- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is conducting the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), has apparently concluded that it would cost too much money to transform our military and properly fund the U.S. armed forces to be prepared to fight and win two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts, or MRCs post-Cold War global war-fighting requirements that were first delineated in 1993 and reiterated in the 1997 QDR. That conclusion is wrong.
Such a policy would continue the unacceptable Clintonian underfunding of the military's war-fighting capabilities. Moreover, it would introduce an arguably highly unstable period during which America's inability to simultaneously engage in hostilities in two different theaters could unintentionally invite the very hostilities that the dual MRC strategy was intended to deter. As Frederick W. Kagan, who teaches history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, cogently argues in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, "One of the most dangerous things we can do is create a window during which it will be relatively safe to attack our interests, and after which it will be impossible . Instead, we must maintain our armed forces and our global commitment even as we transform our forces."
To be sure, Mr. Kagan's prescription will not come cheaply. But that is not to say it is unaffordable. The United States the world's only superpower, an enviable position well worth paying a moderate price to ensure indefinitely is an extremely wealthy nation. But America has spent the past decade living off the military assets that were rebuilt during the Reagan administration. Those were also the assets that performed so superbly during the Gulf War. Afterward, however, those same military assets, which included not only the war-fighting weapons but also the esprit de corps and the operational readiness of the armed forces, were permitted to markedly deteriorate during the Clinton years. As Mr. Rumsfled himself said yesterday, "The coasting went on too long."
Indeed, the share of America's total economic output allocated to national defense plunged from a moderate 4.8 percent in 1992 which was less than half the proportionate resources defense commanded during President Eisenhower's second term, during which America engaged in not a single MRC to less than 3 percent in 2001, the lowest level since the year before Pearl Harbor. Allocating between 3.5 percent and 4 percent of economic output to national defense would permit the United States to both fund its dual MRC strategy in the near term and to revolutionize its armed forces for the long term. That is an affordable price for deterrence. The price America will pay if deterrence fails a development far more likely if deterrence isn't funded will be far greater.

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