Tough Choices for Military, Political Leaders.

Author:Carlisle, Hawk

* The strategic environment has changed drastically since the Soviet Union's fall and the rise of China. Our current National Security Strategy accurately defines the threats we face in emerging great power competition, as well as the steps needed to protect the nation. The dilemma, of course, is current operations to fight violent extremist organizations continue. So, moving forward, we have some very tough choices to make.

Making these choices requires us to accept some basic truths. First, our economy is foundational to our national power. Our deficit and debt threaten the economy and, therefore, national security. Entitlements and interest on the debt are the primary drivers of deficit spending, not the defense or domestic discretionary budgets.

Second, since World War II--and to an even greater extent since the end of the Cold War--the United States has served as the primary guarantor of world peace and security, creating conditions allowing prosperity to flourish in the United States and around the globe. If we withdraw from current engagements, China, Russia and other bad actors will fill the vacuum to the detriment of U.S. strategic interests.

Finally, as the military transforms while simultaneously trying to control defense spending, we encounter a natural tension between the defense industry that must produce shareholder value with acceptable profit margin and the government that wants to maximize capability and capacity with every taxpayer dollar.

The first step is determining whether the nation can muster the political will to address entitlements. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic. I think political leaders are capable of crafting tax reform, health care reform and continuing to grow the economy, which are all necessary to protect our economic strength. However, the current lack of bipartisanship threatens the ability to deliver real, required policy change on entitlements. I simply don't see the political will to address this challenge to eliminate deficit spending and tackle long-term debt.

Absent political will, the Defense Department will see flat budgets with decreasing purchasing power due to inflation and rising personnel costs. This truth drives the department to make tough choices about priorities and risk, with clear articulation of where we will lead the world and what we will no longer do to make resources available for fielding required world class capabilities.

We must continue to lead in partnerships and...

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