China is expanding its military capability by broadening its maritime and air forces. In North Korea, a 28-year-old four star general is waiting to show his strength as the new national leader, while jangling the keys to a nuclear arsenal.


Amidst these growing threats, our Commander-in-Chief has laid out a plan to decimate our military in order to fill the bottomless pit of mandatory spending, including interest on the debt, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In fact, the president’s proposed plan to cut defense spending 30 percent over the next decade would leave military outlays at 2.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product, a level America has not seen since 1940.

The President’s strategy is not a coherent strategy for the crucial task of our national defense. His vision- or lack thereof- is instead a dangerous political campaign move, and will leave our nation vulnerable while severely undercutting the capabilities and safety of our men and women in uniform.

As a 22-year veteran of the United States Army who commanded in Iraq, I will be the first to admit that America is capable of streamlining its defense and increasing the efficiency of its military operations. Still, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and we cannot simply say we’re not going to fight a second combat operation because “we don’t want to.” Unfortunately, our enemies always have a vote and will ultimately make that decision for us.

The “21st century battlefield” is complex, and America desperately needs a Commander-in-Chief who understands the complexities of winning this war.   America must develop a focused National Security Strategy of “Engage, Deter and Strike.” The first part of this strategy calls for our military leaders to enact a threat assessment across our geographic Areas of Responsibility (AORs), evaluating those regions over the next 15-20 years. Once the threats are realistically identified,  the United States can develop the requirements, capabilities, and capacities necessary to ensure a strategy can be executed successfully. As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have yet to see any evidence that this kind of assessment has been performed, or even initiated.

America’s current strategy of “nation-building” or “occupation-style” operations is not the way to win this 21st century battlefield. United States operations must instead shift from a “forward deployed” to a “power projection platform military.”  Commanders should accelerate weapon system procurement and acquisition development timelines to five to seven years and enact a 10-15 percent cut across higher headquarters staffs. In addition, when it comes to the well-being of our warriors, deployments in  combat zones should be no longer than eight months. Troops should have a two-and-a-half year “dwell” or “down” time back at home stations.

As someone who has looked the enemy square in the eye, I can attest that the one thing they do understand is strength. It is crucial that our military is strong enough to demonstrate we have the resolve to prevail. We can rattle our sabers as loudly as we like, but sooner or later, we will need to follow through with action.

Our enemies will not willingly submit if we say they must obey “or else.” Even children understand the key question is, “or else what?”

One thing is certain as America moves forward with its defense strategy, we cannot predict from where the next threats will emerge, but we can predict with certainty that the landscape will be different than it is today. We have the finest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen the world has ever known. But they should never be forced to foot the bill for failed economic policies. The United States Constitution clearly demands the pre-eminent role of our federal government is to provide for the common defense. Will the President once again subvert this hallowed document for political gain?

Rep. West (R-Fla.) is a member of the House Armed Services committee.