Report encourages Pentagon to focus more on homeland defense

Conventional weapons systems and missile defense system should be cut back, analysts say in a new study.

The military needs increased focus on unconventional warfare and defense against nuclear and biological weapons, and less on developing certain advanced conventional weaponry, according to a report released Tuesday by a liberal think tank.

"The United States' unmatched military technological superiority is no longer enough to guarantee that Americans will be safe and that U.S. forces will prevail in battle and in securing the peace," according to "Restoring American Military Power, a Progressive Quadrennial Defense Review," by the Center for American Progress.

"Nation-states no longer possess a monopoly on the ability to develop and deploy nuclear and biological weapons. In Iraq, suicide bombings and crude explosive devices are claiming more lives of U.S. troops than tanks or enemy troops. New capabilities are required," it says.

The review is intended to provide a counter-vision for the much-anticipated Defense Department Quadrennial Defense Review expected to soon be released.

The group's report advocates cutting development and production of eight major weapons types: the F-22 fighter, Virginia class submarine, DD(X) Destroyer, V-22 Osprey, C-130J transport aircraft, offensive space-based weaponry, further deployment of the U.S. national missile defense system; and "obsolete and unnecessary elements of the nuclear posture."

The weapons are costly but unnecessary, providing little additional advantage over other existing systems, according to the report.

"United States weapons systems are not matched to threats, and the Pentagon has more programs on the drawing board than it can afford" given recent record-setting budget deficit levels, it says.

The report advocates doubling Pentagon expenditures on homeland defense to "at least $20 billion" annually, to increase its capacities to support civil authorities following unconventional and high-explosive attacks or other incidents. The National Guard should focus more on protecting the homeland from major disasters rather than on major combat operations elsewhere, it says.

Among the report's numerous recommendations is withdrawing tactical U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, which it says are costly and have "no strategic utility," while reducing the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal significantly down to 1,000 warheads, with 600 deployed and 400 in reserve. Those numbers, it says, should be sufficient to address military targets in China and Russia, as well as a limited number of targets in "extreme regimes."

"The strategy should be based on two principles: military targets are the only legitimate target for nuclear weapons, and any use of nuclear weapons must be proportionate to the threat," it says.

The report further advocates abandoning development of a new earth penetrating nuclear weapon capability, maintaining a "surge capacity" for building additional warheads if needed, resuming arms control negotiations with Russia, continuing the administration's Reliable Replacement Warhead program, and eventually ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The report advocates pre-emptive U.S. military action against imminent threats, while criticizing the administration's policy of preventive war against possible future threats.

Center senior fellow Lawrence Korb, a former Reagan administration defense official and one of the report's primary authors, unveiled the document Tuesday.

Michele Flournoy, also a former defense official and now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, critiqued the report following its release. Along with the center report, Fluornoy said she had seen a draft of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review.

Both documents, she said, start from a similar premise: "We're over invested as a military, as the Department of Defense, in capabilities to deal with high-end warfighting, against very traditional military threats and we're under invested in capabilities to deal with irregular warfare, like terrorism, like insurgency and stability operations … catastrophic threats like [weapons of mass destruction] terrorism, and so forth."

She said, though, the judgments about defense strategy that emerge from that conclusion differ in the documents.

"While both documents place a lot of rhetorical emphasis on homeland defense, or priority for the military, in the [center's] document there is much more putting money where your mouth is" - recommendations for shifting money toward homeland security.

In the Pentagon's document, "it's very difficult to find much, with a couple of exceptions," she said.

"Whether or not we all agree with every word in [the center's] document … the fact that you have an alternative on the table to force people to have a constructive debate is absolutely critical at this time, given the stakes involved," she said.