CESRAN Blog, Defense & Security

Repairing the Policy-Making Processes of the United States: The First Step in Improving Its Defense

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Former US Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Robert Gates explained on the January 21, 2016 Business Insider website that our military’s biggest weakness is sequestration, compounded by unpredictability in the budgeting process.

Adequate and predictable funding is absolutely necessary for a successful US military. However, the US has suffered humiliating failures in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq even though it has maintained the world’s strongest military since World War II.

The failures occurred largely because the US government’s policy-making processes were broken − stripped of the integrity and concern for country expected of US warfighters − during decades of abuse by special interest groups (SIGs) who are more interested in increasing the wealth and power of the rich and powerful than serving US needs.

The SIGs’ misplaced priorities too frequently cause US policies to favor, and to be warped by, high-ticket items that usually result in unnecessary causalities, damage, and anti-American sentiment, and they prevent potentially less costly and less destructive approaches from being objectively considered.

Largely because of the botched policies that led to the humiliating failures mentioned above, the US is now struggling against terrorist organizations that are operating with unprecedented levels of reach, mobility, and brutality. Now, the ultimate nightmare is terrorists gaining access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the US capacity to meet the growing challenges posed by Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China continues to be stripped away by the SIG’s failed domestic policies.

The most devastating domestic policy failure continues. It is the dismantling of the US manufacturing base and the associated transfer of millions of American jobs to other countries, a decades-long process that is causing the disintegration of the American middle class and the further marginalization of the less advantaged Americans.

Iraq shows the SIGs’ power to create/modify US war-making and war-fighting policies without objective oversight.

By 2003, certain SIGs had generated overwhelming public support for the invasion of Iraq by using sophisticated information controls, including the public humiliation of dissenters, to capitalize on the American fears of WMD’s and Muslims. SIGs then used the public support as a justification to privatize significant DOD functions and to issue many extremely large and permissive contracts to their favored organizations.

Privatization and the implementing contracting program were major causes of US failures in Iraq. The lack of control over the contractors contributed to abusive practices that permanently alienated many Iraqis against the Americans and enabled waste and corruption that cost tens of billions of dollars.

Apparently because of its priority on privatization, the DOD ignored its basic responsibilities to the warfighters. For example, soldiers who tried to stop contractor abuses risked having their careers tarnished, if not destroyed.

Additionally, DOD’s failure to provide body and vehicle armor that US soldiers needed for protection against snipers and IEDs resulted in thousands of casualties. (The GAO reported, as of 2008, that about 75% of all combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were caused by IEDs.)

In 2003 and 2004, soldiers tried to protect themselves by installing hillbilly armor, mostly fashioned from scrap metal from local dumps, on their vehicles. After families of American soldiers began publicly protesting the DOD’s apparent disregard of the soldiers’ lives, the DOD began placing manufactured armor kits on Humvees and trucks.

That policy continued until May 2007 when the then-recently appointed Secretary Gates announced that DOD’s highest acquisition priority was to replace the up-armored Humvees with more protective MRAPs.

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