February 27, 2014

President George Washington on Strength and Security

Following publication of my preceding post about the root challenges to our national security, a friend reminded me of George Washington's "Farewell Address" written "To the people of the United States" in September of 1796, in which he announced he would not seek a third term as President. Among his many wise cautions and loving encouragements, I thought this one stood out as especially germane to our current situation:
"As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear."
Our government, and us as individuals too, would be well served to follow his advice.

February 26, 2014

Our True National Security Problem

A short piece about the current debate on funding for national defense.

Dakota Wood, February 26, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

It seems that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has become Washington’s newest whipping boy, drawing the ire of nearly everyone who might in any way have an interest in national security. No sooner did he complete his preview of the FY15 Defense Budget than critics pounced with an eye-watering zeal. Most have argued that his recommended cuts to our military will fatally compromise America’s security while others feel the cuts weren’t deep enough given the end of our two long-running wars. And some have noted the lack of an accompanying defense strategy (apparently forgetting last year’s Strategic Choices and Management Review Report (SCMR) and the soon to be released 2014 Quadrennial Defense Report) that would have provided a context for how the smaller force will be employed to protect our security interests. Frankly, while the various criticisms have merit in their particulars they largely miss the mark in addressing the root problem: the institutional irresponsibility of both Congress and the White House in the gross mismanagement of our national finances with the consequence that our government is on the verge of failing to provide for the security of our Nation.

The Secretary provided a rather blunt, though carefully worded, assessment of the various challenges confronting the Department of Defense: growing levels of uncertainty in world affairs, worsening of the threat environment, and the increased levels of risk the U.S. will need to accept as our military forces shrink. He pointedly noted that “the abrupt spending cuts…imposed on DOD” were so severe that we would reap a force “not capable of fulfilling assigned missions,” indeed resulting in an Army, for example, having the capacity to address only a single major contingency. In spite of any presumed efficiencies to be gained through consolidation, reform, and reduction, a smaller and less resourced force will be able to do less and will have a difficult time succeeding in a world where “American [military] dominance…can no longer be taken for granted.”

Hagel would have better served the country by flatly stating that the mindless cuts agreed to by both the Congress and the White House have put this Nation at unacceptable risk; the budget he should have announced should have been the one he held in reserve, the one fully constrained by sequester-level funding. As is, his wishful budget, premised on additional funding to be negotiated between Congress and the White House, will likely convey the false notion that our soon-to-be-hobbled military will be able to adequately defend U.S. security interests.

Sadly, neither the Administration nor Congress appears to have it within them to address the primary challenge that actually confronts our Nation: out-of-control deficit spending driven almost exclusively by a national public entitlements program that is relentlessly compromising the security and long-term viability of the United States.

Members of Congress have already pushed back against every recommendation made by Hagel to address the impending implosion of our defense establishment driven by sequester-constrained funding. Taken in their entirety, these protests collectively prevent any change to defense spending even though it was Congress itself that imposed such reductions in the first place! Does no one remember the stunning failure of the “supercommittee” in 2011 or the fact that the President vowed to veto any effort by Congress to repeal their mindless handiwork?

Various efficiencies can certainly be found throughout the Department and the Pentagon should aggressively root out waste and unnecessary redundancies so that it exercises the most responsible stewardship of the resources America provides it. But it must be adequately funded to provide for the effective and relevant defense of our country as we have previously addressed in A Strong National Defense and The Measure of a Superpower and in the just released 2014 Defense Reform Handbook.

In essence, the proposed Defense budget actually serves as a stinging indictment of the callous disregard this Administration and much of Congress has for the long-term well-being of the country. The fact of the matter is this: our national financial problems derive from the insidious welfare and entitlement state that both entities have helped to create, sustain, and expand. The bulk of our spending resides in the non-discretionary accounts that both political parties and both branches of government are loath to address. As a consequence, the security of our country is being sacrificed to pay the cost of Congressional and Executive Branch fecklessness, intransigence, shortsightedness, and political grandstanding. The Obama Administration has shown in its own national defense budget that it cares more about committing American taxpayers to greater indebtedness than keeping our country safe and our interests protected and Congress is a fully willing accomplice. Something is certainly needed to impose on Congress the fiscal discipline that it seems unable to summon on its own. Whatever that is, its focus should be on correcting the real problem of expanded entitlements and rampant deficit spending, not on abrogating the one responsibility only the Federal government can fulfill.

Personal Security

This is far afield from the material I normally post here but it's just so good that I wanted to share. Penned by a close friend of mine who works in the security field, it is great advice that I hope you share with everyone you care about.
On occasion I get asked to help individuals, missionaries, churches or other groups develop personal security plans for foreign travel or daily life. This is always something that I love to help out with. I was helping somebody out earlier this week and just thought I would share a few things that I point out to people when they are stateside (Be careful applying these things overseas as cultures ...and security situations are different):

1. Know where the police stations are in the area you live and travel in. If you ever feel that you are being followed, pull into the parking lot and lay on the horn.

2. If you are heading out into a parking lot at night, stop at the door of the building that you are leaving and take a look around. If something doesn’t feel right turn around and go back inside.

3. When you have kids with you, stop and look around before you get in the car. The bad guys like unsuspecting prey and when you take the time to look around you are showing them that you are aware of what is going on. It will also tell you if someone is paying unusual attention to you and yours.

4. If you are attacked for any reason, make your stand right there. If you are taken away from the site of the original attack your chances of survival drop by about 90%.

5. Someone should always know where you are. It is like hiking, if they know where you are and when to expect you back they will know to miss you and where to start looking. Having the Find Iphone or equivalent app on your phone is a great way to be safe. It means someone can find you and that you can set off an alarm on someone else’s phone to alert them.

6. If something does not feel right, leave. We are the only animal on the planet that has a fight or flight instinct and then talks ourselves out of it. God gave you those instincts. Listen to them.

7. Don’t flash cash unintentionally. These days there are a lot of people who want it and are more than happy to take yours. Whenever you pay for something in cash or purchase anything over $75 and then head to your car, make sure that you are aware of anyone who might be following you.

8. Don’t ever let your gas tank get to empty (I’m horrible at this). Put a piece of tape over you fuel gauge to where you can’t read anything under ¼ tank. Make this your new empty.

9. Ladies: Be careful how you dress. Fair or not, if you are dressing to accentuate certain features you do not get to choose the quality of people that notice.

10. Guys: Turn the other cheek. Be humble and avoid confrontation. You never know what the other person is bringing to the argument. Not everybody plays by your rules.

Security is something that we should all be aware of because whether we like it or not we live in a fallen world and Satan does not play nice. So often I hear people say that God will protect them. I understand the sentiment but God also calls us to be good stewards of what he has given us, including our lives and that of our children. Back when I was growing up and traveling to Africa I picked up a phrase that put it a different way ”God will not let you die until he is done using you but remember that he can powerfully use people with a colostomy bag.” The implication was clear, be bold but don’t be stupid. It’s a bit harsh but it gets the point across. Good intention do not automatically guarantee good results. Be smart. Be shrewd. Use the instincts that God has given you. He equipped us all for life. Make sure you are using all your equipment.