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Defending the Homeland: A Military Priority?

THE U.S. MILITARY should take a more active role in protecting the homeland, says a new report by the Center for American Progress, Restoring American Military Power.

“The Department of Defense over the next four years must begin a fundamental shift in military doctrine and priorities so that this country is better positioned to respond to the threats of a post-Cold War and post-9/11 world,” say the report’s authors, Lawrence J. Korb, Caroline P. Wadhams, and Andrew J. Grotto. Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and was a senior fellow and director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Wadhams and Grotto are policy analysts for national security at the Center for American Progress.

A key element in this strategy is the repositioning of military personnel, making them more accessible in the event of a large-scale national crisis, such as a hurricane or terrorist attack. The authors contend that the current administration has “never given homeland defense the priority it deserves in doctrine or resources.”

The authors assert that the strategy outlined in the report will allow the U.S. military to “defend the homeland; fight one major regional conflict, engage concurrently in two substantial post-conflict peacekeeping and stabilization missions, including counterinsurgency campaigns; and deter or contain conflicts in three countries or regions.”

Troop recruitment and retention are vital, and the report calls for an increase of at least 86,000 active duty troops. In addition, the role of the National Guard and Reserve must be redefined, focusing on homeland defense and avoiding deployments to war zones like Iraq.

The need to allocate funds to areas most likely to see the largest security gains is also stressed. The authors of the report recommend that the Pentagon use a threat-based model, rather than a “capabilities approach,” when deciding how to spend money. They also call on the administration and Congress to eliminate outdated weapons and cut losses on systems that are unnecessary or outdated.

As an example of these unnecessary expenses, the report cites the SSN-774 Virginia-class submarine, which is much more costly than comparable submarines. The savings from eliminating these unnecessary programs would help pay for a doubling in homeland defense funds to at least $20 billion.

Another key recommendation is that a “Homeland Security Corps” should be established in each state, and the Army National Guard should be transformed from being a backup from the active forces to being the primary protector of the homeland. This transition would mean emphasizing light infantry, military police, and combat support functions in Guard units, rather than major combat functions.