons on and don't work, how will Hagel handle that? What's Hagel's vision to transform DOD into a lean, mean fighting machine so we can cut the excess or fat and meet the smaller but still huge budget that they will have?
It is also bothersome that Hagel couldn't bring the conversation around to focus on more relevant points. Chuck Hagel was a feisty US senator. Where was that in his testimony? He should have said "sorry that I said "Jewish Lobby," NOW let's talk about how we are going to agree on a national security budget for the United States of America!" Congress probably preferred to stay on the topic of whether the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was completely "Jewish" or not than talk about their own responsibility in letting the defense budget go haywire with a complete lack of oversight.
It is high time that President Obama flexes his leadership muscles. He cannot afford to have a secretary of defense that can't stand up to Congress and the JCS. It is too important to the people who serve and those they protect. Nor can the President afford to ignore that this nations priority needs to be on a comprehensive US international security policy that includes not centers on the pentagon.
Maybe the President should turn the tables quick and nominate Senator John McCain for Secretary of Defense. That might jar them into attention on the Hill and force Congress to focus on more than political shenanigans.
The President must also insist on a plan from the Chiefs (as should Congress). If they don't formulate and substantiate it, they don't get the money. Yes, we need to understand the cost of reductions, the stress on our service members, and the necessary measures to aid in civilian transition, but our leaders also need to be tough about needed change for the good of the nation by creating a military that meets our national needs not an unsubstantiated budget with random cuts to instill fear.
Pouring more fuel on a fire works. Unfortunately once it is burning out of control, like the DOD budget, it takes all efforts to cool it down so it won't burn down the entire house leaving no future for anything else. The opportunity for a long overdue re-balancing of our national security is now. This means that our leadership must get to work and spend their time on a new strategic plan for civilians and military instead of just wasting it away.