Abolish the Department of Defense

The Defense Department has gotten too big. As a result it tries to do too much and takes too much of the federal budget (currently about a half trillion dollars). This leads to inefficiencies and the inability to have effective oversight. Even the name shows confusion of its purpose. The department doesn't "defend" anything. During a more honest time it was called the War Department. Here are some ideas on how to reorganize the various military functions into more manageable organization.

First, anyone who is wearing a uniform is transferred to the new Department of Uniformed Services. This means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc. This department fights battles. Period. It should be headed by a military group like the Joint Chiefs. If you don't wear a uniform, you don't work in this department. There would be a civilian top-level directorate as now.

Second, there is all the indirect work done using DoD contracts. This includes procurement, weapons R&D and allied development work. Things like the Army Corp of Engineers and similar non-military functions should be transferred to another department such as Homeland Security or Interior. Perhaps if there is enough engineering and infrastructure work spread throughout the government we should have a dedicated civil engineering department. FEMA might also be put into this organization. This department could be called something like Military Support Services.

Third, intelligence gathering and analysis not related to battlefield activity should be consolidated into a single department. This includes most of the present pentagon intelligence operations, the CIA and the NSA, and, perhaps, parts of the FBI. Clandestine operations of a non-intelligence operation should be removed from the CIA and into Uniformed Services. Spy agencies are not supposed to be overthrowing governments or trying to assassinate foreign nationals. This would be the Department of Intelligence Services.

Dividing things this way would improve things in several respects. Weapons procurement and R&D would be evaluated by Support Services, an independent group. This would eliminate inter-branch rivalry. Pulling strings within DoD would not get your pet weapons system approved, for example. Similar efficiencies would arise from the ability of all intelligence services being organized by mission rather than which branch of the military they support. Having each department with its own cabinet member and dedicated congressional oversight committees would also prevent the type of funds shifting which goes on now.

There is also no reason to keep the size (and many of the details) of the Intelligence Services' budget secret. Knowing how big it is does not impair security, but does give the civilian overseers and the voting public the ability to evaluate the cost/benefit of the department. Turf wars like those going on now between the CIA and DoD would be eliminated as well.

Even conservative supporters of a big military should be in favor of streamlining "bloated" government bureaucracies.

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If you have any comments or for further discussions email me at robert.feinman@gmail.com
Copyright © 2006 Robert D Feinman
Feel free to use the ideas, but the words are mine.