Get Ready for the Next War 

8/2/2010 12:00 AM 


Well, folks, you might legitimately wonder about the title of this piece given the fact that we are currently engaged in two shooting wars.  However, the war that title refers to is one that our nation fights over and over.  It is the battle of the defense budget and the heart of the issue is that old saying that goes something like “if you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it”.

I read with great interest a recent Washington Post opinion piece by Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  From the post-American Revolution era to post-Persian Gulf War era, he outlined the disastrous results of lawmakers cashing in on the “peace dividend”.

After each of America’s wars, the armed forces shrank and were consequently too few and too ill-equipped to fight the next war – and indeed, the smaller poorly-equipped troops seemed to invite the next foe to attack our weakened military force.

I have written the House and Senate leadership to remind them that reducing military manpower is not appropriate when the nation is fighting two wars. The Army of today, fighting two hot wars is smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War.   I believe the repeated deployments that this smaller force has endured contributes greatly to the increased suicide rate and the increased cases of post traumatic stress (PTSD) .  In my letter to the Hill, I stressed the need for additional money for research and treatment of TBI and PTSD - silent wounds that will affect Soldiers for a life time.  I suggested the best way to provide for our military personnel, who sacrifice so much for our freedom, would be to hold manpower levels steady and provide more medical care that addresses the psychological needs of our over-stretched military force.

I was very pleased to see that the first items addressed in the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee’s mark up of the fiscal 2011 defense appropriations bill were funding for end strength and additional money for research and care for TBI and PTSD. AUSA will fight to see that funding commitment carries through the entire funding process.

In the Max Boot article, he refers to a fact that we at AUSA have noted in our annual legislative resolutions for many years.  The defense budget is less than four percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.  Our nation, even in these fiscally challenging times, can afford to have a robust military force adequately manned and properly equipped. 

Indeed AUSA has advocated for a defense budget approaching five percent of the gross domestic product.  Our defense budget is affordable and a necessity.  The next war we must fight is against the historic trend to cut the budget in peaceful times.  History has shown that doing so inevitably leads a new foe to see the smaller force as an easy target and creates the conditions necessary for the next conflict.  Let’s break the chain of history and maintain a strong military force that will not encourage our enemies to test it.  Let’s win the next (budget) war now.