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Lawrence Korb: No Matter How Much You Spend, You Can’t Buy Security

Mike Klein

Americans – you and me — spend lots of money to maintain the most lethal military machine in world history.  “No matter how much you spend on defense, you can’t buy perfect security,” says former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb.  “It’s all about making choices and trade-offs as you look at what role you want the United States to play around the world.”

Here’s a contemporary question:  Can the $700 billion Pentagon annual budget remain sacred and out-of-bounds while the rest of fiscal Washington teeters on collapse?  Korb and two other panelists said no when they addressed World Affairs Council of Atlanta members last week.

Washington is in constipation over national debt and possible default this summer.  No party, no person and no idea have gained the high ground in a partisan argument that long ago went way past nasty.  Whether U.S. military cuts could help the budget is almost never seriously discussed.  Whether we are prepared for the right enemy should be constantly in question.

When he delivered an address last week in Washington outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “Our record of predicting where we will use military force since Vietnam is perfect — we have never once gotten it right.”  Gates will leave his post this month. Among his outgoing thoughts, “I’ve said repeatedly that I’d rather have a smaller, but superbly capable military than a larger, hollow, less capable one.  However we need to be honest … that a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”

Korb, along with Daniel Papp and Robert Kennedy, advanced a compelling argument during their World Affairs Council of Atlanta appearance that the military budget no longer fits the military mission, the budget is unaffordable in current economics and that our political and military leaders continue to overreact ten years after 9/11.

The 9/11 point was perhaps articulated best by Kennesaw State University president Papp whose resume includes senior research professor positions at the U.S. Army War College and many other military analysis assignments.

Daniel Papp, President, Kennesaw State University

“Many congressmen and congresswomen who I’ve talked to firmly believe they cannot broach cuts in defense because they would not be re-elected because the American people would respond by voting for their opponents,” Papp said.  “As a result of that very understandable continuing impact of 9/11, in many of our representatives’ eyes the defense budget is sacred.”

The Pentagon spends north of $550 billion annually in its baseline budget and it engages in Iraq and Afghanistan on another $150 billion in supplemental appropriations.  The baseline budget is roughly $100 billion greater per year in inflation adjusted dollars than what it cost to outlast the Soviet Union in the Cold War.  “As far as I know, we prevailed in the Cold War,” Korb noted.

You can maintain a lot of military stuff for $700 billion.  The U.S. deploys eleven aircraft carrier groups; no other country has more than two; Russia has one.  The Pentagon has 1,900 nuclear missiles online and 5,000 offline, which Korb said costs some $30 billion to maintain.

Eighty thousand Americans are stationed in Europe.  “For what,” Korb asked.  “Hitler’s dead.  Stalin’s dead.  The Cold War is over, so why do we still have 80,000 troops?  The reason we have to protect Europe is because they’re cutting their defense budgets to deal with the deficit.”

Yet, the most serious recent threat to our national security was found not in the Kremlin, or in Beijing or in Pyongyang or in Tehran.  It came from a terrorist who lived in a million-dollar compound in Pakistan.  A U.S. Navy Seals bullet to the head ended Osama bin Laden’s journey but the al Qaeda movement survives and it remains among our greatest national security challenges.

Lawrence Korb, Former U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary

“Failed states and states that harbor the development of terrorist groups are a danger to this country,” Papp said.  “There aren’t too many out there so the question is, how do you deal with the few that are out there?  The much more dangerous threat from my perspective is a small group that gets some type of WMD (weapon of mass destruction).

“You don’t deal with them aircraft carrier battle groups.  You deal with them, as this country has been doing pretty well for the past ten years, with sophisticated and steadily improving intelligence capabilities.  That’s what we’ve got to do.  That’s where we’ve got to put the emphasis.”

Think about these numbers and how they are moving in the wrong direction:  Eleven years ago the United States accounted for one-third of the world’s annual military expense and Americans produced one-third of the world’s gross domestic product.  Today the U.S. spends 46 percent of worldwide military expenditures and our GDP is about one-quarter of world GDP.   NATO allies spend another 21 percent of the world’s defense budget; China spends 6.6-to-8 percent and Russia 3.5-to-5 percent.

“If you look around, we are spending as much as the rest of the world combined,” said Korb, who used “conned” and “shell game” to describe Pentagon budgets.  Notably, the baseline budget was in the $280 billion vicinity before 9/11.  “War on terror is a stupid phrase because who’s your enemy?”  Korb said.  “Terror is a tactic.  You can’t go to war against a tactic.”

Robert Kennedy, Professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs

Korb and Papp were joined by Robert Kennedy, former foreign affairs officer with the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, professor at the U.S. Army War College and civilian deputy commandant of the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy.  Kennedy has been a professor at Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs since 1989.

“When you look at what you should spend on defense you must size that against the nature of the threat,” Kennedy said.   He noted the baseline and supplemental appropriation military budgets are more than ten times the size of the State Department’s entire budget, adding that even a modest increase to diplomacy “would really improve our situation globally and we won’t need those extraordinary heavy forces that are unlikely to see combat in the future.”

There are many opinions about how much the United States should spend on defense, especially now during fiscal chaos.  Incidentally, your share is about $2,250.  Thought you would want to know.

About the World Affairs Council of Atlanta

The mission of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta is to provide a forum for dialogue, a source of expertise, and an engine for research on international affairs and global issues that impact the corporate community, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the general public.  The Council recently hosted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The WCA is housed at Georgia State University.  Click here for additional information.

Lawrence Korb Biography link

Robert Kennedy Biography link

Daniel Papp Biography link

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia Public – Private Partners Launch Internet Shipping Marketplace

Mike Klein

The next big thing in logistics (that means moving stuff from one place to another) might already have happened right here in Georgia.  Georgiafreight.com is a coordinated marketplace of transportation options for moving anything from here to there or almost anywhere.

It exists entirely on the Internet, it’s easy to use (even I was able to understand it) and here’s the best news yet, it comes with a whole bunch of built-in discounts. You can get discounts for being a Georgia company and for shipping from one Georgia address to another.

Georgiafreight.com is a project of Efreightsolutions, a private company, but it was hatched with lots of assistance from the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics which is headquartered on the Georgia Tech campus in Savannah.  It received a big boost forward from Kennesaw State University president Dan Papp who connected Efreightsolutions and the Innovations Center.

“It’s an online freight portal and there are lots of them out there, but what was lacking was a focus on Georgia,” said Page Siplon, director of the state’s Center of Innovation for Logistics.  This online model provides several tiers of service and lots of options for moving product by air, rail, truck or water.  Siplon said the model could soon be expanded to California and New York.

The Georgiafreight.com story will be center stage when the 2011 Georgia Logistics Summit convenes over two days next week at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta.  But the company’s ability to help industries move products will be just one reason that it makes headlines.

Using its own private funds, Georgiafreight.com will make program awards to five Georgia universities that offer logistics education.  Siplon said the company will also announce an inaugural Logistics and Community Leadership Award to a person (or persons) for work within the industry and dedication to foster care programs.  University and personal award recipients will be honored during Monday evening’s reception at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

Page Siplon

Next Tuesday’s daylong third annual Georgia Logistics Summit is rapidly becoming a must-attend event for private industry and public stakeholders.  Siplon launched the event as a 2009 luncheon and 450 attended.  “We knew we were onto something,” Siplon said.  Last year it moved to the Cobb Galleria and attendance doubled.  Some 1,200 are registered for Tuesday.

The entire reason the conference exists is to explain how Georgia can move products.  “It’s a complicated industry so when you say logistics, a lot of things come to mind,” Siplon said.  “What was lacking was a place where all those people could get together and talk.”

Tuesday scheduled keynote speakers include Jack Wells, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Wells will meet with Georgia Ports Authority executives on Monday in Savannah before his conference address on Tuesday in Atlanta.

The Savannah River and harbor deepening project remains the biggest elephant in the room. Georgia needs to dredge the river from its current 42-foot depth to 48 feet to accommodate larger ships that will begin to navigate the new Panama Canal in three years.  Project cost is estimated at $500-to-$600 million, to be shared between Georgia and the federal government.

Georgia has already committed its share of about 25 percent, but Washington has not followed suit.  “Yes, that is probably the most visible project because it affects so many things,” Siplon said.  “It is a project we are going to have to fund one way or another.  Georgia is at the crossroads of global commerce.  We shouldn’t have to beg for resources to do that.”

Here is a video about the economic impact of the Georgia ports in Savannah and Brunswick.

Tuesday’s conference will include breakout sessions on air freight, agribusiness, energy, life sciences, manufacturing and ocean freight.  Other scheduled speakers include Governor Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz, state economic development commissioner Chris Cummiskey, state transportation commissioner Vance Smith and logistics industry executives.

Click here to learn more about the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment