Gen. Abizaid on our deficient defense budget
Along with former Defense Secretary William Perry, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, of Gardnerville, who commanded U.S. forces in the volatile Middle East, co-authored a recent bipartisan report titled “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future.” About 10 days ago Gen. Abizaid summarized provocative report for members of Ty Cobb’s National Security Forum in Reno.
Operating as the National Defense Panel (NDP), Perry, Abizaid and eight additional defense and national security experts from both major parties were tasked with critiquing the Obama administration’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
“We believe that the Armed Forces of the United States will in the near future be at high risk of NOT being able to accomplish the National Defense Strategy,” the Panel’s strongly worded report concluded. Abizaid added “our current and potential allies and adversaries … question our commitment and resolve” because of a shrinking Defense Department budget and diminishing military readiness. Other conclusions reached by the bipartisan NDP follow:
“An America less capable of global leadership will soon become a poorer America less capable of meeting its other federal priorities” and “an international order favoring American interests and values … is not simply self-generating and self-sustaining.”
“We are concerned that the Joint Force envisioned in the QDR may not be robust enough to meet (military) challenges within an acceptable margin of risk.
“We are concerned that the threat of Islamic terrorism is higher today than it was on Sept. 10, 2001. The war against al-Qaida and like-minded extremists is not over.”
“Congress and the president should repeal the Budget Control Act (which includes the so-called “sequester”) immediately … and return to the funding levels proposed in the 2012 defense budget.”
The NDP report doesn’t mince words when it comes to the continued threat of Islamic terrorism, even going so far as to recognize we’re engaged in a War on Terror. This isn’t a right-wing document designed to scare the administration and American taxpayers; rather, it’s an honest, objective look at whether the current defense budget is adequate to permit our military to repel threats to homeland security. The Panel’s, and Gen. Abizaid’s, resounding conclusion: No it isn’t.
The highly respected general told the National Security Forum our current force structure is inadequate to deal with growing threats, including Islamic terrorism, Chinese cyber and maritime aggressiveness, North Korean bellicosity, Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq. Abizaid and his bipartisan panel also recommended pursuing a “two-war” strategy, meaning American forces must be able to prosecute a major war while coping with several other serious threats simultaneously.
Abizaid and the panel recognizes it won’t be easy to restore cuts to the Defense Department budget, but it argues increased expenditures are necessary to maintain adequate force levels and readiness. “Without a robust, ready and forward-deployed military, the U.S. will not long retain leadership … of the (current) international order so vital to American security and prosperity,” the report concluded.
Abizaid argued any reasonable review will find the Navy and Air Force should be larger than they are today and the QDR’s contemplated reduction in active Army strength goes too far. Reading between the lines, the report co-authored by Abizaid and Perry, a Democrat, is a searing indictment of the Obama administration’s timid approach to military force levels and readiness around the globe. Washington policymakers and Congress should take this report seriously if they really intend to defeat ISIS/ISIL and other major threats to U.S. national security, as President Obama has vowed.
Guy W. Farmer is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer.