Military action is important to the nation—it is the ground of death and life, the path of survival and destruction, so it is imperative to examine it.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Welcome to Defense and the National Interest, now hosted by the Project On Government Oversight. Our aim is to foster debate on the roles of the U.S. armed forces in the post-Cold War era and on the resources devoted to them. The ultimate purpose is to help create a more effective national defense against the types of threats we will likely face during the first decades of the new millennium. Contributors to this site are, with a few exceptions, active/reserve, former, or retired military. They often combine a knowledge of military theory with the practical experience that comes from trying their ideas in the field.
The original inspiration for this site was the collection of commentary by Franklin C. (Chuck) Spinney, who was at the Office of the Secretary of Defense from the mid-1970s (retired in 2003) and was active duty Air Force before that.
Introduction to the site
Did you know that we are spending as much on defense as we did during the height of the Cold War? Yet many of our military leaders tell us they don’t have enough money and that we need to buy more modern and expensive weapons to assure our national security.
Are they right? It is true that many of our current weapons were designed in the 1970s (or earlier—most of the C-130 transports flown by the active-duty Air Force fought in Vietnam). And our fighting men and women deserve the tools they need to do their jobs with minimum loss of life. On the other hand, most of our new fighters and ships were designed to defeat weapons that might have been fielded by the Soviet Union. There is no reason to believe that they will prove any more effective than their predecessors in the emerging “fourth generation warfare” that has caused us such problems in places like Vietnam, Somalia, and that appears to be evolving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senior administration officials are openly complaining that costs of honoring commitments to veterans are hurting their ability to fund massive weapons programs [Wall St. J., 25 Jan 2005]. To pay for these new weapons, the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget have proposed a number of cuts in other accounts, including funding for veterans and military families. Recent proposals include closing some commissaries and dependent schools, cutting spending on nursing care for veterans, tripling the costs that retirees pay for generic medicines, and imposing $250 annual enrollment fees on veterans.
Most recently, the administration has proposed a 4.3% reduction in provider reimbursements for TRICARE and Medicare (which affects TRICARE for Life participants) and cuts totaling 26% over the next six years. The proposed cuts would further reduce the number of providers willing to accept these programs for military families, veterans, and retirees. (Military Officer, August 2005, p. 30) For more information, please contact the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).
People, Ideas, and Hardware
“In that order!” the late Col. John R. Boyd, USAF, would thunder at his audiences. Modern history offers few counter examples to his trinity of effectiveness. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and the first Intifada all followed his pattern. Discouraged by the Pentagon’s emphasis on machines over people and ideas, our best warriors and commanders are leaving in unprecedented numbers.
Defense and the National Interest is intended to be a resource for all citizens concerned with the roles of armed forces in the modern world, the money and people we devote to them, and the effects on the rest of our society. Is the pressure to preserve programs and facilities, for example, having a corrosive effect on our national ethos?
For Boyd’s complete Discourse on Winning and Losing, along with articles and commentaries, please visit our Boyd and Military Strategy page. If your organization would be interested in hearing the briefings from Boyd’s discourse and in discussions about their application, J. Addams & Partners handles bookings for Dr. Richards.
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