Immigration and Reconfiguring the U.S. Military

Published on June 4th, 2011

Maria FotopoulosOn a recent trip to Oklahoma, my travel route put me on the road bordering the east side of Tinker Air Force Base, a road I’d not traveled for several years. I noticed what looked like a large stock of very, very nice, new housing – military housing – a very tangible example of tax dollars at work. My mind immediately flashed to an April article in Foreign Policy magazine, entitled, “A Radical Plan for Cutting the Defense Budget and Reconfiguring the U.S. Military.” In it, Col. Douglas MacGregor (ret.) outlines his ideas for saving taxpayers $279.5 billion. To reach this, he calls for U.S. withdrawal from overseas commitments. Currently, we have more than 317,000 active-duty military members stationed or deployed overseas, MacGregor writes. Some estimates, he continues, suggest that there are two civilians and supporting contractors for each military personnel in some locations. (Overall, we have more than 1.4 million active duty military personnel and nearly 850,000 in reserve units. The U.S. military is second in size only to that of China.) He argues that this large commitment is based on Cold War thinking that is no longer applicable. MacGregor also suggests reducing redundant or unnecessary overhead, support and services force structure; reducing naval surface forces and Marine fixed-wing aviation and eliminating the F-35B Joint Strike Fighters ($92 million per plane). Additionally, he calls for eliminating the Department of Homeland Security, which he calls an “inefficient experiment,” and restructuring the Army National Guard and national intelligence, among other recommendations. Like all issues in our contemporary, complex world, national security issues – and the military to address those – comprise a vast, multi-layered and complex political beast likely with a great stock of disorder and dysfunction. So, of course review – ongoing review and continuous improvement – always is in order. MacGregor has just put forth a bold plan, essentially challenging the establishment – throwing down the gauntlet. And while some have argued that “you can’t put a price tag on national security,” that’s just empty rhetoric to stir the patriotic pot and is about as useful and meaningful as the “true patriots” who put American flags on four points of their vehicles. So kudos go to MacGregor for putting forth these ideas. Given the country’s incredibly dire financial situation, there’s certainly no time like the present to start this discussion. How a reconfigured military and restructured national intelligence apparatus would better address immigration and border issues are what I’d like to see more discussion on as a result of MacGregor’s work. Given the already high numbers of Americans out of work, a reduction in military personnel likely would exacerbate unemployment. It seems like some of that headcount could shift to ensuring enforcement of our immigration laws. This means a reallocated military (more military on our borders) could better secure our physical borders and better enforce other aspects of our laws. It’s easy to see there’s a problem with people crossing illegally into the U.S. mostly by way of our southern border, because there is much photographic and film evidence. What’s not so easily seen is the vast number of people who are in the country illegally through other means – those who have overstayed visas of varying types. The number of people who overstay their visas is a significant contributor to the number of people in the U.S. illegally. As MacGregor writes,”(T)he defense of the country includes land and sea borders – and employing the armed forces to secure those borders from threats originating in the nexus between transnational criminal and violent extremist organizations is explicitly stated in the preamble and Article I of the U.S. Constitution’s language of the ‘common defence.'” With fancy flying machines and foreign entanglements, we have forgotten the basics.

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