Modernization, Not Money, is the Key to America’s Survival
For two generations, our national security systems have decayed while our opponents have modernized their own. Our national security culture and systems must modernize so we can survive and keep peace in the world.
We are missing some fundamental realities that threaten American survival.
Our national security systems are obsolete. Our domestic systems are bloated and self-serving. Our bureaucracies are slow, cumbersome, and avoid accountability.
Bureaucratism has replaced professionalism. Process and activity have replaced achievement and success.
Because our systems cannot succeed, they become expert at avoiding responsibility and denying the reality of failure. They self-protect. Between the bureaucracies, ideologies, and lobbyists, it is virtually impossible to seriously challenge the decay and dishonesty which pervades all our key institutions of survival.
Simply shoring up inefficiencies in the budget is putting a Band-aid on a gaping wound. When systems are broken, dumping more money into them only leads to more expensive failures. The current bureaucratic structures are not up to the task. We’re flooding money into sieves. Money runs in, and money runs out. We are no safer as our opponents begin to push ahead.
We must ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent on achieving results or yielding a return on investment. But it is even more important that we are seeking the right results – and investing in the future, not the past.
This is not a new phenomenon.
In 1939, virtually every major naval leader argued for bigger battleships in response to increasingly dangerous air power at sea. It took the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor to get the battleship clique to begin to realize air power was the future.
As late as the 1940s, the U.S. Army Calvary Division bureaucracy argued that we needed to buy more horse trailers for the battlefield so the cavalry’s horses could be fresh when they charged German tanks. (In response, Gen. George Marshall retired the head of the cavalry and disbanded the division.)
In recent years, the U.S. Air Force bitterly opposed the creation of the U.S. Space Force – despite having no intention or plans to develop a human space program.
Virtually every element of American survival must be addressed. Goals must be defined so they can be measured. Our national security culture and systems must modernize so we can survive and keep peace in the world (these two goals are mutually inclusive).
The Pentagon is the largest, most expensive center of bureaucratism, red tape, and lack of accountability. (Much of the inefficiency is mandated by congressional laws and regulations which need to be rethought from the ground up). There are many other institutions and systems in the national security sector which must be replaced rather than reformed.
This emphasis on replacement rather than reform is vital because it communicates the scale of change that will be required for America to survive.
And there are plenty of non-defense examples that are equally important to our survival.
There are 18 intelligence agencies. All were profoundly wrong about the Taliban’s ability to take Afghanistan and the rate of Russian progress in Ukraine. There appears to be no serious effort to investigate what went wrong and what needs to change to have more effective, accurate, and reliable intelligence.
Almost every big city has schools in which no students perform at grade level. This is a function of ideology, unionization, and bureaucracy. These school systems spend huge amounts of money. Baltimore City spends more than $23,000 per student and has 23 schools in which no students are proficient in math. New York City is in a similar boat and plans to spend $38,000 per student next year – with no stated measures of improvement in student achievement. Adding money to failing schools does not educate children. Without a transformation in our educational achievements, we can’t possibly compete in the world that is emerging.
The State Department’s bureaucratic structure and Ivory Tower culture make it impossible for the United States to match the Chinese diplomatic offensive around the world. The Chinese Communist Party has methodically used its economic strength to build a series of partnerships that steadily weaken the United States around the world. While the Chinese Communists have increased their presence around the Panama Canal, the United States went for four and a half years without an ambassador there. (It has been almost three years since we have had an ambassador to Italy). Adding money to the current State Department will increase the dysfunction. Only dramatic reforms – and a fundamental reorientation of the foreign service culture – will enable the United States to successfully compete with China for influence around the world.
For two generations, our systems have decayed while our opponents have modernized their own. They have done so without our immutable civil service system, congressionally mandated layers of micromanagement and legalese, and the lobbying world’s desperate defense of incompetence and obsolescence.
The news media has contributed to the decay of American institutions and systems. The corporate media have given up being serious forums for real problems. Harry and Meghan got far more coverage in the last year than the collapse of American schools. President Donald Trump’s various legal difficulties have gotten far more coverage than the Pentagon and State Department failures to compete with China. Sensationalism regularly defeats seriousness in the constant search for clicks. The citizens are amused as the Republic decays.
House Republicans have an opportunity to develop modernization as a way of solving a wide range of problems and achieving great things. If they get bound up in myopic fights over spending levels, they will fail.
As a nation, we must avoid the traditional ideological battles and focus on what needs to be done for America to survive.