An Open Letter to Senator Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan

Paul Evans

Let us begin the transformation of our US Government through recasting the structures and systems of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Liberals and conservatives alike know beyond a doubt that the DoD is a modern-day Leviathan: an unmanageable bureaucracy that defies effectiveness and efficiency efforts

Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan:

Few people in history have been entrusted with the responsibilities upon your shoulders. For good or ill, your duties have expanded in the past few weeks: together you have it within your power to continue a global economic malaise – or to revitalize the American Enterprise and therefore reenergize the world markets. This duty is awesome in its potential for risks as well as possible rewards. And you undertake this mission under the fierce scrutiny of irrational expectations fueled by our recent troubles on the shutdown and the debt ceiling. Now more than ever, our country needs a rational, reasoned, well-developed strategy for economic development that includes at least the following: a national commitment to job creation, legacy entitlement program reform, restructuring of governance and program delivery, and transparent accountability.

I write this letter in the hopes you will review the ideas contained – in the spirit of believing both of you possess a servant’s heart. For a little over twenty years I wore the uniform of our country as a commissioned officer with service on active-duty as well as a drill status guardsman. During that time I served overseas on ten (10) contingency operations ranging from our counter-drug operations through our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and several other hotspots in between). I am not a general nor an admiral, but I believe my unique blend of academic as well as applied experiences provide me the credibility required to offer the proposal included within this letter. I say this because in addition to my military service, I have out-of-uniform government service experience as a senior policy advisor to Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, elected service as a mayor, school board member, and city councilor, and have taught communications, government, and policy in colleges and universities throughout the past two decades (when not deployed). I realize you receive tens of thousands of messages each month; I ask that you and your staff help make this letter of the few that make it into your hands.

As the leaders of the respective Congressional Budget Committees you will undoubtedly play a critical role in shaping the framework of the discussions to come; acting in common cause you two leaders could define that conversation – as a team you can drive a solution through both chambers and onto the President’s desk. Through swift action you can demonstrate the values and virtues of genuine bipartisan leadership should you choose to try. We need an agenda for reforming America and we need it now.

The Proposal:

Let us begin the transformation of our US Government through recasting the structures and systems of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Liberals and conservatives alike know beyond a doubt that the DoD is a modern-day Leviathan: an unmanageable bureaucracy that defies effectiveness and efficiency efforts; an organization ripe with opportunity costs that could sponsor significant resourcing for remaking a 21st Century Defense Department while simultaneously contributing necessary funds for many other potential reforms. Though seemingly complicated and complex, my proposal for the initial phase of remaking our DoD is actually simple, straight-forward, and time-sensitive: we must begin through rebalancing the force through expanding the National Guard and Reserves and right-sizing the active-duty components and support personnel structures.

The intended end-state would provide a modernized DoD and provide for a significantly larger operationally deployable air, land, sea, and space response – even as we realize undeniable savings made possible through reallocation of resources within and without the DoD. A realignment of the DoD would reset the culture of the military as well as the industries associated with our military capabilities. Failure to implement anything other than a structural change will not significantly alter or improve the corrupted systems weakening our defense posture. Let us renew our commitment to rationality within our decision-making and our governance mechanisms. Through this we can recast the functions and value of our defense enterprises. It is time we accepted the requirements of our emerging defense posture and rebuilt our capacities to operate within the world that is – rather than the world we might wish it was. I urge you and your colleagues to recognize and act upon the hard-won lessons of the past decade of war-fighting and implement a strategic investment in a military force that reflects our legitimate defense priorities as well as our democratic ideals.

Therefore: The US Department of Defense should be realigned. We could provide an enhanced defense capability at significantly less cost through implementation of the following:

  1. Cut the active-duty US Army force structure from ten (10) combat divisions to seven (7); reinvestment of the equipment, personnel, and resources realigned into a 1,000,000 member Army National Guard;

  2. Cut the active-duty US Air Force force structure from fifty (50) flying wings to forty (40); reinvestment of the equipment, personnel, and resources realigned into a 250,000 member Air National Guard;

  3. Realign service-specific weapons development functions into a single joint structure with reallocated staff assignments; implementation of a 15-year industry non-participation clause in procurement positions; and increased participation of National Guard and Reserves personnel on rotating assignments;

  4. Realignment of service-specific training commands, functions, and structures into a cadre-system enabled to support a primarily reserve-component training schedule;

  5. Reinvestment of realized funds within the air, land, and sea launched nuclear enterprise systems;

  6. Requirement of industry requirement compliance transparency reporting for legacy weapons systems maintenance, future weapons systems development, and staffing decisions with a Dodd-Frank accountability model for industry leaders;

  7. Implementation of a Commission on Contracted Services empowered to review and recommend necessary actions associated with reversing recent transitions of traditional occupational specialties from military skills to civilian contracts; prioritizing the value of increased flexibility within the force structure lost as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences;

  8. Realignment of critical permanent training environments, functions, and sites from legacy active-duty military installations to National Guard reservations associated with greater sustainability of a cadre-structure;

  9. Implementation of a Commission on Medical Practices within the Reserves empowered to concentrate any/all medical services from active-duty and National Guard functions into the Reserves; and

  10. Implementation of a DoD force structure ratio system within the uniformed services as well as the permanent civilian bureaucracy reflecting a minimum reduction in flag officers and SES leadership of 35% by the end of 2016.

The Justification:

Since 9/11 we have disproven the static rationales used for justifying the necessity of a predominantly active-duty force structure. Transformations within technology, training, and total force deployment have demonstrated newfound approaches (and synergies) inherent to a force structure more closely interconnected with communities and less dependent upon a large-scale careerist military force structure. Nobody can legitimately deny that the modern National Guard and Reserves have proven themselves in war, nation-building, and in peaceful response to crises (human as well as natural made). Through the sacrifice of sustaining wars over the past decade our citizen-airmen and citizen-soldiers learned the essential lessons of making war, and returning from it. Changes in our social expectations have evolved: in many ways the National Guard and Reserves provided a vital, unique linkage between the citizenry and our military culture throughout the Global Wars on Terror. Absent a draft this relationship serves an irreplaceable function in bridging the gaps in awareness as well as in understanding.

For good or ill, the declining operational budgets associated with our redeployment of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan have reemphasized the need for prioritization: we know our nation cannot long afford both the structures associated with a legacy-driven massively sized active-duty force built to defeat the Communist Menace, as well as the systems essential to meet the emerging military requirements associated with 21st Century counterinsurgency and counterterrorism requirements. Left alone, decisions in the Pentagon will likely repeat the mistakes of the past: historically, the active-duty has always cut our reserve components in favor of traditional (and bureaucratic) priorities. Inside the bubble it is easier and less risky to do what has always been done (even if there is no logic to do it) than to risk an original thought that will invite criticism and potential loss of place or promotion. This is time-critical: what is now a flexible, robust, well-trained National Guard may soon wither unless we secure a sustainable path forward. Ironically, the lessons learned over the past decade during emergencies and war justifies requirements associated with a larger, more capable ready response force. Traditional military thinking incorrectly assumes this larger, more capable force must be primarily comprised of full-time troops. This is not, and must not be, the only alternative considered. There is significant value in using the pre-1940 model of a cadre-system with specific rapid response specialties to support an expansion of the National Guard and Reserves. Our past does not have to our future. We are neither compelled, nor benefitted from sustaining an archaic, out-of-date force structure that sustains an unwieldy military-industrial complex tailored to the requirements of the Cold War. We can, we should, and we must do better.

Both of you know there are decisions that warrant consideration despite the perceived risks associated with a specific political climate – at a specific moment in time. And yet, sometimes the weight of history – the exigencies of a crisis – providing leaders an opportunity to challenge obsolete thinking and rewrite the rules based upon facts. You have this type of opportunity before you now. For the most important fact related to this letter (and the proposed recommendations included) is this: The National Guard is the most cost-effective investment within the DoD. This conclusion is the shared consensus of each, every reputable policy and think tank evaluation published over the past decade. It is explicitly demonstrated in reports from groups across the ideological perspective including: the Government Accountability Office, the Heritage Foundation, and the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. On average, the US Government spends $100,000.00 less on sustainment costs per airman or soldier when comparing a National Guard (or Reserve) member to an active-duty counterpart. When comparing total career costs (including benefits and retirement liabilities), this difference is at least $200,000.00 per member. Please note: all National Guard and Reservists attend the same schools and training; deploy to the same operations to perform the same functions; and the National Guard and Reserves do this while maintaining outside employment as well as readiness (and periodic deployment) for stateside emergency service.

Active-Duty careerists loathe admitting it, but the value of the National Guard and Reserve is undeniable: we could not have fought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without the reserve components. And there were years when the “part-timers” outnumbered the “full-timers” in specific theaters of operation. It is time we accepted that the best use for our force structure sustainment dollars would be on expanding and strengthening our National Guard/Reserve structures and systems. The reality of sustaining a large-scale active-duty force structure is too expensive for our modern circumstances. While there may have been a time we could afford it; doing so is luxury in our modern economic circumstances. We must be creative without losing our ability to respond. Consider this: the total sustainment costs for an active-duty division is equal to the costs of sustaining the entire Army National Guard. Through realignment of a few divisions of active-duty structures into a significant expansion of the National Guard and Reserves we would realize both savings for reinvestment as well as obvious benefits in added workforce skills training, state emergency response capabilities, and long-term stabilization in retirement cost liabilities. National Guard and Reserve members cannot collect military retirement until age 60 (in most cases); this advantage alone warrants consideration of a rebalance of the force structure.

Realignment of the force structure would yield additional benefits. Existing DoD procurement structures and systems sustain cozy, familiar relationships between industry and the military. Sadly, these relationships have been responsible for countless project cost overruns. The KC-X program is one of a hundred situations where the abuse of good judgment cost us dollars as well as time. We all know there are cases of corruption and fraud. Thankfully, most of these cases are identified and punished. However, the larger issues of careerism and image are inherent to the existing procurement culture. Industry too often sets the pace. In other instances, career officers eager to differentiate themselves from peers misunderstand the value of learning the design and procurement process as a skill for personal advantage. Procurement is a necessary evil but it is fertile grounds for abuse. In many cases, abuse is actually worse than a crime – failure in procurement is not just measured in a criminal sentence but in the lives lost because of adoption and then dependence upon insufficient platforms and weapons systems. There are also those cases where a decision-maker has forced industry to deliver unnecessary add-ons for no other reason than to demonstrate the power to do it. The magnitude of our modern procurement culture must be recast or we will lose far more than the purchase power of our scarce defense resources.

All veterans can share stories of instances when it was necessary to foster “work –arounds” associated with the use of weapons platforms or systems that were forced upon us; “drive-by” contracting has become an expensive, unnecessary realty of our war-fighting culture. History tells us that many of these situations are the consequence of relationships that allowed, facilitated, or tolerated acceptance of equipment that was not needed, or worse – insufficient to the mission requirements. It is time we faced this reality: it is a logical, rational outcome of a careerists culture dominated by careerists that know program “management” as a stepping stone for future advancement. With realignment we could reconstruct this environment. National Guard and Reservists maintain outside of uniform careers. For the most part, National Guard and Reserve leaders are less concerned with pursuit of the “perfect” than demonstration of the “good enough.” It is a different mindset from an alternate culture; it is time to infuse the existing structure with more realistic, requirement-driven perspectives. In simplest terms, we just cannot afford to squander precious resources anymore.

The History:

Prior to World War II the United States of America depended upon a small active-duty force and a promise of fielding a large military force through mobilization of a ready reserve. In the span of thirty-eight months the United States Armed Forces enlisted, trained, and fielded over 16,000,000 men and women in support of the war effort. In the range of a few years we built the most powerful military in human history. But the US has never seen itself as a conquering power; our democratic Republic has historically been uncomfortable being too reliant upon the use of force absent diplomacy. After the war we demobilized rapidly; we learned the hard lessons of a hollow force in the initial phases of Korea. The harsh realities of the Cold War demanded we rethink our approach and we answered the threat with a massive investment in both technology and troop levels. We instituted a peacetime draft and kept it until 1973 – when Vietnam required us to reassess the question of universal service. In 1973 we implemented an “all-volunteer” military and have sustained it ever since.

We have fought several major and minor wars since 1973. Our most recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan reflected the lowest percentage of Americans serving in a major war since the Mexican War. And while I cannot prove the point, I suspect many of the challenges we endured during the initial years of those operations resulted at least in part from the disconnect between the nation and the men and women sent by the nation to fight. We require a greater linkage. And while many of us would wish for a flexible, universal service requirement, we know that such a thing is politically unlikely in the current political climate. And yet, absent universal service there must be a plausible alternative that reinforces our ideals. As a retired officer I believe in the absolute necessity of massive combat capabilities: we require global reach as well as global power. We must have a quick response force, a secure nuclear enterprise, and an appropriate readily deployable conventional force structure. We can reorganize what we do, how we do it, and the force structures responsible for making it happen. With your leadership we can develop a21st Century model that provides our country with a robust defense posture as well as an affordable, rationally determined reinvestment dividend.

The structures and systems inherent to the DoD currently sustain a bloated, misaligned, and wasteful national defense enterprise. We have maintained this byzantine bureaucracy out of fear of what happened after World War II. However, since 9/11 we have disproven the myths associated with a cadre-system and yet we have allowed the culture of a permanent defense industry to constrain our choices. This does not have to be our reality or our future. We need a military that can respond quickly when needed; we need a nuclear enterprise that can deter aggressors; and we need the ability to field a massive land force when circumstances warrant doing so. We can achieve all three of these objectives – at increased savings, while providing needed job skills to 1,000,000 more potential troops – at lower cost. The hidden value of this approach will be realized by the states in terms of significantly enhanced resiliency – and in the massive jobs training benefits for our workforce as National Guard and Reservists use those skills in communities throughout the nation.

The Value:

The National Guard is a force-multiplier. It exists as a force provider in times of crisis. Through an expansion of the National Guard we could provide an added level of resiliency to governors as well as a ready force structure to support the active-duty when more than a quick response capability is required for our national defense. A 1,000,000 member National Guard would transform the workforce as well as transform the DoD; it would train men and women to serve in uniform at home as well as abroad – and provide an environment for learning the necessary crafts and trades associated with a modern economy – skills that would be realized through a unique blend of applied experience. Imagine our nation, state, and communities with an empowered workforce prepared to answer the call of war and peace. With an enhanced National Guard and Reserves our neighborhoods would have increased emergency response capabilities, closer to the need. Our states would be less concerned about the cuts to local/state funded emergency response services. And with a DoD oriented primarily to supporting a cadre-system – it would be more difficult to fight wars of choice, even as it would be easier to meet the challenges of war when forced to defend our shores. The United States of America requires a military prepared for the exigencies of the 21st Century: we fought and won the Cold War, we have stretched our existing structure beyond our ability to sustain it – let us forge a new structure with new systems tailored to the world as it now exists.

The Moment:

Rare are the moments when the people empowered to make a change are provided the opportunities necessary to make that change. Modern politics all too often appears as if it is nothing more than a tale of dysfunction. Once upon a time we celebrated the ability to collaborate and cooperate: not that long ago we realized our differences of perspective were an advantage for our body politic. We can rebuild our national political culture, but it must be done a step at a time – one courage act after another. You have the ability to demonstrate how our nation can responsibly transform how we do the things we do. I ask you both to consider the recommendations associated with this proposal. It might well provide us all a big enough challenge that we can reignite the imagination of our nation, states, and communities. If we tackle this kind of project we would send a message to the world that America can advance a rational program for making responsible budget choices, even as we defend our nation, our ideals, and rebuild trust in and within Capitol Hill.

Americans are always at our best when we attempt the hard things. Lately we have allowed our fears to constrain our actions as well as our choices. It is time for us all to face our fears: it is time for us to recognize that through facing our fears we become better, stronger – we can revitalize our nation, state, and communities. Einstein told us that, “insanity, is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.” More than any of your peers you realize the paradox of decline we face: our government structures and systems cannot afford to continue delivering the same services because of increasing costs; we must either cut services or increase revenues – or at least increasing the value of the revenues we receive. The DoD is the largest bureaucracy in our nation, perhaps the world. We can recast it and realize a better, stronger defense posture while making funds for reinvestment available. This can help us with our debt as well as our choices in other policy arenas. Consider this: if we can do this successfully, if we can retool the largest bureaucracy on the planet, then what more could we do? It is a message worth considering.

Thank you for considering this lengthy letter. I deeply appreciate your commitment to our nation, states, and communities and welcome additional conversation about these or any other items you wish to discuss. Our family will continue to pray for you and your peers; our America remains a nation under God, a God that made us for purpose – a God that teaches us all the true value of faith, hope, love, and service.

Respectfully,

//SIGNED//

Major Paul L. Evans, USAF (Ret.)

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