Science/Tech Security

How to Finally Stop Pissing Away US Defense Dollars

Mahanth S. Joishy is EDITOR

armytimes.com

As a US citizen who cares about safety, I believe in a robust and more importantly, effective US national security establishment, that successfully defends the United States from foreign and domestic threats. When that establishment fails time and again, despite spending our hard-earned dollars like a drunken sailor, things are catastrophically broken. This week Biden signed off on the whopping $768B defense policy bill, most of which will go to the Pentagon. Let me repeat that. $768B. Year after year, win or lose, success or failure, Democrat or Republican, we keep funding the Pentagon at yet higher levels without raising accountability or expectations appropriately. So what exactly does all that unfathomable and frankly indefensible level of spending buy us?

No doubt, our all-volunteer corps of troops are awesome and do whatever they are told to do. This isn’t about them, but the policymakers overseeing our defense, and that’s what this screed is about. A sizable chunk of American workers’ paychecks is earmarked for that gargantuan defense budget. We are simultaneously the customers of, and investors in, this chaotic enterprise, so we should demand more. Let’s do a quick, high-level catalog of how the US military has failed us just in very recent times at their one and only job, which is keeping us safe from the bad guys out there:

  • Not detecting and destroying the 9/11 hijacker plot despite having billions of dollars’ worth of US military bases all over the goddam Middle East in 2001 and for many decades prior to that
  • Botched and bloody quasi-colonialist imperialism in both Iraq and Afghanistan for 20 years in response to the above 9/11 botch- botching the botch with another long botch
  • Not detecting and destroying a violent, organized, planned, and predictable terrorist insurrection on the US Congress on January 6th, 2021
  • Not detecting and destroying a constant string of low-budget foreign cyber-warfare attacks, including the heavy infiltration of the 2016 US election by Putin and his Russian hackers hoping to help the Trump campaign win. Putin gouged us lovely on that one! It would be an admirable operation if he wasn’t the bad guy. In fact, I would call cyber defense the biggest weakness of our bumbling and bloated military machine.
  • Riding our fancy gas-guzzling military toys– tanks, airplanes, naval carrier groups, Humvees, submarines, and rockets that blast our planet into irreversible climate change with unmitigated and unaccounted for fossil fuel burning all over the planet every minute of every day. How exactly does roasting our planet make us all safer, again?
  • Here’s the biggest failure of the US military of all, perhaps in US history, one that has resulted in the deaths of 1 million Americans and counting. Failing to form a shield against COVID-19 for the American people, a highly predictable, highly predicted, and not even entirely unique version of a contagious airborne virus. Besides not doing their job to shield Americans from this deadly foreign threat, despite many billions of dollars in funding specifically earmarked for biological threats, the US response has been a calamitous disaster unworthy of a dirt-poor third world nation. The military should have taken charge of this damn pandemic here and abroad, with soldiers at the front line of surveillance, testing, PPE, and vaccinations- all of which continue to be failures entering 2022. Despite unlimited resources, the US national security establishment supposedly hasn’t even been able to figure out how the pandemic started, from where, and if it was zoonotic or man-made. I simply cannot believe that. So let’s let the dumbfuck conspiracy theorists all over the Internet fill in the blanks for all of us instead, so many more people can just die, because Uncle Sam sure as hell ain’t on the job!

To be fair, in 2020 we had the worst so-called Commander in Chief in American history at the worst possible time. But the rot goes much deeper than that, as we saw during the embarrassing pullout of Afghanistan. To be fair, most of the US government’s alphabet soup agencies tasked with important ancillary duties when it comes to our safety- FBI, CIA, DEA, CDC, NIH, NSC, FEMA, etc. all failed alongside their friends at the Pentagon on all of the above counts, and more- despite the billions of dollars in their own pockets.

Imagine you were a stockholder in a company who took all your money and just pissed it away like this. Who is ready for the US government to stop pissing away our hard-earned tax dollars sometime soon, and instead actually start being effective at keeping us safe? If you raised your hand, read on for some simple solutions I’d like you to beta-test by running them by the offices of all your political representatives, as I will in January 2022:

  1. Create a new military branch called the United States Cyber Force and fund it with $100B annually. Foreign governments, criminal organizations, terrorists, and rogues of various types are attacking American public and private infrastructure on a daily basis. It could be bank accounts, it could be a gas pipeline, it could be the water utility, a retail giant, or it could be the White House itself getting hacked. Let me ask you something. Who is responsible and accountable for preventing these critical attacks- and hitting those bastards back where it really hurts? Homeland Security? The NSA? The CIA? The Air Force Cyber Command? The FBI? The Army? If everyone is responsible, and everyone keeps getting our billions without consequence, nobody is responsible. You can’t fire someone for doing a bad job if they weren’t told they were responsible for the job. So we keep getting licked. We keep buying 20th century relics like big planes and submarines and rockets instead, such woefully outdated fossils that will not win us the next war, which is very obviously going to be fought in cyberspace/AI battlefields. The answer? Take $100B and focus it on cyber-warfare only- and create a new military branch for it. (shameless plug: for those interested in this topic please stay tuned for my futuristic techno-thriller novel coming out soon)
  2. Spend another $200B on green military technology NOW. Let’s wean our military machine off the overflowing teat of the fossil fuel industry- in more ways than one. In case you haven’t made the connection, Mother Oil’s Teats are the reason we have American military bases all over the Middle East and other parts of the world- to protect the oil wells and the air and sea lanes that make up the arteries of oil flow we need to feed our insatiable fossil fuel addiction. This loop of foolishness is complete when we have giant air, sea, and land vessels used by the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard that suck down billions of gallons and billions of dollars of oil just to operate the whole rig. And then subsidize the fossil fuel industry with even more billions of taxpayer dollars, just for kicks. Yes, the system is rigged. Imagine electric propulsion tanks and fighter jets, missiles powered by algae, and US soldiers consuming about half as much meat while they are on duty. All of this is coming at some point anyway somewhere in the world, so why not us. And no worries military/industrial complex, there is a GAZILLION dollars to be made in the green revolution, that will give the US military a huge leg up on the competition. So why aren’t we doing it right now? Besides the fact that we are led by a bunch of idiots living in the past?
  3. Beef up our education system for the future, interconnected world with another $100B of Pentagon pork. This one digs a bit deeper to the root level, as there is a facet of American life even more pathetic and broken than the Pentagon, and that is the US education system. Because our Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) curricula at all levels of education is so weak in comparison to our rivals, there is no way the US will maintain its pole position in the coming years when it comes to national security, despite having enjoyed a 20th century fortress protected by two oceans and two friendly neighbor countries for a while. Viruses both biological and virtual, know no boundaries as we are finding out these days the hard way. Another educational trick we can learn from India: teach foreign languages beginning in elementary school, when it is easy to learn multiple languages at a time, instead of trying to shove Spanish or French down the throats of middle schoolers and high schoolers when it’s muy beaucoup too late. Also in elementary school onwards, make annual foreign study abroad trips of at least one week, mandatory. Americans have no idea what is going on around the world, and that starts with our inadequate social studies curricula. Our boys and girls from Arkansas and New York alike all need to learn what life is like in places like Mexico or Denmark, at a young age and on an annual basis. Perhaps we might actually be equipped to defend ourselves if we had some STEM and foreign language and culture knowledge; maybe we might even be able to run a functional political system too if our adults learned a smidgen of Logic in school. Maybe we’d stop invading countries halfway around the world we know absolutely nothing about. Clearly most Americans wouldn’t know what logic was if it sat on their faces, but we could fix that with some money and effort.

And that’s all, folks. The United States defense establishment would be an unstoppable force for the next 100 years, while military contractors would get even richer than they are now, if we started trying to prepare for the 21st century instead of fighting the battles of the 20th century year after year, budget after budget, like an aging boxer who’s gotten hit in the head one too many times.

It’s time to transform ourselves into a leaner, meaner fighting machine, or get out of the damn ring. It’s time to seize the mantles of global leadership on cyber-warfare, on “green” warfare, and on educating our youth to understand there’s actually a big, cool, and interesting world of people and places outside America’s borders that aren’t just threats but in fact, opportunities.

Winning the future of defense is not about having the best toys in the toy closet, which we already do, though that won’t win the future or prevent us from falling harder than the Romans did.

It’s about having a chess set and knowing how to play with it.

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