Of wasteful spending and emasculated officers
By Kori Schake Since the mistakes associated with the Bush adminstration’s prosecution of the wars it waged is already well-covered ground, I’d highlight two areas from which many other problems flowed: defense spending and military advice. First, the administration spent too much by making a mess of transformation. We unquestionably had the world’s best military ...
By Kori Schake
By Kori Schake
Since the mistakes associated with the Bush adminstration’s prosecution of the wars it waged is already well-covered ground, I’d highlight two areas from which many other problems flowed: defense spending and military advice.
First, the administration spent too much by making a mess of transformation. We unquestionably had the world’s best military forces in 2000, yet the adminstration nearly doubled its baselin budget. Even without counting the supplemental costs of the wars, we have a defense budget larger than the next 16 countries combined (14 of whom are U.S. allies), and that doesn’t seem like a cost effective strategy, especially when other essential elements of successful national security (building capacity in non-defense agencies) are underfunded.
The administration billed transformation as the way it would cut defense costs: skip a generation of weapons, find ways to substitute technology for personnel-intensive tasks, and promote innovators. If a battalion now has the accurate firepower a brigade used to, we should be able to find savings. But the Administration didn’t; they continued previous weapons systems and activities while funding a parallel and ineffectual transformation effort. Despite trumpeting the success of transformation, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, when Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, couldn’t identify a single thing our military no longer needed to do because it had transformed.
Second, under Secretary Rumsfeld, the Bush administration created a leadership climate in which military officers were punished for giving unwelcome military advice. Officers that raised concerns about either the substance or the process were ruthlessly marginalized. General Shinseki is an interesting case in point: He wasn’t shoved out as Chief of Staff of the Army for his Congressional testimony on the force requirements for Iraq; his retirement had been announced by the Office of the Secretary of Defense six months previously. No, Shinseki was sidelined as early as the summer of 2000 for objecting to the Quadrennial Defense Review process that advocated significant cuts to the Army.
But Shinseki is just the most visible example. The administration came in believing the military had grown too powerful and needed to be subordinated to civilian masters (witness Rumsfeld eliminating the term "commander-in-chief," or CINC, for U.S. regional combatant commanders), and that warfare had fundamentally changed, so that large armies were now an impediment rather than advantage. They treated uniformed men and women who didn’t share their views as either pathetic dinosaurs or threats to civilian control.
Ultimately, you get the military advice you deserve, and the Bush administration created a climate in which they only heard echoes of their own views. Secretary Gates has gone a long way to redressing the problem, but we’re still dealing with the consequences of this self-inflicted wound.
Kori Schake is the director of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a former U.S. government official in foreign and security policy, and the author of America vs the West: Can the Liberal World Order Be Preserved? Twitter: @KoriSchake
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