A Modest Proposal? Defunding or Disbanding the U.S. Military as Responses to National Failure

A Modest Proposal? Defunding or Disbanding the U.S. Military as Responses to National Failure

While defense prognosticators are more concerned about budgets, platforms, and national adversaries, we propose a modest thought experiment of shifting the language of defunding or disbanding the police to the military, and considering what that might mean in practice.

Most importantly, we must seriously consider the notion of abolishing the various military services and creating a single, true Joint Force organized by functional specialty rather than by service. This option looks radical at first glance, but less so after further study when you consider that the services are already organized around task-based communities that control training, billeting, and promotions until people reach the rank of flag officer. A larger Joint Force organized by communities or tasks would preserve the healthiest aspects of inter-service competition while ending once and for all the scourge of duplication of effort. 

Finally, such a change would finally break the services parochial conception of their acquisitions and procurement requirements, and allow the United States to cease investing most of its defense dollars in expensive platforms for high-end warfare and channel funds to peacetime or stability operations, low-intensity/asymmetric warfare, and conflict within the growing cyber domain. Doing so would allow them, finally, to fulfill Bernard Brodie’s admonition to spend less time thinking about waging unrealistic high-end conventional wars against nuclear-armed adversaries and more on peacetime and post-conflict stability operations. In other words, the military’s first task would be to prevent wars from occurring rather than planning or fighting them. 

We expect that our proposals will provoke push back, and that the most likely outcome of the recent upheaval will be little to no change of our national-security enterprise. Still, some farsighted law-enforcement departments are recognizing the benefits of a “defunding” agenda that would allow them to focus on their core competencies. Accordingly, we urge the U.S. military to prepare itself for what might happen and recognize the benefits as well as the drawbacks of a program of defunding or disbanding the U.S. military. 

Anand Toprani and Michael Dennis are professors of strategy & policy at the U.S. Naval War College and visiting professors of international & public affairs at Brown University. The views they have expressed are their own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government. 

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