The United States spends $711 billion on defense spending every year—more than three times the spending of China, the country with the second-highest budget for defense. This isn’t new spending, either; the United States has a long history of dumping huge amounts of money into the defense budget. After years of pouring money into military spending, the public could reasonably assume that the United States has one of the, if not the most, advanced militaries in the world. However, this is far from the truth—other countries are beginning to attach less and less of a deterrence factor to the U.S. armed forces.
Changing Definition Of War
For many years, the U.S. military spent money on bulking up defense forces for a traditional war: land armed forces, new and improved equipment. In 2013, though, it is time to face the facts. We don’t need to continue preparing for a land invasion. Our enemies are no longer launching wars that we can fight by landing 1,000 troops on foreign soil. Instead, we are fighting wars that require a strong and adaptable naval presence, flexible forces, and most importantly, a military command that is focused more on adapting to strategies of the opponent than preserving traditional priorities and strategies.
Vietnam sent a harsh lesson home with our troops: we were not prepared for non-traditional warfare. More than thirty years later, Iraq and Afghanistan have required U.S. presence far longer than our leaders originally thought necessary—again, because we were unprepared to fight a war on enemy soil where our enemies were not charging across the battlefield at us. Our military has to learn to adapt to fight back against guerilla fighters and insurgents or be left behind in a changing definition of war.
The U.S. military continues to sustain over 750 military bases around the world, including bases in Germany, Italy, Greenland, Spain, and the Netherlands. These are just a few of the countries that have no military conflict, yet the United States has one or more military bases there. Maintaining and staffing each of these military bases in a time where traditional conceptions of land war are unlikely at best is an enormous military expenditure that yields little concrete benefit. These bases do not serve even the most basic purposes: they are not a deterrent. The most feared and useful U.S. units currently deployed are small, flexible units with quick response times. The Department of Defense should be growing smaller and more responsive units rather than increasing permanent base presence.
Additionally, the U.S. continues to bulk up on permanent deployments in countries where there is conflict but where traditional Army units are not the best way to respond to violence. Fighting groups like AQAP and the Taliban with large, bureaucracy-laden units is a strategy doomed to failure. Smaller forces will enable our military to do their jobs properly, track our enemies efficiently, and put an end to the insurgency. As insurgents begin to operate in more and more locales and as civil unrest grows throughout the Middle East, it is also unsustainable to deploy an Iraqi-style invasion in each country in question. Smaller units are absolutely critical to a U.S. military that plays a significant role in our defense.
Areas For Improvement
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was a staunch proponent of moving the U.S. military forward. The most significant way that the U.S. military needs to change is to substantially update its technology and equipment. Newer, more efficient technology will mean that the U.S. can cease using and maintaining much of the equipment it currently needs, as well as closing many unnecessary bases. Our military is still using aircraft from twenty to forty years ago, not to mention other large-scale equipment dating back at least fifteen years. Think about how much technology has changed in the last fifteen years. Back then, you weren’t getting the newest cell phone on the market—odds are, you had no cell phone; you were still using a landline. If you need the Internet, you had a large, chunky machine that moved much slower than machines today. Of course, we are not talking about getting better cell phones and Internet access for the military; but in a decade that has held so many technological advances, our military cannot afford to be stuck in the past.
There are so many areas in which the U.S. military needs to catch up to its competitors that it is tough to pinpoint a specific area in which to focus these efforts. However, one obvious area they should focus their efforts on is establishing the most stable communications systems possible. Many of the worst decisions made by military commanders are due to lack of information. In high-combat areas, information that is even a day or two old can pose a significant setback to military leaders, as the entire layout of a dangerous situation may have changed. Our military forces use smartphones and 4G networks at home, yet they are left with outdated radio technology when we send them off to war.
Outdated information, equipment, and strategies are potentially a lot more dangerous than they might seem at first glance. Outdated information could lead to bombings of civilian areas in the Middle East. The loss of life that is a result of those bombings is out shadowed only by the backlash against U.S. anti-terror efforts that will likely result. Outdated equipment forces each of our soldiers to face additional and unnecessary risk every time they are deployed. Should a military enemy pinpoint such a weakness, our troops would be easy prey. The sure consequence of a failure to carry out a massive overhaul and update our technology and our strategy is a military that cannot compete with those around it, no matter how much money we throw at the problem.
©2013 Off the Grid News