Reasonable Defense: A Sustainable Approach to Securing the Nation

By Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives

Notes made by Russ Faure-Brac

This report proposes how the current US military structure can be made less expensive and more appropriate to today’s challenges. It is not a vision of world without war, but rather a way to fight fewer wars less expensively. This is the kind of initial step that might be taken on a course to eventually change the mission of the military away from force and domination.

  1. The principal challenge we currently face is not military in nature, but economic. By 2050 the global constellation of economic power will be as different from today’s as today’s is from that of 1920.
  1. How to Reset Our Defense
    1. Prioritize those threats that pose the greatest danger: the spread of nuclear weapons and the potential for terrorist attack. Reduce our conventional war-fighting capabilities.
  1. Emphasize those capabilities proven to work most cost-effectively: intelligence gathering, cooperative police work, and special operations.
  1. Don’t fight terrorism by means of a “global counterinsurgency campaign” or by coercive nation building. The US, in partnership with others, can help facilitate nation building, but it cannot compel it.
  1. Reduce our permanent military presence overseas and size our military for crisis-response “surge” requirements – not for routinely “policing” the world or maintaining today’s high level of permanent peacetime presence overseas.
  1. Adopt a more cooperative approach with other counties to meet “common security” challenges, such as mitigating regional instability and strengthening security in weakly governed areas. Our central objective should be the development of global and regional institutions on which real cooperation depends, a task that falls principally to the State Department, not Defense.
  1. Limit and reorient Strategic Defense efforts, which have produced no promise of a reliable shield against strategic attack.
  1. Implication for force size and disposition (numbers from 2011)
    1. Reduce the total number of military personnel from 1.4 million to 1.15 million; reduce the number deployed abroad from 190,000 to 115,000; and increase Special Forces from 66,000 to 70,000.
  1. Reduce the US Navy battle fleet 21% from the planned 290 to 230 ships, including 9 aircraft carriers (down from 11).
  1. Reduce the planned number of US fighter and bomber aircraft by 11% from a planned level of 3,300 to 2,900.
  1. Reduce the number of warheads on launchers from 1,970 to 900.
  1. Reduce production of the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to only 250 aircraft.

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