Saturday, August 20, 2011

National Defense Reinvented

We spend more on defense than anything: The projected budget is over $1 trillion dollars for 2012 alone!

It's time to take a closer look at whether we'd get more cost-benefit by reallocating most of the defense spending to other initiatives such as medical and education research, reducing our debt, relieving gridlock, giving to the poor, and returning money to the millions of struggling taxpayers to pump back into the economy as each person sees fit.

For me, any purchase is justified mainly by its cost-benefit versus its opportunity cost. For example, the U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases around the world from Antigua to Turkey, staffed by 360,000 service members, costing many billions of dollars every year. I believe we must more rigorously assess, for each base, "How much would our safety be reduced if we eliminated that base or reduced it to just a handful of software-assisted human monitors. Would the benefit of reallocating that money elsewhere be worth that increase in risk?"

I predict that subjecting each defense spending item to that test would result in dramatically reduced military spending.

My vote for the most cost-effective defense expenditure? Expanded conversation with our enemies, including radical groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Of course, not everything is remediable with discussion. I believe that no conversations with Hitler would have deterred him wanting to dominate the world. But the risk/reward and cost/benefit ratios of conversation are excellent.

Large defense cuts wouldn't have been as (ahem) defensible in decades past. But today, much of the threat to our security is miniaturized: solo actor terrorists, compact weapons such as suitcase nukes, bioweapons, and old-fashioned remote-control triggered fertilizer bombs. Massive military bases, battleships, and aircraft bombers have minimal impact. Indeed, they often cause much collateral damage, not only to people and property but to our worldwide reputation. When one of our aerial bombs destroys even one innocent person or building (which is almost impossible to avoid,) our error, thanks to the Internet, becomes instant worldwide-disseminable propaganda that is used against us.

My proposed cost-benefit analysis would likely result in the military budget being reduced by more than half. That would leave hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the aforementioned more cost-beneficial initiatives, including reducing our debt. The latter, in itself, could improve our national security more than all the B-2 bombers.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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