The Future of National Security

THE FUTURE OF NATIONAL SECURITY….Anyone who has experience with a big bureaucracy knows that budget authority is the #1 indicator of what their organization’s real priorities are. That’s especially true in the federal government, where spin is a way of life and hard spending plans are virtually the only way to figure out what the boss considers really important.

So if that’s the case, just how seriously does the Bush administration take the future threat from global terrorism? The answer, judging from its recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, is not very. To be sure, it contains lots of fine words about “long wars” and post-9/11 priorities, but when you look at where the money is going, virtually nothing has changed. As far as the 2006 QDR is concerned, we’re not fighting al-Qaeda, we’re still fighting the Cold War.

This is one reason to like the “progressive” QDR on offer from the Center for American Progress: it demonstrates its seriousness by making hard budget choices. You have to read the full report for the details, but here, as they say, is the bottom line:

I don’t like everything about the CAP plan ? its proposal for a unified national security budget is probably good, for example, but even though it’s primarily a DoD blueprint I wish it had spent more time discussing deeper peacekeeping and nation building strategies as a way of preventing terrorist attacks. Still, it’s far superior to the official Pentagon plan, which might as well have been drafted 20 years ago. In contrast, CAP’s plan eliminates half a dozen obsolete weapons platforms that we no longer need and uses that money instead for what we do need: more special forces, more peacekeeping divisions, more civil affairs, and more money for homeland security.

This is the kind of plan Democrats ought to be proposing as an alternative to the unserious approach to terrorism on offer from the Bush administration. Unfortunately, what prevents this is the same iron triangle that prevents Republicans from doing it: military officers whose careers are built on championing specific weapons platforms, defense contractors whose livelihoods depend on these platforms, and members of congress who are more afraid of losing a few jobs in their districts than they are of al-Qaeda.

But it’s a missed opportunity if we don’t take advantage of the release of the administration’s QDR to champion an alternative. Donald Rumsfeld’s final, tired draft is essentially an admission of failure, an acknowledgement that Republicans don’t have the guts or the muscle to make difficult changes to the military even when they control every branch of the government. But as Lorelei Kelly says:

The information support system for liberals who want to talk about national security is serious and it’s growing. Try the Foreign Policy Leadership Council, the Security Policy Working Group and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Read up! We need to get started on this while Rove is preoccupied with the Energizer Bunny (training it to do an interpretive dance when it runs into the constitution, no doubt).

Good advice.