Col. Larry Wilkerson, (retired,) who spent 31 years in military service, four of them at the side of Gen Colin Powel, as special assistant when he was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, after retirement from the military, four more years, as chief of staff during Powell's service as secretary of state, is ready to tackle the trillion dollar question.
He is a speeks at public forums dealing with national security issues. His talk is based on the analysis of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for American Progress on a Unified Security Budget for the United States. He has participated in the work throughout the last year. The recently issued report by the IPS/CAP, states:
"The decade of war the United States launched in response to the 9/11 attacks, at the cost of a trillion-plus dollars and many thousands of lives, has failed to accomplish a goal that was finally achieved at a tiny fraction of these costs, through a coordinated action of investigative work, diplomacy, and minimal military force."
The summary of the analysis points out that the death of Osama bin Laden was accomplished by means that resembles a police action. A painstaking investigation preceded the operation by a group of Special Operations Forces, roughly the size of a SWAT team. The 150,000 U. S. troops deployed in the proximity of Pakistan, the country where bin Laden was hiding, had little to do with finding or killing him.
The various ongoing transformational struggles known as the Arab Spring, the report emphasizes, offer the possibility for peaceful change. While the United States is seeking, a supporting role, it is deemphasizing the role of its military forces.
Those and many other findings indicate that there is a need for rebalancing the security resources among the accounts that fund national security: the military forces, assuring their offensive capacity; homeland security, for defensive purposes; energy department for its nuclear weapons; state department for its international relations account; veterans affairs, for those who served and need assistance, and funds for intelligence, including all seventeen of U. S. intelligence entities.
"The goal is to strengthen our capacity to prevent and resolve conflict by non-military means, and to constrain terrorist threats not by a "war on terror" but by finding and isolating terrorist and bringing them to justice, protecting ourselves from future attacks, and strengthen the capacity of the United States and other nations to resist terrorism," states the summary.
According to the report, the top U. S. military and civilian national security leaders have all expressed support for repairing the extreme imbalance in our security spending to strengthen our non-military security tools. However, action lagged behind words.
In view of the current single-minded focus on deficit reduction, there is promise of ending the unbroken string of expanded military spending that has dominated U. S. discretionary spending for decades. "Calls for deficit reduction plans that put "everything on the table-including defense" have crossed the otherwise gaping political divide," says the report.
Building on this premise, the IPS analysis looks holistically at national security, combining Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Intelligence, nuclear programs, the 150 accounts of the State Department and Veterans Affairs.
"The analysis demonstrates that if one looks critically at such a budget, the first thing one recognizes is the gross imbalance in it," Wilkerson said in an interview with the Lake Placid News and The Virginia Gazette. "The Department of Defense gets far too much. So, the first requirement is to balance the budget in a common-sensical way. This means shifting monies to soft power.
"The second major aspect of our analysis is that. once one has looked at the security budget holistically, one realizes it can be reduced by at least a trillion dollars over the next decade. Actually, we reduce the Pentagon budget the preponderant part of the national security budget, more that sequestration would reduce it. Except that we do it smartly and not haphazardly."
How IPS/CAP envisages doing it is the subject of Wilkerson's talks.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.