Connecting the Dots…

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Last week a top Pentagon soothsayer peered into the future and found the Defense Department running out of money. Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said the problem is deeper, and likely to last longer, than the sequester, which is crudely chopping military spending by about 10% this year.

That returns Pentagon spending to 2007’s level, and it could continue for several more years if Congress and the White House can’t agree on a deficit-reduction package. But Prabhakar senses something more profound at work.

“We believe we may be at the beginning of a fundamental shift in how our society allocates resources to the business of national security,” she said. “What I’m really talking about here are the fiscal pressures that could shape a different future over the coming years and decades. And if it turns out to be the case that we don’t allocate this continuing level of support for national security as a society, it actually won’t change the fact that our job will still be to keep the country as safe and secure as is humanly possible despite that.”

Fair enough. What she is saying is that there’s a sense that the nation is paying too much for its national security. Battleland was thinking of her words Sunday morning after coming upon three disparate items in the Washington Post. Each touches on U.S. national security, and not in a good way.

The first article details the response of the government to the Mississippi martial-arts instructor who allegedly mailed ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and two other officials and allegedly tried to frame an Elvis impersonator with whom he has been feuding for the crime:

Though the ricin case seems to have emerged from a small-time feud between a couple of eccentrics, the government response has been robust. Among the government agencies that joined the FBI in the investigation were the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Capitol Police, the counterterrorism section of the Justice Department’s national security division, the Mississippi National Guard, the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and multiple county and city law enforcement units.

The second article is a letter to the editor from John Michael Loh, a retired Air Force general who headed Air Combat Command from 1992 to 1995. He complained of the growing overlap and duplication among the nation’s military services:

There is…huge redundancy in all airpower missions, in special operations forces and, now, in the fast-growing domain of cyberwarfare. Each service seeks to be the `king of cyber,’ launching cybercommands with similar, if not identical, capabilities.
The major goal of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act was to force the services to work together in joint operations, each supporting the others by providing forces and expertise without duplication — interdependent, not independent. But, over the years, service parochialism and a shortage of trust have trumped interdependence, leaving large, duplicative forces. Even a rich and profligate nation cannot afford such an overlap in capabilities. Interdependence is a long-overdue solution

Finally, the third article is an op-ed column by Marine Sergeant Thomas Gibbons-Neff, who ties his combat tours in Afghanistan to the recent marathon bombing in his hometown of Boston:

This past week, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly told investigators that he and his brother set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in part because of their opposition to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Marine who fought in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2010, the news made me wonder: Had my war brought the horrors of battle home?…
I deployed to Afghanistan believing my presence in that country would help stop attacks such as Boston’s from happening. But instead, my war has spilled over, striking the city where my 22-year-old brother goes to school and where my mom, until recently, felt perfectly safe eating lunch outdoors.
The Tsarnaev brothers aren’t the first alleged terrorists to cite U.S. military intervention in other countries as a reason for targeting civilians, and they won’t be the last. Despite our best efforts and valor, I wonder, have America’s wars made the homeland less safe? Sure, we’ve killed and captured thousands of radicals who wanted to harm Americans. But in doing so, have we created more?

Taken individually, each article is an interesting tidbit in the national-security debate. Together, they read like counts in an indictment.