Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How big of a stick is too big?

I'm not a university professor, or any sort of acknowledged expert in the area of foreign affairs or defense spending, but I still would gladly have added my signature to the open letter below that the real experts recently sent to Obama's deficit commission:

"Dear Co-chairman Bowles and Co-chairman Simpson:

We are writing to you as experts in national security and defense economics to convey our views on the national security implications of the Commission's work and especially the need for achieving responsible reductions in military spending. In this regard, we appreciate the initiative you have taken in your 10 November 2010 draft proposal to the Commission. It begins a necessary process of serious reflection, debate, and action.

The vitality of our economy is the cornerstone of our nation's strength. We share the Commission's desire to bring our financial house into order. Doing so is not merely a question of economics. Reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative.

To date, the Obama administration has exempted the Defense Department from any budget reductions. This is short-sighted: It makes it more difficult to accomplish the task of restoring our economic strength, which is the underpinning of our military power.

As the rest of the nation labors to reduce its debt burden, the current plan is to boost the base DOD budget by 10 percent in real terms over the next decade. This would come on top of the nearly 52 percent real increase in base military spending since 1998. (When war costs are included the increase has been much greater: 95 percent.)

We appreciate Secretary Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon's business and acquisition practices. However, even if his reforms fulfill their promise, the current plan does not translate them into budgetary savings that contribute to solving our deficit problem. Their explicit aim is to free funds for other uses inside the Pentagon. This is not good enough.

Granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

We need not put our economic power at risk in this way. Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The defense budget can bear significant reduction without compromising our essential security.

We recognize that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

We can achieve greater defense economy today in several ways, all of which we urge you to consider seriously. We need to be more realistic in the goals we set for our armed forces and more selective in our choices regarding their use abroad. We should focus our military on core security goals and on those current and emerging threats that most directly affect us.

We also need to be more judicious in our choice of security instruments when dealing with international challenges. Our armed forces are a uniquely expensive asset and for some tasks no other instrument will do. For many challenges, however, the military is not the most cost-effective choice. We can achieve greater efficiency today without diminishing our security by better discriminating between vital, desirable, and unnecessary military missions and capabilities.

There is a variety of specific options that would produce savings, some of which we describe below. The important point, however, is a firm commitment to seek savings through a reassessment of our defense strategy, our global posture, and our means of producing and managing military power.

Since the end of the Cold War, we have required our military to prepare for and conduct more types of missions in more places around the world. The Pentagon's task list now includes not only preventive war, regime change, and nation building, but also vague efforts to "shape the strategic environment" and stem the emergence of threats. It is time to prune some of these missions and restore an emphasis on defense and deterrence.

U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.

America's permanent peacetime military presence abroad is largely a legacy of the Cold War. It can be reduced without undermining the essential security of the United States or its allies.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the limits of military power. Avoiding these types of operation globally would allow us to roll back the recent increase in the size of our Army and Marine Corps.

The Pentagon's acquisition process has repeatedly failed, routinely delivering weapons and equipment late, over cost, and less capable than promised. Some of the most expensive systems correspond to threats that are least prominent today and unlikely to regain prominence soon. In these cases, savings can be safely realized by cancelling, delaying, or reducing procurement or by seeking less costly alternatives.

Recent efforts to reform Defense Department financial management and acquisition practices must be strengthened. And we must impose budget discipline to trim service redundancies and streamline command, support systems, and infrastructure.

Change along these lines is bound to be controversial. Budget reductions are never easy - no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests. We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use.


Gordon Adams, American University
Robert Art, Brandeis University
Deborah Avant, UC Irvine
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Linda Bilmes, Kennedy School, Harvard University
Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University and Boston Review
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Owen R. Cote Jr., Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Desch, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Evangelista, Cornell University
Benjamin H. Friedman, Cato Institute
Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
David Gold, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School
William Hartung, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
Michael Intriligator, UCLA and Milken Institute
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress
Peter Krogh, Georgetown University
Walter LaFeber, Cornell University
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College
Col. (USA, Ret.) Douglas Macgregor
Scott McConnell, The American Conservative
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Steven Metz, national security analyst and writer
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
Barry Posen, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Details Details

You may have notice, via facebook, that a minor change has occurred for the Dent's last night.


So for all you inquiring minds out there who want to know the details here they are:

Where? The Turning Point You can click HERE check out the website, but it is a local non-profit, rape crisis center that offers counseling, legal advocacy and prevention education to Collin County.

When do you start? My first day will begin at 9:00 am on Monday, November 29th.

What will you be doing? My official title is Primary Prevention Coordinator. I will responsible for organizing and providing prevention-education to the community. This will include presentations, leading groups, working with volunteers, collecting and organizing data/research and a whole bunch of other things. Basically, I'm gonna get paid to build relationships and talk with/help people! AWESOME!

Any perks? Of course getting paid. There are benefits (I'm still waiting for the paperwork for all the details on this) I'm also pretty excited that I get PTO for holidays and the week between Christmas and New Years, as well as two additional weeks throughout the year.

All in all I am pretty excited about it. I feel really affirmed not only because of what I will be getting to do but also how it happened. It was very serendipitous. One day I have never heard of the Turning Point, the next day I am volunteering, and now I WORK there. I found a job that will pay me to help people and be helpful with my additional pursuit to obtain my counseling license. Very happy indeed!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas....

....All around the Dent home. Despite my LOVE for all things Christmas, I am normally VERY adamant that no Christmas music or decoration make an appearance until the day after Thanksgiving. Not a day earlier or later. But this year, I felt... different. I was ready to embrace the Christmas spirit. I needed it. So on Friday, I decided it was time and the Dent home went from this :

No Christmas AND messy. BOO!!! To ....

I love Christmas! I love the family time, the memories, the reverence, the music, the beauty, the joy, the peace on earth and good will towards men that seems to fill everyone's spirit, even if it is just for one month a year. I love Christmas so much for so many reasons, but most of all because of this last picture because that is what it is all about. I can't help but think the love and peace and hope experienced each December represents a small fraction of what it will be like when there is no more suffering. I am thankful, every year for this little bit of what I feel is "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". So, can you blame me for wanting to celebrate early?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who's Next?

So normally, if I get my political undies in a wad over something I read, I give a little synopsis of whatever I read, maybe because I expect the American attention span is all of 30 seconds long these days. This time, I'm not doing it. Click the link and read it. I'm personally asking you a favor, please. Click this and read the whole thing.

Being an advocate for civil liberties isn't very popular. If you're really enthusiastic about the fourth amendment, most people don't really understand why. Why should we care about the unchecked growth of executive power? What a boring topic. Tell me about the latest celebrity hook-up instead.

My line of reasoning when I have to explain why I do care is that its a slippery slope. First, the executive branch goes after "them" over "there". And we don't care. They're not Americans anyway. Then they go after the guy "over there" who may be American, but he's probably a terrorist. And we don't care. He doesn't love his country like us anyway. Then they go after the guy who tried to tell the truth about all the things the executive had to do to continue his fight with "them, over there." And we don't care. He's probably endangering troops anyway. And then they go after the guys who tries to help the guy who tries to tell the truth about what the executive had to do to continue to fight "them over there." Is it starting to sound like the old lady who swallowed a fly yet? Who's next? Your humble blogger perhaps?

Maybe you think wikileaks is an abomination. Maybe you think Bradley Manning is a monster. That's fine by me. I feel the same way about the KKK. But if someone wants to support the KKK, verbally or financially, we'd all agree they have a constitutional right to do so without having their property confiscated and their persons detained and interrogated by Federal armed officers without charges or warrants or the right to a lawyer.

Maybe the Orwellian nightmare where absolutely no dissenting opinion to Federal power is tolerated won't be seen in our lifetime, but I'm not sure sure about our children. They may very well grow up in a country where they can't speak their mind without fear of political intimidation and violence.

When I was a kid, I never really understood why Jesus kept saying in the gospel of Matthew, "let those who have ears hear!" Why did he keep saying that? It seemed so simplistic it was almost meaningless. And now I feel like I know EXACTLY what he meant. Take your head out of the sand, look around you, and use the brain God gave you. Some $&*%^ is going down and if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's Officially Official

A large, white envelope appeared in my mailbox today.....

It's truly official. I am a Master (that's way more fun than saying I have my Masters) I'm not sure what I will be handed when I walk across the graduation stage on Dec. 18th, but hey, I got the goods :) Now if I can just get a job.......which, SPOILER ALERT: I have a phone interview on Monday afternoon so everyone keep your fingers crossed. If all goes well I will post more details later!! Woo Hoo for becoming a big kid...sorta!