Six Steps to a Safer America

Six Steps to a Safer America:
National Security and the 2005 Budget

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Next week, President Bush will submit his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. That budget will define America’s priorities at a time when we face unprecedented security challenges. Given the hard choices at hand, the president should take the six specific policy and budgetary steps outlined below. These six steps will dramatically strengthen our global military posture and maximize our ability to confront the greatest security challenge facing our nation: keeping nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from falling into the grasp of unstable nations or terrorists with global reach. To achieve these goals, we need a budget that will:

  • Increase the size of the active Army to a 12-division force from the current 10 divisions, and field a division devoted to stabilization and reconstruction.
  • Provide necessary but currently missing battlefield equipment and greater protection for both active troops and reservists.
  • Stem the emerging retention crisis by supporting military personnel and their families with increased health and education benefits.
  • Strengthen the capacity of the National Guard to protect our homeland from nuclear, chemical and biological attacks.
  • Dramatically expand programs that secure or destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials and technologies by increasing funding for Nunn-Lugar to $2 billion from its current level of $450 million.
  • Broaden international efforts to hunt down and secure or destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by ensuring that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has the resources it needs to do the job.

These are concrete initiatives the administration can take immediately to better protect the American people – without increasing our nation’s deficit.

The Bush administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) of September 2002 is built on three pillars: the right to take unilateral preemptive military action; the need to maintain global primacy; and the need to spread democracy throughout the world. But events of the past sixteen months have demonstrated that this strategy is inconsistently applied, dangerously open-ended, divorced from existing military capabilities, destabilizing and unrealistic= Ultimately, it is detrimental to our long-term interests.

To deal with the threats we face, the United States needs a realistic, effective and sustainable national security strategy and a defense budget that reinforces our strategic goals. Over the next year, the Center for American Progress will outline a comprehensive national security strategy that addresses national defense and military transformation; curbs the spread of WMD; confronts terrorism and the conditions on which it feeds; and integrates local and federal resources and capabilities to improve homeland security. Our strategy is based on the clear need to harness all components of American power – diplomatic, economic and technological, as well as military – in order to protect our vital interests.

“Six Steps to a Safer America” outlines policies that can be implemented immediately to advance this strategy. Our new initiatives to strengthen our armed forces recognize that the United States must stay the course and meet its responsibilities in Iraq, despite the administration’s specious motives for waging that preventive war. Our recommendations for ways to improve and expand programs, aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, take aim at the primary threat to our national security. Taken together, these six steps will give our military the support it needs to execute successfully its missions anywhere in the world; advance stability and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan; begin to re-orient the military to the kinds of missions it will face in today’s complex international environment; and expand critical programs that are proven to reduce the risk that terrorists or hostile nations will acquire deadly weapons.