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Urgent need: Missile and other defense

By Stephen M. Lilienthal
web posted April 3, 2006

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives, was correct to chastise Washington for failing to prioritize federal spending. Congress spends heavily upon education and housing and many other domestic programs that have no specific Constitutional basis. The Tenth Amendment, although somewhat honored in the breach, is clear that the powers not delegated by our Constitution are to be "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The Constitution specifically delegates to Congress the responsibility "To raise and support Armies…To provide and maintain a Navy." When Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) spoke at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year he voiced concern that our Armed Forces should receive the resources and support necessary to confront the challenges of this new century.

Senator Inhofe early in his speech on "Grading National Security" stated that the members of the Minority Party in Congress deserved failing grades as to ensuring America's protection. Citing the most recent voting record issued by the Center for Security Policy, Inhofe said Republicans in Congress had cast over 90 per cent of roll-call votes in accordance with the pro-national security position, Democrats only 25 per cent.

Inhofe stated that there was an under-investment in national security during the Clinton Presidency. The defense budget had declined dramatically. "So much of our forces were in logistics and support that we had become all tail and no teeth," explained Inhofe. Missile defense proposals were dismissed by the Clintonistas; the Clinton Administration actually granted permission to a United States company, Loral Space and Communications, to help China improve its guidance systems for missiles and satellites. "The special waiver from the President undermined 50 years of technology-export restrictions and strengthened China's missile program," Inhofe asserted.

Islamic terrorists have attacked the World Trade Center, bombed the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and attacked the USS Cole.

American intelligence capability declined during the Clinton years. Inadequate funding was a significant problem; even more was the lack of attention paid to our intelligence apparatus.

Developments are more positive under President George W. Bush. National defense spending represented 4.8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in 1992; by the end of the Clinton Era it had slipped to 3 per cent. Defense spending had risen to 3.9 per cent of GDP in 2004. The latest budget from the Bush Administration proposes a 7 per cent increase over the FY 2006 level of defense spending, an increase that will cover the costs of modernizing our military, increasing its readiness to respond, equipped with the latest technologies and equipment.

Not only has compensation for our military personnel been increased to reduce the chasm between civilian and military wages, housing allowances also have been upped.

The Army has been reorganizing itself to increase its readiness and capability to deploy quickly. The Navy has augmented its ability to deploy ships at sea by over 50 per cent and there has been more investment in spare parts to reduce time lost due to maintenance. The Air Force also has increased its maintenance capabilities.

President Bush has accelerated development of missile defense, a move that demonstrates foresight. North Korea and Iran are reported to be developing nuclear weapons and it would be folly for an administration to leave our country unprepared if one of those rogue countries or terrorists decided to aim a nuclear missile at us.

Most Americans think terrorism is still a distant threat despite last year's bombing in London and the recent unrest created by the Danish cartoon controversy. Equally serious problems now are relegated to the inner pages of national newspapers yet they threaten to erupt in the near future. Inhofe explored these problems, which are strong reasons why America must continue to place precedence on national security preparedness.

One problem is our porous border with Mexico. Not only is this an issue from the standpoint of unlawful immigration, it also can become a threat to national security. The Jamestown Foundation issued a report on December 2, 2005, "Radical Islam in Latin America." Its findings easily can be interpreted as an argument for stronger and more effective border security:

Given al-Qaida's documented successes in recruiting Muslim converts in Europe and the U.S. to its cause, many observers worry that Muslim converts in Latin America provide fertile ground for new recruits due to their perceived ability to circumvent travel restrictions and blend into Western cities more effectively.

This is a legitimate function of the Department of Homeland Security; the American military never has been organized to perform duties that are the purview of civilian law-enforcement agencies. The immigration debate that will take place in Congress should beef up our ability to patrol our borders. Enhanced, effective border security is of utmost importance.

North Korea and Iran continue to be rogue nations notably hostile to the United States and other Western democracies. Recently the Iranian President declared that Israel needed to be "wiped off the map." Both countries are intent upon developing their nuclear capabilities. Not only should their interest spur the United States to speed development of a missile defense system, it should also spur us to take the precautionary steps to prepare for an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. If an EMP attack occurred a nuclear device would be exploded in the atmosphere over the United States; the resulting high-energy shock waves would produce a crippling EMP to disable computers, vehicles and communications systems. Replacing copper cabling with fiber-optic cabling can help to lessen the debilitating impact of EMP.

China appears to have expansionist plans and to harbor a desire to monopolize valuable world resources, particularly energy. It is modernizing its own armed forces, apparently setting its sights on Taiwan. A Washington Post story (July 20, 2005) cited a Pentagon report warning that China was increasing its military spending well beyond the official figures and that the country's future course is unclear. Rand Corporation expert Evan Medeiros was less ambiguous about China's intention. Medeiros told The Post: "Without a doubt, the direction Chinese military modernization has taken in recent years absolutely represents a growing threat to the U.S."

Senator Inhofe argues that it would be prudent to devote even more resources to national defense. The FY 2007 proposed defense budget represents about 3.8 per cent of GDP. Five percent would ensure American troops are equipped adequately. America still produces high-quality equipment but it cannot be said that the quantity is always sufficient. Inhofe cites General John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, who cautions that advanced Russian fighters are now available for export and that some countries can combine avionics and weapons and airframes to approach, equal or surpass those used by our own fighters. Inhofe also worries that some other countries, including Russia, have superior artillery systems. We also must replace the many helicopters, trucks and tanks destroyed in Iraq.

No one wants a war to occur but Presidents Ronald W. Reagan, Harry S. Truman and others understood that the best guarantee of obtaining peace is preparedness. That lesson appears to be lost on many Members of Congress, concentrated on one side of the aisle. Sadly, the Party of Truman, John F. Kennedy and Richard B. Russell evidently has lost its way. Senator Inhofe cautioned that in a change of administrations it would be quite likely that "[w]hat happened to the military and national security in the 90s would happen again." The war in Iraq is, of course, open to question by conservatives as also by others. However, the showering of good dollars on bad technologies cannot be tolerated. Yet there is no sound reason for the United States to pull back from enhancing our national defense capabilities. National defense is a legitimate function of the Federal Government; furthermore, our nation confronts significant threats that could eviscerate our way of life. The well-being of our country depends upon a strong and vigorous national defense.

Stephen M. Lilienthal is a policy analyst at the Free Congress Foundation.


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