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Entering a New Era

While the next election nears and the transition of power will occur as seamlessly as it has in all of American history, we may well be entering a new era of the 21st Century. Fearfully, the question is if complacency may have crept into our future foreign and domestic security policy at a time when our first post-September 11th President takes office. The implications of this complacency could lead to decisions relating to appropriations and spending priorities. With all of the effort made by both Presidential candidates to distance themselves from the policies of President Bush, the reality is that the World and its conflicts remain, and will remain and possibly expand, regardless of the results of this coming election. The concern is to what degree will some or any of the security initiatives established by President Bush in the aftermath of September 11th will be changed, reduced or outright abandoned and leave this country more, rather than less vulnerable to a repeat attack. Are we trading security and preparedness for political rhetoric?

It is apparent that the differences between the two major party candidates is considerable, as are their potential policy positions vis-à-vis foreign policy, the Defense Department and the budgets for Defense programs. While it may be winding down on unspecified schedule, the Iraq will remain an area of concern. The reality is that the unresolved issues make any premature withdrawal unnecessarily messy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia are only four of the many battlefronts on which the GWOT is being fought.

However, to consider that the War on Terrorism and its battles are over simply because the United States has not had to withstand another direct attack on our soil would be naïve. The Taliban in Pakistan/Afghanistan and al Qaeda are not defunct, Russia is exerting its influence again and using oil as a weapon, and the Middle East, with Israel remaining in the midst of Arab countries with similar if not common goals, will remain a hotbed of activity. Regardless of which candidate emerges as the President on November 5th, Pakistan and India continue to argue over Kashmir, and the U.S. entered into a groundbreaking agreement covering the civil use of nuclear energy with India. All of this while China watches.

There is no shortage of potential flare-ups for our military to become engaged. And the World is a much more complex place than it was eight years ago.

When George W. Bush became president nearly eight years ago the world was largely at peace, the U.S. military was largely at rest, oil was $23 a barrel, the economy was growing at more than 3 percent, $1 was worth 116 yen, the national debt was just under $6 trillion and the federal government was running a sizable budgetary surplus. The September 11 attacks, for all they cost us as a nation, increased the world's willingness to cooperate with us. You, by contrast, will inherit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tired and stretched armed forces, a global struggle with terrorism, oil that has ranged as high as $150 a barrel, a weaker dollar (now worth 95 yen), substantial anti-American sentiment, a federal budget deficit that could reach $1 trillion in your first year, a ballooning national debt of some $10 trillion and a global economic slowdown that will increase instability in numerous countries.

While admittedly an editorial, this piece from Investors’ Business Daily gives anyone involved in security reason to pause. Might it have been campaign rhetoric or could such programs like the F-22 Raptor, the V-22 Osprey, the Virginia-class sub, the DDG-1000 destroyer and the Army's Future Combat System actually be on the chopping block? Cutting back or eliminating hardware development programs is a serious step. As we have already learned, once a “stand down” occurs, it is harder to ramp back to a position of readiness. Potentially eliminating a program like the Future Combat Systems effort is still another thing to raise concern.

The Future Combat Systems (FCS) is the cornerstone of Army Modernization. FCS is the Army’s promise to provide Soldiers the best equipment and technology available as soon as practical. FCS is not just a technology development program-it is the development of new Brigade Combat Teams-these new brigades, with more infantry, better equipment, unmatched situational awareness and communications allowing complete domination in asymmetric ground warfare while allowing the Army to build a force that can sustain itself in remote areas.

Not discussed on the FCS site are the numerous supporting, strategic and operational technologies and development programs that might fall prey to budget cuts or reductions. The question, ladies and gentlemen is whether politics will transcend the importance of National and Homeland Security, and whether political rhetoric will result in important technology programs being abandoned because of “promises” made during a campaign.