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Trump Admin Has Opportunity to Rebuild Military, Shrink Bloated Government

This post originally appeared in CNS News, co-authored by Allen West. “Washington D.C. is all about politics, policy and procedure. The Department of Defense receives plenty of political and policy attention, but few care to look at the procedures. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t raise campaign funds. But that is precisely what needs fixing. The incoming Trump administration needs to begin shifting the defense budget away from baseline budgeting to a zero-based budgeting model.

Defense advisors recently voiced plans to rebuild the military with reallocated funds earned by cutting bureaucracy and wasteful spending within the DoD. But American Enterprise Institute defense analyst Mackenzie Eaglen rightly calls this plan a fantasy. There is simply not enough fraud, waste and abuse to yield the $55 to $60 billion per year in new money needed for Trump’s ambitious reinvestment plans, she argues. This historically inadequate snark-hunt approach to the budget process too often defines how elected officials try to balance a budget.

Zero-based budgeting is an alternative system proven to decrease expenditures and improve efficiency within private sector companies and public institutions. This budget method identifies wasteful spending and helps purge unnecessary expenses by obligating each department to justify its proposed spending each and every year. This method automatically eliminates the practice of carrying over the budget from the previous year. And that’s important since the current baseline budgeting system requires the government to set the previous year’s spending as the starting point for the next year’s budget.

Under the current system, preparers assume all of the same programs and operating procedures, and only adjust the following year’s expenditures to account for actual spending in the current year, inflation and population growth. Since inflation and population growth are almost always positive, the budget almost always rises.

This automatic carryover of expenses under baseline budgeting actually encourages spending. Defense officials regularly exhaust their funds in a period known as “use it or lose it” so as to ensure they do not lose money in future budgets. Researchers found that federal procurement spending was five times higher in the last week of the fiscal year than the weekly average for the rest of the year, and the quality of the projects was scored well below average.

Zero-based budgeting, while initially time-consuming, has saved large corporations 10 percent to 25 percent, according to independent studies. And those savings are more sustainable over a longer period than traditional cost reduction methods, such as lower level workforce reduction and outsourcing. If the DoD achieved just a 10 percent savings over the entire organization, those savings would amount to $53 billion.

The zero-based budgeting model could be tested within the DoD by applying it first to the bloated bureaucracy. The growth in civilian and staff numbers continues to exceed what is necessary, while the number of general and flag officers positions has increased disproportionately to the personnel they oversee:

  • Roughly 2,000 GFOs oversaw 12 million military personnel in 1945.
  • Now, nearly 900 GFOs oversee 1.3 million active duty personnel.
  • In fact, over the past 30 years, the military’s end-strength deployable/fieldable forces has decreased 38 percent, but the ratio of four-star officers to the overall force has increased by 65 percent.

A 10 percent cut among general and flag officers and their staffs alone could save nearly $11.5 billion over 5 years.

Now critics will say that other sectors of government should be forced to adopt such a procedure. And we agree. But a successful annual or even biannual implementation in the DoD first would provide the bipartisan incentive necessary for officials to adopt the process elsewhere. After all, imagine the impact of a stringent budget process that required all government agencies to justify everything they spend. The annual requirement to defend each and every expenditure as necessary and worthwhile would cause an agency like the EPA to collapse under the weight of its own uselessness.

The traditional government budgeting system is simply not working. Zero-based budgeting could specifically help refocus defense priorities by ensuring money is spent in areas that promote readiness. A biannual application may also improve the outcome. Successful implementation in the DoD would encourage Congress to target other departments of government that would have a difficult time justifying their existence.

Based on a recently released NCPA study “A New Budgeting Approach for the Defense Department.”

When Citizens Threaten the Establishment

This originally appeared in Townhall: “The outcome of this presidential election will not change the fact that the United States is experiencing an internal Thucydides Trap – a reference to how the emerging power of Athens struck fear in the heart of the established power in Sparta, sparking the ancient Peloponnesian War.

According to Gallup polling, trust in government to do the right thing “all or most of the time” has reached its lowest point in more than 50 years. The increasingly informed American public is an emerging power that threatens the establishment.

This is not a tax inspired, tea-in-the-harbor routine. No, this situation is a result of political elites — a mosaic of Republican and Democrat bureaucrats, media clingers and financiers — taking for granted the security of the United States, and then trying to hide it from the governed.

Elites and their hangers-on have worked tirelessly to insulate themselves from the consequences of the big government they champion. Meanwhile, they tell average Americans that exorbitant spending, unabashed federal overreach and legislative manipulation, while frustrating, were acceptable shortcomings of a modern bureaucracy. Cultural overlords excused it all as competing visions of America’s future.

Somewhere along the lines, emboldened elitists have shifted to actions that undermine national security. And they haven’t tried to explain it away as with taxes, education or healthcare. They’ve tried to hide it.

Political elites admitted, for instance, that governments cannot effectively vet thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees. No matter, they simply try to insulate themselves from the impact. The Daily Caller confirmed that 112 of the 121 Syrian refugees resettled in Virginia ended up in the state’s poorest communities. The counties of the highest means received nine. Peggy Noonan calls this the “top detaching itself from the bottom.”

Ben Rhodes privately confessed that the Iran nuclear deal was a bad one. John Podesta agreed that it condemned “the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf.” Naturally, they went on to congratulate fellow elitists for their expert pageantry in selling such a terrible idea. In other words, they measured success by the creativity it took to approve a horrible something, rather than scuttling the horrible something. Yes, the same could be said for the Omnibus Bill and Obamacare. But the difference here is that officials privately acknowledged a solution posed a long-term threat to national security and still fought for it.

The administration used the cover of darkness to deliver $1.7 billion in foreign currency (an illegal technique known as money laundering) to pay the greatest state sponsor of terror for the release of U.S. prisoners. They told the American public it had to do with an outstanding debt from decades ago, but only after the deed was uncovered. Now Loretta Lynch, the country’s chief law enforcement official, has chosen to “effectively plead the Fifth” when faced with questions from congress.

Hillary Clinton’s email scandal epitomizes the establishment’s complete disregard for the security of the country. The pattern of contempt for protocol is alarming; even more so when one considers that she was fourth in the presidential line of succession as Secretary of State. Those actions prove her instinct for choosing personal priorities over national ones.

Those are just the highlights. The establishment went from an entrenched power that fought to guard the American system so it could selfishly benefit from it to a group that acts unconcerned with the system’s survival. The American public went from suspecting the political elite of corruption to knowing it.

Ayn Rand declared a society doomedwhen you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors…when your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you.” The establishment will fight. It might even offer token remedies. But those will amount to very little as the political class continues to undermine the country’s safety. The American public should begin by demanding innovative security solutions all purposed at yanking power back from the establishment:

  • Restructure centralized classification systems so as to limit federal power and allow for intelligence to flow directly to state and local law enforcement officials.
  • Position military assets at choke points of national interest rather than spread haphazardly throughout the globe. This would decrease defense costs, focus U.S. efforts on real threats and limit the establishment’s ability to manipulate the armed forces for its own agenda.
  • Make continental defense a priority by encouraging states to protect critical infrastructure like the electric grid. This action would proactively guard the nation and encourage greater state authority.

The conflict inherent in the Thucydides Trap can be avoided but it requires major change.”

Response to the Presidential Debate – Nation’s Security at Risk or Not?

The second debate helped clarify how each candidate sees the world at this moment, which ironically added to the confusion of truth that has overtaken this election cycle. Mr. Trump described a country and a world that seems to be falling apart. Secretary Clinton offered a differing view, one where improvement could be realized with some modifications and collaboration. Much like the first presidential debate, one candidate defined a system that is in serious need of change – the other considered existing policies and government strategy as something in which to build on, requiring slight adjustments to maximize outcome. In other words, Mr. Trump believes the country is headed in the wrong direction – Secretary Clinton disagrees.

If national security is any indication of truth, Mr. Trump’s perspective appears to be closer to reality.

The email controversy once again met a generally unrepentant Secretary Clinton. She flatly denied even those facts to which the FBI Director testified. Her willingness to challenge those truths on such a big stage should be seen as a symptom of a larger problem: how political elites refuse to believe their actions take for granted the security of the United States. That theme continued with immigration when Secretary Clinton suggested her administration could and would effectively vet thousands of additional Syrian refugees. That surge is not sympathy – that’s untenable and dangerous. Our government has proven, from healthcare to the economy, that it simply does not have the capacity to manage such a consequential operation. Secretary Clinton closed the loop on this theme by naming the Iran Deal and work with Russia on nuclear material as successes that prove her ability to address Syria. Those conclusions were either knowingly untruthful or frighteningly naïve. In fact, the situation in Syria may be unrecoverable because of her decisions while with the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, a plan to defeat global jihadism remained elusive.  Both simply chose to focus on other matters. And the moderators’ recent obsession over Aleppo strikes me as curious. The questions which echoed the vice presidential debate imply that America must now get involved. A frustrating development since few in the media demanded action from the Obama administration when it could have potentially prevented the ongoing tragedy. The issue reminds of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill when he extolled the House of Commons for dithering in the face of Nazi military build-up. “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.”

But we did finally see some separation in strategy over the Middle East, wherein Secretary Clinton called for increased focus on Syria, particularly human rights investigations into Russian aggression, and Mr. Trump said the United States must focus on the Islamic State. Both ideas seemed reasonable and easily digestible for voters.

The highlight of the night, however, came when Mr. Trump essentially said America must know its enemy first and foremost in regards to terrorism. This point is a critical one we at the NCPA have called for in partnership with Lt. General Michael Flynn (ret.) in our Foxnews article. Secretary Clinton’s muddled and stale response about accepting people – “not all Muslims are bad” routine — proved his point and her own inability to be honest about the threat. She should be reminded that naming the enemy actually clarifies things, it doesn’t confuse them.

The lack of comments on the state of our military, despite the litany of foreign policy solutions each wanted to implement, remained the most glaring omission. It will be difficult to achieve any of their objectives with the readiness crisis facing U.S. armed forces.

In the end, both proved to have completely different views of the world as it stands. Americans must decide with which reality they agree.

Experts Respond to Vice Presidential Debate

Allen West said:

“What I heard from this Vice Presidential debate in the area of foreign policy and national security is one side that was delusional. Furthermore, there was not enough conversation on the critical issue of our security and the restoration of our military.

There is no Iranian nuclear agreement; every aspect has been violated. Also, Hillary Clinton has stated she will not deploy any American troops into Iraq or Syria. President Obama has deployed 6,000 already, after dismissing military leadership recommendations to keep a residual force. The most savage and barbaric Islamic terrorist organization was reconstituted. That threat has not decreased; even the Director of National Intelligence has stated so, and the Director of the FBI has evidenced concern about domestic jihadism. There has been an immense increase of Islamic terrorism under the presidency of Barack Obama. Also, Hillary Clinton supported the destabilization of Libya, now a terrorist sanctuary and base of operations.”

David Grantham writes:

“The vice presidential debate proved to be one of measurable national security ideas. Both men took advantage of opportunities to elaborate on their running mates’ respective foreign policy strategy. Overall, we heard a promise of more government from Senator Kaine and a plea for less of it from Governor Pence. Both urged a strong U.S. global presence, although they defined strength differently. Both aimed for an improved military through different means. The major problem for Senator Kaine is explaining how that can be achieved with his simultaneous increase in domestic spending.

More precisely, the ideas presented defined each potential administration. Both seemed to agree on a version of protection in Syria – humanitarian areas and no-fly zones. Kaine wanted to extend the current administration’s largely failing ISIS strategy, while Pence suggested a more aggressive approach. Kaine even championed an ‘intelligence surge,’ defined as increased cooperation with allies and the hiring of more people – unfortunately that requires even more growth in government and more spending. Our work at the NCPA has shown that the government spends enough – it’s the wisdom behind the strategy that’s lacking. Perhaps the most egregious claims came with the ‘success’ of the Iran deal, the decrease in terrorism ‘in some ways’ and the reset with Russia, all touted as achievements by Kaine. Each one is demonstrably false, and to be counted as successes sounded naive and dishonest.”

Cyber Threats to the Texas Electric Grid

“Texas plays a unique role in America’s infrastructure as the only state with a self-contained electric grid. The entire U.S. electric power system is a prime target of cyberattacks from hostile governments and terrorist organizations, but the Lone Star State is in a unique position to act.

The Consequences of a Vulnerable Grid. The Northeast blackout in 2003 left nearly 55 million residents of the United States and Canada temporarily without power. Crews traced the cause to a software error at a utility control room in Ohio and restored power after two days to most of those affected. But the blackout disrupted transportation in many areas, cut off city water in several locations, and hampered emergency services. Experts attributed 10 deaths to the blackout, which cost more than $10 billion.

Remember: For many, this blackout only lasted a few days. And there was no significant damage to sensitive infrastructure. However:

  • Any serious injury to important power equipment could create a blackout lasting for at least one year “given the nation’s current state of unpreparedness,” argues Peter Pry, a former executive of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
  • The Obama administration remains “unwilling to empower competent authorities to combat the adversaries within the grid environment,” according to the assessment of George Cotter, the founding director of Department of Defense Computer Security Center.
  • The Pentagon’s current information security strategy is nothing more than “patch and pray,” said Arati Prabhakar, the Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in 2015.”

To continue reading, click here.

Part Two – Discussing global terrorism with General Michael Flynn

Part Two of my discussion with Lt. General Michael Flynn regarding the threat of global terrorism.

You can view the interview here.

You can view Part One here: 

How Defense Dollars Are Wasted on Security Assistance

“The House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would give the Pentagon greater control over security assistance to other countries — oversight now generally reserved to the State Department. A larger issue than the administration of funds, however, is that current security assistance programs are ineffective and often undermine American security.

In July 2016, the president announced that 8,400 American troops would remain in Afghanistan. A few days later, he announced the deployment of an additional 560 U.S. troops to Iraq. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) reminded the president that the added deployments were not funded under the current budget. Defense dollars channeled to ineffective security assistance programs –‒ a centerpiece of Obama administration defense policy –‒ could instead be used to fund these deployments.

Indeed, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that “it remains unclear whether building the capacity of foreign security forces is an effective way to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives.”

Read the full report here.

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn visits the NCPA

I had the distinct honor of sitting down with Lt. General Michael Flynn recently to discuss the threat of global terrorism during his recent visit to the National Center for Policy Analysis.

You can view the interview here: 

Is the Air Force seriously talking about another plane?

A recent DefenseNews article recounts ongoing discussions about how the Air Force would achieve air superiority by 2030 and outlines the newest ideas regarding Air Force platforms. The piece reminds me of discussions I encountered years ago. When I was on active duty, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General John Jumper always stressed that our branch would never aim for parity in warfare — meaning, the Air Force would always strive to outpace our adversaries in both technology and strategy. I appreciated the unrelenting push for excellence. And Brig. General Alexus Grynkewich appears to have some worthwhile arguments for a 2030 platform, which I will address momentarily.

Unfortunately, the current quagmire with the F-35 and the move away from the F-22 has created enormous skepticism about future aircraft – and rightfully so. Trotting out news that the Air Force is already pushing ideas for new aircraft will undoubtedly frustrate readers already puzzled by the current situation of cost overruns and meaningless deadlines.

The F-35/F-22 problems stem from an instance where influencers essentially told the government what the military “needed” and the government agreed. After all, Lockheed — a solid and reputable company, to be sure — earned contracts for the F-22 and F-35. That’s quite a feat. The military has since had to push back on several stupid congressional ideas as a result of those contracts, such as the goal of retiring the A-10. Fellow NCPA blogger Chris Wiley explains here why the retirement of the A-10 would be a tactical and strategic mistake.

The problems have now compounded. The F-22 is an American-only aircraft. It has an incredible array of capabilities and was ready to use until the Pentagon halted its manufacturing. In comparison, the F-35 is spread between Air Force, Navy and Marines AND 12 different countries. It has become the European Union of aircraft: slow to service, incredibly expensive and responds to setbacks with demands for more money. In concept, the F-35 was unmatched. In reality, it is a flying computer that no general officer in their right mind would fly in Close Air Support (CAS) like an A-10, lest it get shot down by a cheap jihadi rocket. This thing is so technologically advanced and so expensive, few will risk using it.

The Air Force has moved the way of the cell phone, where everything anyone could need can be found in one platform. That is good for consumer-driven technology and very bad for warfare. You never want all your eggs-in-one-basket.  That’s why I find Gen. Grynkewich’s comments about the next fighter a bit more palatable than I had expected.

The general mentions this newest idea may not be a fighter and makes convincing arguments for changing the nomenclature from “sixth” generation fighter to “next” generation fighter. “You start to have an argument over what does ‘sixth gen’ mean. Does it have laser beams, is it hypersonic? What is it? What does it look like? That’s not a useful conversation,” he explained. “The more useful conversation is, what are the key attributes we need in order to gain and maintain air superiority in 2030?”

According to him, the United States gains and maintains air superiority in 2030 by focusing primarily on range and payload. He explains any future platform would have to be responsive to probable areas of future engagement, such as the Pacific theater. For that reason, increased payload and the ability to overcome the “tyranny of distance” remain so crucial. This is an important distinction since the F-35 responds to “whiz-bang” technologies, rather than mission.

I am not completely sold on moving into yet another discussion about aircraft. But the Pentagon must remain forward-thinking, despite past decisions. And it seems like the discussion is headed in the right direction.

How New Cold World Order Threatens Humanity

This originally appeared in Townhall:

“An ancient proverb says, ‘When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.’

By now you have seen the heart-wrenching video of a 5-year old Syrian child pulled from the rubble of a house destroyed during another indiscriminate bombing campaign over the city of Aleppo. No tears. No wailing. He sits there unflinching, caked in soot and a face half-covered in blood from a nasty gash atop his head.

It’s hard to stomach as a human. Nearly unwatchable as a father.

While many remain deeply divided over how America should respond to the growing number of atrocities, the same audience seethes at knowing this evil is up against a routinely unprepared and seemingly impotent U.S. administration. The greater concentration of power in the hands of those cold to human suffering may bring the world to a humanitarian tipping point.

The tyrannical cooperation between Iran and Russia, and now perhaps Turkey, is shaping up to Biblical proportions. The dictatorial instincts of those invested in this three-way marriage of convenience and their collective disregard for innocent life when it stands in the way of their insatiable thirst for power serves to affirm the United States as the last great hope for human flourishing. Warts and all, America still stands as the counterweight to the inevitable despotism that overwhelms the world in its absence.

Yet, this critical moment in international history elicits little more than a soundbite from the current administration while it passes from the fairway to the green. World leaders are now disinclined to consult the United States. Instead, they begrudgingly phone Putin, believing him to be the de-facto maestro of world events.

Russian warships carrying Kalibr cruise missiles are gathering in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. Media outlets report 40,000 Russian troops, tanks and armored vehicles amassed along the Ukrainian border. The administration and NATO feel 4,000 troops to the Baltic States and Poland adequately serves as a “trip wire” against Russian aggression. A force that RAND analysts say would be overrun in 60 hours.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to assist Syria in its heartless war against dissidents. And Iran quite literally reconfigured runways and hangers so that Russia could relocate aircraft to a resident base. This marks the first time since Iran’s 1979 revolution that a foreign military has used the Islamic Republic to launch attacks elsewhere.

The U.S. government’s claim that the revelation took them by surprise leaves Americans to wonder if leadership honestly missed such a visible military maneuver or whether leaders are hiding the truth. There’s no other option. It all comes just as the White House admitted that the $400 million cash payment to Iran was essentially ransom. The habitual I-confess-because-you-caught-me routine is maddening.

The Turkish president’s snuggling up to Putin in the wake of his crackdown in Turkey could be perhaps the most frightening element of all. A NATO member pulls closer to the very country that inspired the organization’s creation. The same NATO ally cut power to U.S. airbases during the alleged coup without cause, leaving operations and facilities without adequate electrically for weeks; 1,500 U.S. airmen stationed at Incirlik Air Base remain quarantined.

At the time, all the administration could muster was a public pronouncement for the Turkish public to recognize Erdogan as their leader. Now the administration is allegedly moving tactical nuclear weapons stockpiled at Incirlik into Europe, presumably over fears of Erdogan’s next move with Russia. But again, the administration says things are under control.

To borrow from Michael Corleone, “Can’t you give me a straight answer anymore?!?”

The strategic alignment among three major powers who share a disdain for liberty and a disregard for human suffering creates a remarkable bloc of authoritarianism. The next president will hold one of the worst hands ever dealt an incoming administration. But a comprehensive and imaginative strategy that treats traditional areas non-traditionally would be a good first step.

For instance, help draw U.S. allies into an unprecedented alliance against the emerging group, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Also, begin to treat traditional criminal enterprises as national security concerns. The illicit market of goods, whether drugs, pirated movies or looted antiquities, funds everything from the Russian economy to terrorist organizations. Likewise, emphasize the use of financial strategists and analysts to follow the money.

View the cyber threat as one capable of physical injury rather than primarily data manipulation. Employ strategies that presume malicious codes contain physically destructive capabilities. Finally, return to a greater reliance on human intelligence. One co-opted person in the right place can literally change the course of world events.

This isn’t a call for war. It’s more like a prediction that America will eventually have to confront the emerging Cold World Order or succumb to its barbarism.”