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Week of: July 29, 2001

Defense Spending Must Be Scrutinized

by F.R. Duplantier

"The current national security budgeting and spending apparatus in Congress and the Department of Defense is broken."

"Two profound environmental changes occurred in the waning years of the twentieth century," comment military analysts Franklin Spinney, John Sayen, and Donald Vandergriff. "First, the Cold War ended suddenly. Second, the dominant features of contemporary conflict began to mutate as a variety of irregular forces around the world learned how to attack the political will of their adversaries while bypassing the traditional strengths of conventional military forces."

In the introduction to a new book called Spirit, Blood, and Treasure, Spinney, Sayen, and Vandergriff discuss the implications of this new, "irregular warfare" and the U.S. military's difficulty in adapting to it after "forty years of cold war." The three analysts describe "the dynamics of the bipolar Cold War world: a worldwide network of entangling alliances centering on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the maintenance of large standing forces, a massive permanent forward deployment of heavy forces in Europe and elsewhere, and the ability to execute large-scale interventions to counter the worldwide communist revolutionary movement." They argue that the collapse of the Soviet Union "shattered the simple bipolar orientation that had conditioned American strategy and thinking for two generations [and] restored the balance of power in Europe for the first time in almost a hundred years." It also "obviated the requirement for a massive forward deployment of heavy U.S. air and land forces on the European continent [and] unleashed a welter of hitherto suppressed nationalist, ethnic, religious, and criminal conflicts."

According to Spinney, Sayen, and Vandergriff, "Nearly all the armed conflicts occurring after the fall of the Soviet Union have involved a nation state on only one side -- usually the losing side. Although most nation states enjoy far greater resources than most nonstates," they affirm, "the nonstates are learning to fight effectively with limited resources. They usually present few, if any, important targets vulnerable to conventional attack, and their followers are usually much more willing to fight and die for their causes. They seldom wear uniforms," the three analysts add, "and may be difficult to distinguish from the general population. They are also far less hampered by convention and more likely to seek innovative means to achieve their objectives."

In a concluding chapter of the book, an anonymous defense specialist charges that current defense spending debates consist mostly of "doctored budget analysis, spending gimmicks, bogus program cost estimates, and legislative maneuvers designed to conceal. The effect of these activities," he says, "is to present to the outside world the appearance of a serious debate that is not, in fact, occurring, and to enable individuals to pursue narrow, self-serving agendas." The unnamed analyst rejects "the argument that the Department of Defense does not receive its fair share of gross domestic product. Is not the defense budget supposed to have a size proportionate to the threat, rather than to the level of domestic prosperity?" he asks. "Why should the defense budget grow with the economy, especially when the threat has diminished?"


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