Defending America
David Hackworth
29 April 1997


Dear Mr. President:

In 52 years of hanging around soldiers, I have seldom seen the cutting edge of our fighting forces so dull, nor morale lower. The last time things got so bad was during the Vietnam War.

This gutting of American arms has happened on your watch and it's not because there's not enough money. Since Desert Storm, combat effectiveness has gone down hill like an out of control freight train even though we now spend 18 cents of every taxpayer dollar on defense.

The $300 billion a year we spend on war-fighting and intelligence is more than adequate, especially when you consider that our forces today are 30 percent smaller than they were in 1991 and that the Soviet Union is dead.

If you divide all these defense dollars by the number of true warriors -- those who actually engage in combat -- our forces are getting more money per head in 1997 than during the most dangerous period of the cold war.

I know you have never served, nor have any of your close civilian advisors, so it would be only natural for you to believe what you're told by the Chairman of the JCS, General John Shalikashvili.

It could be, Mr. President that you have fallen for the propaganda from a general who's become part of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex and has long forgotten what happens down in the trenches.

If Shali were still in touch and abiding by his oath, he would be screaming: WE ARE NO LONGER GOOD TO GO.

I suggest you assemble Shali and your service chiefs and ask them the

following questions:

Why are there more colonels than machine gunners in the US Army?

Why are there 150,000 military personnel hunkered down around Washington DC when infantry platoons, who close with the enemy, are uniformly 30 to 40 percent under strength?

Why does NATO have 44 U.S. Army generals in Europe when we have but four fighting brigades there? This is roughly one general per rifle/tank company.

Why do the top general and admiral in NATO have plush villas and fat staffs which require millions of dollars per year to support while many of our warriors live in tin trailers and can't make it without food stamps?

Why do we have a national strategy which calls for our forces to be able to fight two Desert Storm-like wars simultaneously when we can't handle even one?

Why are we buying more high tech aircraft such as F-22 jet fighters, which alone will cost over 64 billion bucks and more missiles, helicopters, submarines, and ships, when the soldiers who fight on the ground are still packing essentially the same gear their dad's toted in Vietnam?

Why is our warriors' chemical protection/detection gear totally inadequate? Didn't we learn from the Gulf War?

Why are pilots, young ground combat leaders and old salt NCOs quitting in unparalleled numbers?

The truth is that our defense dollars don't go to the right places. Instead, we buy weapons and other exotic hardware, which is good for the porkers and their pals, but bad for our country and the warriors that defend it.

The Pentagon spends too much money on blubber and not enough to muscle up its fighters. Fat higher headquarters and a bloated officers' corps that's at least 50 percent larger than needed steal resources from our line units.

Our tooth-to-tail ratio is so bad that we'll be wearing dentures to our next war. Sure we have 1.4 million military personnel on the books, but we have only 29,000 trigger pullers -- the indispensable rifleman who put holes in enemy soldiers.

Your politically correct civilian defense chiefs have eviscerated our force with their constant politicking, treating the profession of arms as though it were an 8 to 5 operation like the Post Office, rather than one whose life and death mission is to defend America.

I have a suggestion for you, Mr. President. Once you have heard your chiefs' replies, call in USMC General John Sheehan and bounce their answers off him. He's a four star who runs the Atlantic Command, the kind of warrior leader who would make a great Chairman of the JCS. But standby for the hard truth.

The end