Two more years of sequestration – forced reduction of defense spending due to the federal government’s failure to balance the budget nearly a decade ago – may be two years too many.
The United States has gambled with global security and imperiled lives, cutting some $500 billion in defense investment over the last decade, nearly half of which was modernization funding. Meanwhile, China has built island bases, Russia has developed new nuclear weapons, North Korea has tested intercontinental missiles aimed at distant targets, and the Middle East remains an ever-shifting sandstorm of turmoil and terrorism. Foreign adversaries have also moved ahead of the United States in the evolving realm of cyber-warfare capability.
These are among concerns identified by the nonpartisan National Defense Strategy Commission. The first paragraph of the commission’s most recent report succinctly states the current U.S. condition:
“The security and well-being of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades. America’s military superiority – the hard-power backbone of its global influence and national security – has eroded to a dangerous degree. Rivals and adversaries are challenging the United States on many fronts and in many domains. America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”
The challenge is daunting, but it’s not too late to restore U.S. military strength and our role as defender and protector of global and national security. The commission offers three key recommendations:
• Defense spending must increase 3 to 5 percent, on top of annual cost-of-living adjustments, just to catch up against sequestration.
• Congress must pass on-time DoD budgets and end the cycle of continuing resolutions that stagnate military investment.
• Sequestration must be lifted to give the Pentagon and our troops the best opportunity to succeed, for our allies and for the homefront.
Strengthening the National Security Innovation Base is listed as a high priority in the report. That “will entail a mix of near, medium and long-term initiatives” to include “rapidly reinforcing and sustaining” forward-engaged forces, protecting information systems from attack and advancing technology across multiple areas of need – command, communications, intelligence and reconaissance, to name a few.
In a very large nutshell, the commission calls on Congress, the White House, DoD, and we the people to rebuild our military and overhaul a U.S. defense strategy that has lost ground over the past decade. Last August, the 100th American Legion National Convention passed a resolution aimed at reversing the effects of sequestration, calling on Congress to never allow “our military forces to reach a weakened state in these uncertain and perilous times.”
If those times are not now, they are coming. Inability to make hard decisions and re-invest in peace through U.S. strength, the commission concludes, would be a tragedy “all the more regrettable because it is within our power to avoid it.”