November 07, 2019

National Security Is Made of People

For several years, members of Congress and senior defense officials have worried, dramatically and out loud, about the state of military readiness, devoting bipartisan harangues and billions in emergency spending to repairing a crisis that never quite seems to end. As typically understood, military readiness—the ability of forces to do what the nation asks of them—is worth careful consideration. The Department of Defense spends remarkable effort and resources in sustaining and measuring readiness, while shushing public debate. The national-security-wonk world devotes commensurate time assessing whether military readiness considers the right measures, or if a crisis really exists, or if we can define what forces should be ready for. Regardless, there is a common understanding that if military readiness is unsound, U.S. national security may be at risk.

Remarkably, there is no such common understanding of the readiness of the national security civilian workforce—no metrics, no tirades, no constituencies, no bestowing value. There is increasing recognition that great power competition will not be waged principally in the military sphere, and civilian domains will be vital in this era. But the most bipartisan, universal assessments of the national security personnel required to execute in those domains is disdain: lazy bureaucrats, unelected conspirators, back-office functionaries, retired-in-place cubicle-dwellers. The most consistent policy agendas applied to the national security workforce is to cut them.

Read the full article in Defense One.

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