Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Bill Carr on the Military Draft

Bill Carr is assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, serving as the Deputy Under Secretary in charge of Military Personnel Policy since August 2002. Here, he answers a caller's question on the military draft which he opposes reinstating.

If you want to end American military adventurism, you reinstate the draft. Keep the all volunteer army and our Empire will keep going and going until it bankrupts us.

Germany, by the way, still has a military draft and is currently debating whether to end it. We, on the other hand, should be having a debate over one and over the military in general but for whatever reason we'd much rather cut Social Security and Medicare. If Social Security is a milk cow with 310 million teats, then the US military is one bloated sacred bull goring the fiscal condition of the country.

Secretary Gates Aims to Cut the Growth of Military Spending

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Monday deep cuts to the rate of growth of military spending as the nation enters a period of belt tightening. The cuts include closing a major military command, restricting the use of outside contractors and reducing the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces and are aimed at offsetting the growth of military spending.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Gates said he had ordered a 10 percent reduction in spending on contractors who provide support services to the military, including intelligence-related contracts, and placed a freeze on the number of workers in the office of the secretary of defense, other Pentagon supervisory agencies and the headquarters of the military’s combat commands.

Mr. Gates, who has been promising to cut the Pentagon’s day-to-day budget in order to meet the continuing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of tight fiscal constraints and mounting domestic spending, placed a cap on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian positions across the Pentagon and the military. He said the Defense Department should try to cut at least 50 general and admiral posts and 150 senior civilian positions over the next two years.

The most pronounced change, in terms of the number of jobs to be eliminated in one blow, was his plan to close the military’s Joint Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va.

The command includes about 2,800 military and civilian positions supported by 3,000 contractors at an annual cost of $240 million. Its responsibilities, which includes programs to force the armed services to work together on the battlefield, will be reassigned, mostly to the military’s Joint Staff.

While large headquarters have been combined and realigned over the years, Pentagon officials could not recall a time in recent history when a major command was shut down and vanished off the books.

Still the cuts outlined by Secretary Gates do not represent an actual decline in year-to-year total spending. The Pentagon’s budget will keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are not included.

Mr. Gates is calling for the Pentagon’s budget to keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the war. It has averaged an inflation-adjusted growth rate of 7 percent a year over the last decade (nearly 12 percent a year without adjusting for inflation), including the costs of the wars. So far, Mr. Obama has asked Congress for an increase in total spending next year of 2.2 percent, to $708 billion — 6.1 percent higher than the peak under the Bush administration.

Mr. Gates is arguing that if the Pentagon budget is allowed to keep growing by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings in the department’s bureaucracy to reinvest in the military — and that will be sufficient to meet national security needs. In one of the paradoxes of Washington budget battles, Mr. Gates, even as he tries to forestall deeper cuts, is trying to kill weapons programs he says the military does not need over the objections of members of Congress who want to protect jobs.

Over all, Mr. Gates has ordered the armed services and the Pentagon’s agencies to find $100 billion in spending cuts and efficiencies over the next five years: $7 billion for 2012, growing to $37 billion annually by 2016.

At the moment, the administration projects that the Pentagon’s base budget and the extra war spending will peak at $708 billion in the coming fiscal year, though analysts say it is likely that the Pentagon will then need at least $30 billion more in supplemental war financing.

Any takers on a bet that Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol will call these proposals irresponsible?

Just to throw a few hard numbers at you but US military spending now accounts for 4.7 percent of US GDP. During the Bush Administration, US military spending average 3.5 percent of GDP. Before the 9/11 attacks, US military spending was just 2.9 percent of GDP. Military spending last topped 4 percent of GDP in 1991 during the First Gulf War and in the closing hours of the Cold War.

The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the United States share of the global GDP is about 21 percent. Still it is likely that conservative analysts from the Heritage Foundation will rant and rave about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consuming 8.7 percent of GDP.

The Wrong Time to Block Aid to Afghanistan

On Monday, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) announced she would not support foreign aid for Afghanistan until she was assured that the Afghan government had put an end to corruption.

"I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists," said Lowey, who heads the House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. Lowey was responding to recent reports that more than $1 billion a year are flowing out of Afghanistan to elite Afghans outside the country, and that Afghan authorities have derailed corruption investigations of politically powerful Afghans.

Lowey's statement is an understandable expression of frustration. But cutting off foreign aid now is absolutely the wrong approach for the United States to take in Afghanistan.

After several visits to Afghanistan in the last few years, Human Rights First issued recommendations to the Obama administration last year specifically recommending that the United States help train Afghan investigators on evidence collection and documentation and help Afghan prosecutors provide fair prosecutions. Current plans do just that, in addition to working with Afghan officials on improving their own detention facilities and their judiciary.

Lowey's frustration is understandable, not only because of the Washington Post's recent news stories, but also because of this report prepared for the State Department last year that reviewed a broad range of Afghan institutions and concluded that corruption is rampant and growing. Not surprisingly, thirty years of war has undermined the development of reliable and legitimate institutions, and of a judicial system able to keep corruption in check. But to keep Afghanistan from returning to Taliban rule or simply descending into chaos, the United States has an obligation to help the Afghan government develop and enforce laws that reduce corruption and improve government transparency. Given the recent reports that Afghanistan has some $3 trillion worth of natural resources it's eager to exploit, transparency will be critical to make sure the proceeds of those riches don't just get shipped out of Afghanistan like the billion dollars a year flying out of there now.

Although our NATO allies should and will be helping in this effort, the necessary "nation-building" isn't going to happen unless the United States commits to funding carefully-targeted programs designed to improve governance and reduce corruption. Continued funding can be made contingent on the acceptance and participation of Afghan leaders and institutions with this anti-corruption agenda.

Lowey is right that US aid to Afghanistan should be spent wisely, and not indirectly fund warlordsto provide security or corrupt officials to spread as graft. But the State Department and the military's Joint Task Force in charge of detention facilities in Afghanistan are just beginning their work to improve local government enough to allow the U.S. military to transition out of there. Cutting off the funding that will allow that to happen would not only undermine the development of legitimate government institutions in Afghanistan, but would make the United States' goal of eventually leaving the country that much more elusive.



The War Within - A Look at the Rise of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the US Military

The cost of the American Empire is not just measured in financial terms and in opportunity cost, our Empire exacts a punishing human toll.

Psychiatrists estimate that one in three US soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The film, The War Within, addresses the US army's Human Resources dilemma and features the stories of those who have had to come to terms with the physical and psychological wounds suffered from fighting a war that is increasingly unpopular here at home and around the world.

Here are a few facts and figures:

The military suicide rate for 2009 was the highest level among soldiers since the Pentagon began tracking it three decades ago. Suicides among active US soldiers in 2009 rose for the fifth year in a row.

In 2009, more US soldiers killed themselves than were killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. At least 334 members of the military services have committed suicide in 2009, compared with 297 killed in Afghanistan and 144 who died in Iraq.

In 2008, the Army suicide rate surpassed that for civilians for the first time since the Vietnam War and it is continuing to rise. Roughly 20.2 of every 100,000 soldiers killed themselves. The civilian rate for 2006, the most recent figure available, was 19.2 when adjusted to match the demographics.

In 2009, the Army had 211 of the 334 suicides, while the Navy had 47, the Air Force had 34 and the Marine Corps (active duty only) had 42.

A Pentagon study revealed that 10% of the returning soldiers met the military's criteria for PTSD.

The New England Journal of Medicine studied four combat units and found that 17% of Iraq war veterans and 11% of Afghanistan war veterans suffered from PTSD. In addition, 25% of returning soldiers were drinking excessively.

A study by the RAND Corporation revealed that 20% of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from PTSD or severe depression; sadly, only about 50% of these veterans will get the treatment they need.

An older study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that only 20% of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who test positive for combat related stress disorders are actually referred by the Pentagon for mental health treatment.

On average, 18 US Veterans commit suicide each day. Veterans account for one in five suicides in the United States even though veterans account for only 8 percent of the US population.


There's more...

The Chucktatorship Comes To West Point

On November 10th, the conservative uber-nationalist Chuck Norris visited West Point. In front of a raucous crowd of Army cadets, Chuck Norris delivered his oft-repeated line that "America isn't a democracy, but a Chucktatorship." The cadets eat it up a hooting and a hollering. Mr. Norris then talks about lining up members of Congress and picking out the dishonest ones and "choking them." He then brings up Speaker Pelosi.

Watch it:

It is disturbing that the future Officer Corps of the US Army would celebrate the choking of any member of Congress. As Megan Foley notes, Mr. Norris' rhetoric "bolsters an antidemocratic formulation of American nationalism."

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