Non-Military Contributions to National Security.

Author:Freeman, Chas W., Jr.
Position:Commentary and Analysis - Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. - Reprint - Speech

March 2016

January 13, 2009, ANSER Conference Center, Washington, DC

It is a pleasure and honor to be here. I benefited greatly from the introductory remarks by Congressman Skelton and Andrew Hoehn. They have gotten this workshop off to an excellent start. What they said serves to remind us that the worst thing that one can do is to project our misunderstandings of the present into the future. Defense planners need to do better than that.

I mention this because there is, I believe, very little reason to assume that the future defense environment will resemble that with which we are familiar. Let me cite some examples.

The fiscal constraints on defense spending have already been mentioned. Andrew Hoehn was, I believe, correct to posit that the biggest trade-offs will not be between the services but between defense spending an other priorities. Of course, some--like Marty Feldstein--advocate what might be called military Keynesianism: spending on defense to provide high tech jobs and to inflate the defense industrial base. But that view is probably in a minority. The bigger question, since we have gotten into the habit of running our country on credit rollovers and our creditors are Arab and Chinese is why we should expect them to continue to lend us money to build weapons and develop capabilities intended to bully them? This is a question worth pondering.

In recent years, we have alienated allies, offended friends, and ignored our partners internationally. In military science, we are constantly told, logistics is everything. Given the unwillingness of many people abroad to be seen in our company these days, why should be assume that the alliances, bases, and access rights on which we depend for our status as a world power will continue to be there for us? It is not impossible to imagine that they will not be. This too is something we must consider and address.

Then there is the issue of new technologies to counter our ability to project power abroad. There has been much discussion, in this context, of the concept of a "peer competitor," which is a euphemism for "China." But China doesn't seem to be thinking of itself or behaving as a peer competitor. It has responded to the threat it perceives from our designation of it as such not by trying to match our capabilities and compete head-to-head with us like a peer but by exploring means of asymmetric warfare that can offset our military superiority. The result is an arms race between us in cyberspace and in outer space and the development of weapons systems that can take out aircraft carriers. The concept of peer competitor is a wonderful open-ended program driver for defense procurement but I, for one, am left to wonder whether it is a sound construct for defense planning.

Finally, we have the central lesson of 9/11, which we have so far seemed to miss. That is that if we bomb other peoples' homelands, they will find a means to bomb ours. We are no longer immune to reprisal. The perpetrators of 9/11 saw themselves as conducting a reprisal for our direct and indirect interventions in Muslim lands. We must face the fact that what we do to others can now be done to us.

But I was asked to talk about non-military contributions to national security, not these things. Let me turn to the topic that was assigned to me.

This meeting was convened to strengthen the QDR process, and this is the Military Operations Research Society. In this context, the topic of non-military contributions to defense is entirely appropriate. It is also timely, given the failure of purely military means to deliver security or accomplish US foreign policy objectives in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. SecDef Gates has been eloquent on the consequences for our national security and our...

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