TCS Daily

Now's the Time for Action on Defense

By Ken Adelman - April 23, 2001 12:00 AM

Consider this "A Call for Action," after a pause for preparation.

Dramatic, hi-tech, and far-reaching reforms in national security must begin soon -- before the Bush Administration loses its momentum.

Its First 100 Days pushed a startling - though warmly welcomed -- conservative agenda. This was evident on Cabinet appointments, tax cut legislation, reversing midnight regulations, halting the Kyoto accord, and facing China smartly and boldly.

The conservative agenda was evident on everything, that is, except defense.

This is most peculiar, as candidate Bush was a fuzzy conservative on everything except defense. There, he was hard-nosed and tough-minded.

Hence in the Second 100 Days, the Bush Administration must push the conservative agenda across the river to the Pentagon. To do so takes the following elements:
  • More money. Defense supplementals are needed to raise the military's quality of life and increase the tempo for readiness. Further delays here are costly in terms of personnel, morale, and overall strength of our Armed Forces.
  • A Grand Concept. Some new overall criteria by which to evaluate new defense systems. Richard Perle told Defense Central (March 23rd) of his criteria:
  • Information systems which enable all Americans in combat to see what is happening across the battlefield, and
  • Weapons systems of great precision and thus lethality, which can be fired from places the enemy cannot hit - either out of range of enemy retaliation, or out of sight because of their stealth features. Advanced systems like the DD-21 new generation of destroyers or F-22 new generation of fighters meet such criteria. "These emerging technologies," Perle says, "give us opportunities to hit the targets most of the time so we can keep a safe distance."
  • Push for Missile Defense. Last, and perhaps most, the Bush Administration must advance its national missile defense program - harder now than had it done so from the beginning.
Conservative sages like George Will and Charles Krauthammer wanted George W. Bush to abrogate the ABM Treaty on his first day in office, perhaps even in his Inauguration Address.

Well, he didn't. Indeed, he hasn't really said or done anything much different from Clinton on ballistic missile defense.

This is strange, as it was the single national security item on which candidate Bush was clearest and sharpest in differences from the Gore-Clinton team. Ditto for Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz.

What should be done is clear:
  • Politically, work with Congressmen and Senators, interest groups and spokespersons to explain the full rationale for national missile defense, and how George W. Bush considers this his top priority and innovation in the national security realm;
  • Diplomatically, work with friends and Allies to inform them of this rationale and explain that, if they somehow cannot manage to support, then at least not publicly oppose, this program;
  • Legally, find a way out, around, or underneath the ABM Treaty so that the Pentagon research can proceed vigorously and competently;
  • Technically, decide which approach to ballistic missile defense would work best and soonest; then pursue this approach vigorously, stopping all the Clinton half-hearted programs cold;
  • Innovatively, work on missile defense programs with the Russians and - perhaps more promising - other Former Soviet Union states that believe themselves "successor nations" bound by the ABM Treaty.
For specific ideas on these points, stay tuned to Defense Central over the coming weeks.

For now, however, we issue A Call for Action.

We had been waiting for great advances and big changes in national security for eight years. Now it's eight years and 100 days.

The wait's long enough....

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