Defending this nation is the first responsibility of Congress. Providing our military with the mission, the tools, and the training it needs to protect America’s security and American interests should be the first responsibility of any candidate for Congress. The following ten national security priorities address current and future threats to American security, provide our military with the next generation capabilities it will need to keep us safe, restore Congress’s Constitutional war powers, and advance the cause of world peace by promoting stable democracies around the globe.
Win the War against Islamic Fascism
A narrow sect of Islam is trying to bring a new Dark Age upon the world, and is willing use both the powers of government and the tactics of terrorism to achieve its goals. This hateful ideology is a threat to peace and prosperity everywhere. Iraq is a central battleground in this larger war. Congress needs to build on the progress of the last 18 months, and provide our troops with the tools they need to complete their mission and come home. The recent plan by the Iraqi government and American diplomats to draw down America’s military presence in Iraq is great news, but would be undermined if American forces were to leave before the Iraqi people were able to provide for their own security.
In Afghanistan, remnants of the Taliban government continue to hide across the Pakistani border. The departure of Pervez Musharaff could provide an opportunity to remove these safe havens, as a more legitimate Pakistani government might be able to take a harder line against radical Muslim elements without destabilizing the country.
Diplomatic and military efforts continue is other parts of the globe with less attention, notably in the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia. We need to deny radical Islamic groups from obtaining the power or the weapons they seek to bring about their hateful vision.
Democracies do not go to war with one another. America’s long-term security is enhanced in a world of peaceful democracies. We should foster free elections and free people, and defend democratic allies under siege from tyrannical neighbors. This means support for South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and Georgia.
Our diplomatic efforts around the world should always be anchored with allies that share the fundamental American value of self-determination. The United Nations is limited in its ability to foster democracies, given that so many of its member governments deny their own people those rights. As John McCain has suggested, we should center our diplomatic strength in a league of democracies, and use our economic and political will to help plant and nurture the seeds of democracy internationally.
Provide Border Security
The American public has lost faith that Congress is serious about addressing illegal immigration. Congress approved a border fence, and has refused to fund it. The American public can not be asked to support any changes to our immigration system until this basic promise is kept.
Congress has also ignored the illegal path into our country through our ports, where the vast majority of cargo coming into the United States is uninspected. Both our customs and agricultural inspection systems need to be modernized to take advantage of information technology, which will allow faster, more efficient, and more complete inspection of goods coming from overseas.
Provide Energy Security
We need to be able to access our own energy reserves. Many oil producing nations are hostile to the United States and American interests. In fact, it is this oil wealth that often keeps oppressive and hostile regimes in power, at the expense of their people. Bringing American energy reserves online can tip that balance and provide a measure of energy independence.
Congress needs to immediately lift the ban on offshore energy production, allow exploration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and allow oil and coal sand deposits in the Western United States to be developed. Streamlining regulations and preventing nuisance lawsuits will provide incentives for building new refineries and nuclear power plants. Leveling the tax code and removing Congressional interference from the energy market will also spur development of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass. This will help to displace fossil fuels imported from hostile nations.
These proposals are also included in Grant Bosse’s Comprehensive Energy Plan.
Repeal the War Powers Act
Congress has abandoned its Constitutional authority to declare war, opting instead to give the Executive Branch nearly unlimited war-making authority under the War Powers Act. Forcing the legislative branch to restore its intended role would also force Members of Congress to take responsibility for their foreign policy decisions. Congressmen would not be able to duck responsibility for an unpopular war, and would be invested in victory rather than cheerleaders for defeat.
Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security
While federal airport inspectors concentrate on footwear and water bottles, our airports remain vulnerable. The Department of Homeland Security has quickly become the third largest Cabinet Department in the U.S., but this top-heavy bureaucracy has not added to our security. Eliminating this Department would allow its constituent agencies to continue their duties unencumbered by an unnecessary layer of management. The Coast Guard could be moved under the Department of Defense. Border patrol and immigration services could be reunited under a single agency. And airlines could be made responsible for airport security. In place of the unresponsive and much derided Transportation Security Agency, airlines would be accountable to their passengers for any hassles and delays in getting through the airport terminal.
Our efforts to secure the homeland should not compromise our civil rights. Intelligence agencies should have the ability to intercept communications between terror suspects. However, evidence collected without warrants should not be used against American citizens in court. We can give our security agencies the tools they need to stop terrorist attacks without denying the rights of all Americans.
Reform the VA System to specialize in service-related care
The Veterans Administration hospitals should provide our servicemen and women the best possible service-related care. However, we can not expect a government bureaucracy to compete with the innovation and flexibility of the private sector in delivering general health care services. By concentrating limited VA resources on service-related injuries and diseases, we can improve medical outcomes for veterans, while supporting research into the unique health challenges facing the military.
This proposal is also included in Grant Bosse’s Comprehensive Health Care Plan.
Modernize the Department of Defense budget and procurement process
The Pentagon’s outdated and bureaucratic method of selecting and developing new weapons systems punishes risk-taking by project managers and rewards setbacks and cost-overruns. Providing incentives in procurement contracts to deliver ahead of schedule and under budget would shorten the time between the drawing board and the battlefield. Congress should put a stop to the inter-service rivalries that prevent ground forces from deploying small unmanned aerial vehicles for battlefield surveillance, and similar turf wars within the Pentagon.
Congress should work with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to establish long-term plans for next generation weapons systems. Setting out goals for the war-fighting capability our military will need in the next war will eliminate the need for Congressional interference through earmarking, and provide a more efficient and more transparent means of modernizing our military.
Reform the diplomatic corps
The path to advancement in the State Department leads through posh embassies in friendly and prosperous nations, while postings to dangerous and desolate nations are often unrewarded. The State Department should institute career incentives for service in these parts of the world. Members of the diplomatic corps unwilling to serve when called upon for high-risk assignments should not be rewarded with promotion.
Concentrate on human intelligence gathering
While the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency have made great strides in signals intelligence and satellite imagery, our nation’s human intelligence capabilities have languished since the Church Committee in 1975. While high-tech intercepts can provide invaluable data to policy makers, they can not replace human intelligence. Having agents providing first-hand intelligence from countries hostile to U.S. interests can tell us whether dictators are losing their hold on power, if saber-rattling regimes really intend to attack their neighbors, and if U.S. diplomatic efforts are succeeding. Recruiting and developing human intelligence assets should be the nation’s top intelligence priority.