Defense and the National Interest


After intense debate, the framers of the Constitution accepted the need for a standing army—to deal with continuous "depredations" along the frontier and unpredictable threats from European powers—while recognizing and bounding the threat to liberty such a force could present.  The real issue today is not the need for a standing military, but how we hold our defense establishment accountable to the will of the people.  It is truly amazing how little the terms of this debate have changed in 200 years, as a search of the Constitution and Federalist Papers on such topics as "armies" and "militia" will show.

  • US Constitution and Amendments

  • The Federalist Papers

Sen Charles Grassley's (R IA, then Ch. Sen Finance Comm.) letter to SECDEF Rumsfeld, May 22, 2001, outlining fraud and mismanagement in the DoD IG's office.  In the words of a congressional staffer with long experience in audit matters:

Forging workpapers (I cannot over-emphasize how bad this is) means that DoD IG reports can no longer meet GAGAS standards and are therefore unreliable until the DoD IG can demonstrate that no other workpapers were forged for any other report and that they have implemented procedures to ensure this will never happen again. Thus, the DoD IG has literally self-destructed itself.

10/31/2005 The Plame Affair and the Decline of The State, by Fabius Maximus.  Musings on the state of national intelligence and the future of the republic by the always interesting and often infuriating F. Max.

Fourth Generation Warfare: What Does it Mean to Every Marine?  Col Michael D. Wyly, USMC, Ret.  The source of our advantage over fourth generation opponents lies not in the superiority of our technology or even of our ideology.  In this prescient paper, Mike Wyly maintains that it lies in the very bedrock of our society - the Constitution.  Those would would wage 4GW must read, ponder, and understand this remarkable document, to which all members of the military have sworn to protect from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  [As a colleague of then-Commandant Al Gray, Col Wyly was one of the prime movers behind the Marines' adoption of third generation - maneuver - warfare in the late 1980s.]

"Government at the Brink," Vol 1 (632 KB .pdf) and Vol 2 (651 KB .pdf). Report by Sen Fred Thompson (R TN), then-Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, June 2001.  Documents the extent of waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the government.  DoD section begins on p. 17 of Vol 2.  Waste and even corruption are reaching levels generally associated with third world countries.

CANCELED DOD APPROPRIATIONS: $615 Million of Illegal or Otherwise Improper Adjustments, GAO-01-697, July 2001. DoD's refusal to correct known errors in just one accounting system caused it to make $146 million in illegal adjustments (over and above those simply "improper") in just one category in just one fiscal year.  To the extent that the department no longer has funds in these accounts to correct the illegal adjustments, DoD could be in violation of the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. 1351. 

Testimony of the Deputy DoD Inspector General, Robert J. Lieberman to the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management, and Intergovernmental Relations, May 8, 2001.  Candid statement of the problems still facing anyone trying to understand how DoD spends its money and what the taxpayers get in return.  Examples:  Although the FY 2000 DoD budget was "only" around $290 billion, there were over $4 TRILLION in accounting adjustment entries (roughly $ 1 trillion unsupported); only 7 of DoD 167 major financial management systems met adequate standards (cost to fix = at least $2.3 billion).

"Information on the Use of Spare Parts Funding is Lacking," GAO 01-472, June 2001 (182 KB .pdf).   For FY 1999, Congress gave the Pentagon an extra $1.1 billion in emergency supplemental funds specifically earmarked for spare parts.  We know that $87 million actually did go into an account for Navy aircraft spares; the rest disappeared into general operations and maintenance accounts and could have been used for most anything.

Reforming the Management of the National Defense: Can the National Defense Afford Congress?  "The national defense is a thoroughly gerrymandered pork barrel. Apparently, the enormity of the problem is not yet enough to pry the problem loose from vested legislative interests." So concludes noted attorney Herbert L. Fenster in this brilliant but largely ignored 1989 paper.  Excellent introduction to how our current military-industrial complex evolved and one of the few places to address the problems of the industrial component.

"Major Management Challenges and Program Risks: Department of Defense" (GAO-01-244, January 2001) In this important and well researched report, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that DoD's business practices fail to approach the standards of excellence demanded of troops in the field. In particular, "power games" such as front loading (basing program decisions on unrealistic assumptions) waste money that could be used to improve readiness and support modernization.  The report reiterates the importance of fixing DoD's unauditable financial systems (which is mandated by the Constitution, as well as simply being good management practice) as the basis for reasonable decisions.

Comment #169, "The Constitution, Situational Ethics & the Phony Debate Over More Defense Spending," now with all references. Inside the Pentagon reported that DoD has apparently successfully opted out of the Constitution's "Accountability Clause" (Article I, Section 9, Clause 7).  Commentator Chuck Spinney explains why this should outrage Americans of every political viewpoint.

"Commentary & Analysis: UN War Crimes Tribunal Delivers a Travesty of Justice," By Robert M. Hayden, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  A contrarian view, perhaps, of the applicability of force to solve human rights abuses.

"Humanitarian Military Intervention," by Jules Lobel and Michael Ratner, a tightly-reasoned critique of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

The latest DoD IG report on the unauditable state of the Pentagon's financial management system (on the QDR page).


548 Werther Report: Assault on the Bill of Rights, January 15, 2006
547 Correction to Comment 547, January 12, 2006

Sliming Statements: How to Pour Goo on the Constitution? January 11, 2006

514 Iraq: Follow the Money, If You Can, July 7, 2004
501 Iraq, Afghanistan, & the War on Terror ... & ... the Helen Gurley Brown Solution, November 4, 2003
497 Comptroller General Issues Wakeup Call — Truth & Transparency — But Will Anyone Listen? September 22, 2003
495 Why Outsourcing Military Operations is Bunk, September 19, 2003
482 Star Wars, Punctuated Epistemology, and the Triumph of Medieval Scholasticism, May 23, 2003
481 The Rice/Feith Synthesis: Why Finding Saddam Should be Job 1, May 16, 2003
474 Offsets: Legalized Bribery or Half-Baked Policy or Both? February 18, 2003
450 Teach the Pentagon to Think Before it Spends, June 5, 2002
441 The Great American Gong Show: Woodrow Wilson Meets Dr. Strangelove, February 23, 2002

Why Does a "Half-War Plus" Strategy Require  a Cold-War Budget to Keep It Afloat?  June 25, 2001

399 Tighten Pentagon's Purse Strings Until It Passes an Audit, December 2000

What Is the Role of Congress? Oversight or Overlook, September 29, 2000


Kosovo SITREP – A Rough Week for Battalion XX, May 18, 2000


Who is Minding the Store?  November 8, 1999


Where are the Bodies in Kosovo? (II) October 19, 1999


Where are the Bodies in Kosovo? October 18, 1999


Will an Across-the-Board Pay Raise Stop the Personnel Exodus? (III),  October 3, 1999


Creeping Mobocracy in Versailles on the Potomac (I),  September 24, 1999


Was NATO's War Against Yugoslavia Legal? July 28, 1999

300 Assault on Checks and Balances (II): Hooray for the HAC(D)!!!  July 23, 199

The Assault on Checks & Balances, June 7, 1999


Lobbyist's Recusal Freaks out the Pentagon (II) … or … Why Lewis Carroll Would Feel Right at Home in the Howling Wilderness of Acquisition Reform, February 3, 1999

193 License to Steal: Senate Subcommittee Zeros in on Financial Control Failures in Department of Defense, September 25, 1998

The Constitution, Situational Ethics & the Phony Debate Over More Defense Spending
August 25, 1998






CERTAIN TO WIN: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business, by Chet Richards. Boyd's real OODA loop and ancient strategies working for business today. More...
Advance Reviews;
Amazon and B&N


RAISING THE BAR, by Donald Vandergriff (U.S. Army, ret.) Published by the Center for Defense Information Press. Read the DNI review. Order from Amazon.


SCIENCE, STRATEGY AND WAR, by Col Frans Osinga, RNAF. Read the DNI Review.  Order from Amazon or B&N. New! Now in paperback directly from Routledge, $35.95.


NEITHER SHALL THE SWORD, by Chet Richards.  If you thought A Swift, Elusive Sword was too tame.  Read the Introduction and view the Briefing. Podcast review.  Available now on Amazon


BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Amazon & B&N.


BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION : A Future Worth Creating, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. Read the DNI review. Buy at Amazon and B&N


NOT A GOOD DAY TO DIE: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, by Sean Naylor. Read the DNI Review; Amazon and B&N


THE WASTRELS OF DEFENSE: How Congress Sabotages U. S. Security by Winslow Wheeler.  You'll be disgusted, then just mad.
Read Comment #527.
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THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN, by Steven Pressfield.  Read the DNI Review. Amazon and B&N.


The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield
Read the DNI Review.
Amazon and B&N. Now in trade paperback.


The Sling and The Stone by Col T. X. Hammes, USMC
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