Turn The Pentagon Into A Triangle

STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

John Linder Former Congressman
Font Size:

There is as much waste and fraud in the Pentagon budget as in food stamps and disability insurance. It is begging for reform. If President-elect Trump plans to reform our national security establishment, putting generals in charge is not a good start. They are smart and patriotic, but they are also invested in the status quo and they are always cautious.

A good example of this is the Predator Drone that was furiously opposed by the generals. Airplanes are supposed to have a pilot in the cockpit, by God! The drone was an “earmark” by some members of the Appropriations Committee who were impressed by the technology. Ultimately it became universally appreciated is a major part of our war-fighting capability.

We fight wars in a unified command. We should purchase and outfit the same way. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have their own purchasers for each separate category of goods or services. They should be consolidated and rationalized so all services use interchangeable equipment.

We always fight the last war. It is unlikely that we will see another war with a need for tanks. We need to get beyond heavy, slow, low tech and expensive and replace it with light, fast, high tech and cheap.

We have as many admirals and generals today with 1.4 million troops in uniform as we had at the end of WW II with 12 million troops. At the end of WW II each admiral was responsible for 130 ships. Today it is 2. Each of these officers has a car, driver and a huge support staff costing millions of dollars. Dramatic reductions in the numbers of flag ranked officers would save money and be well received by the troops.

Many of those officers have staffs dedicated to responding to Congress. When a member of the Armed Services Committee wishes to offer an amendment that doesn’t pass muster with the chairman and ranking member they are often given the alternative of putting in a statutory requirement of regular reports on that issue. The DOD produces nearly 1000 annual reports now that were once mandated by a member who has since died and no one else reads. Congress should be asked to review these mandated reports and eliminate many.

Our alliances are also monuments to the past and need to be revisited. In 1993 the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency reached a multi-national agreement that limited the speed of anti-missile missiles to the speed we had achieved. No other nation had the technology to equal ours and I asked why in the world would we do that. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) responded, “Bureaucratic inertia. Their job is to get a deal done and this one is easy for them since it only limits us.”

NATO is driven by bureaucratic inertia also. A formerly great defense alliance has become a political one. Former Soviet Bloc nations, for example, seek entrée in order to profit from the economic and military advantages offered. None of them abide by the minimum amount of defense spending the alliance requires, but all of them depend on us doing so.

President-elect Trump is right to question NATO. Entrenched bureaucracies do not evolve, they have to be ended and new alliances focused on new threats built from the ground up. Russian tanks aren’t as threatening today as cyber attacks and terror cells. It is worth noting that the terrorist attack on Brussels was unhindered by the proximity to NATO’s headquarters.

The UN needs to be re-evaluated in the same light. Is it even useful anymore? Does it serve any interest other than that of the bureaucrats who run it?

President Trump needs to appoint a commission of experts outside of the government to evaluate our national security posture as well as our alliances. It needs to include some members from the military and some from the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate, but more from other disciplines. We need experts in real world experiences more than Congressional experts who get co-opted by the generals within months of being seated on the Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Trump will take office with an opportunity for reform not seen in my lifetime. He can be bold because he owes no one in the establishment anything.

It’s time to be bold.

If you would like to be added to John Linder’s distribution list please send your email address to: linderje@yahoo.com or follow on Twitter: @linderje