DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
November 22, 1994

TAMING THE MILITARY MONSTER BEFORE IT SENDS THE NATION TO THE POORHOUSE

Now that the 8 November "bloodbath" is over, there's much Republican talk the Pentagon's dollar scrimping days are over. Cash-starved defense contractors are chanting, "How sweet it is," while the four military services sharpen their knives, not for an enemy, but for one another's backs.

To reopen the Daddy Reagan warbucks' floodgate and let the defense greenbacks surge wildly again would be a mistake. Twenty cents of every tax dollar flows into the Pentagon's coffers, and almost a dime of that is wasted.

The USA is currently spending almost $300 billion dollars a year on guns and spies -- more than the rest of the world combined. A broke America is unable to afford another military spend-up for enemy threats that just don't exist.

Throwing more money at the Pentagon won't improve combat-readiness. Nor will it give America a bigger bang for the defense buck. Most of the dough will only be fed into a wasteful, pork-driven, obsolete military garbage disposal that lives by the military moneyocracy rules: bigger is better; preserve fat while cutting military muscle; and for more money, simply scream: "the bogeyman's coming."

Since Desert Storm, military personnel strength has been cut by 25 percent, yet the red-tapers -- the fat-cats in the Pentagon and other high headquarters -- haven't even seen the retrenchment knife. Blubber and bureaucracy don't pull triggers or buy bullets.

All four services fight for bigger roles and missions and none of their senior service civilians or uniformed brass give a damn about anything except getting still more bucks for their insatiable services. This has resulted in criminal deception, bloated organizations that have more tail than tooth and overlapping missions where each service does the same thing.

A few examples from hundreds of horror stories:

* There are four air arms -- the Army with it's gunships and the Navy, USAF and Marine Corps with all their flying machines. Each service provides Close Air Support aircraft to our front-line troops, and only a few hit the target.

* The Air Force is lobbying to have the Army and the Marine Corps booted out of the so-called "deep-battle-zones," leaving the behind-the-lines fighting to Navy and Air Force "Top Guns".

* The Army, Navy and Air Force are each spending billions of dollars and fighting each other hard to capture the Scud-busting theater air defense mission.

* The Army and Marine Corps are slugging it out and replicating each other to become the 911 reaction force for future Somalias, Haitis and Kuwaits.

Missions and hardware mean hefty budgets. Today's in-fighting over money is bringing out the worst from bitter rivals whose lack of unity contributed to the defeat in Vietnam, the humiliation of the Desert One raid and the tragic circus comedy of Grenada.

What's needed is not throwing more dough at a sick organization, but a bottom-up reform of the entire U.S. Armed Forces. A new outfit must be created composed of only one ground, one air and one naval component to not only put a stop to the bickering, but to enable our armed forces to fight and win our wars as one team, under one skipper.

The last time our defense apparatus got rewired was in the late 1940s when Harry Truman realigned our forces to fight the war they had just won. The waste and duplication from this unwieldy lash-up has wasted trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.

With Congressional Republican leadership taking charge, the bloated defense budget could be cut $100 billion a year in a heartbeat. A more streamlined organization would both greatly sharpen our forces' fighting ability and stop the hemorrhaging of our tax dollars.

Dick Army (R. Tex) while still a fledging congressman, came up with the brave and brilliant common-sense idea of closing unneeded, costly bases and then rammed it down the pork-addicted Congressional throat, saving vital defense dollars.

With similar, more far-reaching boldness, Mr. Army, the likely majority leader, should strike again and initiate a congressional campaign to kick our military into the 21st century. He could spearhead the creation of the lean, mean, single-service machine we need, one that will defend the USA in a troubled, post-Soviet world without breaking the USA's bank.