According to the US Department of Justice, “Defending national security from both internal and external threats remains the [Department’s] highest priority. National security threats are constantly evolving and adapting, requiring additional resources to address new critical areas. Increasing global access to technological advancements results in new vulnerabilities that must be addressed. . . . technological and human capital [is needed] to detect, disrupt, and deter threats to our national security.” The DOJ’s FY 2012 Budget requested a total of $128.6 million and 170 positions in program increases that provide essential technological and human capital to detect, disrupt, and deter threats to our national security.
Wait! Isn’t that the Pentagon’s gig?
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed this view on the new national security planning and operating environment. “In the post-September 11th era, there have been significant benefits due to increased unity of effort and interagency cooperation. Civilian-military collaboration has improved, and our military commanders expect to operate in a coordinated and joint, multi-service environment. Diplomats, development experts, intelligence analysts, and law enforcement must work together in today’s complex operations.”
Does Panetta mean all levels of law enforcement in the USA?
According to the National Military Strategy of the United States, 2011, “There are no more vital interests than the security of the American people, our territory, and our way of life . . . Military power complements economic development, governance, and rule of law—the true bedrocks of counterterrorism efforts . . . We will defend the homeland and play a critical role in supporting homeland security . . .”
Isn’t the rule of law determined and enforced by civilians? Doesn’t he mean supports rather than “complements”?
The Department of Justice describes law enforcement as “the prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension and detention of individuals suspected of law violation.”
Not civil, not military: Judge Dredd
The fact is the uniformed services of the USA are not the premier caretakers of the American people’s security or freedom. That is myth. National security has become a team effort and it’s time to recognize that. The USA has gone completely paramilitary in every aspect of its local-state-national-international life. America has transmogrified into the movie character Judge Dredd played by Sly Stallone.
But what happens to a democratic republic, say the USA, when military and civilian law enforcement/public safety functions merge and become indistinguishable?
No one has a definitive answer to that question.
Most say that the civil-military divide is clear cut, a Rubicon that will never be crossed by the executive branch, the military, the defense industrial base and its many civilian employees, and uncritical supporters in the US Congress.
Admiral Mullen, outgoing chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that civilian rule in the USA will be maintained at all costs. In fact, in his National Military Strategy of the USA, emphasis is placed again and again on the matter of civilian control of the military.
That’s good, of course, but why the reminder now in 2011? After all, Americans know that the US Constitution makes the military subordinate to civilians.
And yet determining who is in charge/responsible for the nation’s security, public safety and law enforcement has become more difficult over the last decade. In fact, the US military and US law enforcement operate with the same end game in mind: preempt, deter, neutralize, and remediate. Or, in US COIN parlance—clear, hold, and build (CHB). CHB applies to a drug infested neighborhood in Washington, DC, as it does in a community in Afghanistan.
The special operations units in the US military have much in common with their law enforcement/public safety counterparts. As far as the end game of an operation is concerned, SWAT and SEAL teams operate on similar kill-pacify chains and “jointness of operations.”
Perhaps it is time for a grand restructure of the national security machinery.
If it is to be the case that military and law enforcement/public safety operate under the same strategies, operations and tactics, should domestic and global law enforcement/public safety functions be placed under some sort of civil-military geographic combatant command based on legislation similar to the Goldwater-Nichols model?
Should the Pentagon, Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State and Homeland Security, etc., be merged into some sort of National Security Department? Would centralization of the national security function alleviate interagency madness?
Can the president and secretary of defense continue to maintain direct control over the expanding national security machinery? This question speaks not to a military coup, but instead to how two human beings—and their Cold War era staffs—can make the best decisions for the USA in the face of waves of near instantaneous information/events that flood national security decision making centers? Should the role of the largely national security illiterate members of the US House and Senate be changed?
And who are the American people supposed to honor and salute—sometimes deify—each day? Is it the brave men and women of the US military stationed at an outpost in Afghanistan? The contractor who serves the food at CENTCOM HQ or the security contractor—from Peru, say—that guards a US State Department official? Is it the courageous Predator pilot sitting in an air conditioned trailer thousands of miles away from his/her target package? How about the uniformed “bean counters” in the Pentagon?
Or is it the law enforcement/public safety personnel in Detroit, Washington, DC, or Houston who should be thanked for their service? Or the FBI agent shot to death while serving an arrest warrant? How about the guards at a state prison who detect, deter and disrupt plans for an inmate rebellion?
According to the Pew Center, “Second only to Medicaid, corrections has become the fastest growing general fund expenditure in the United States. Two million three hundred thousand people in the U.S. are now in prison or jail—more than one in 100 adults. On any given day 7.3 million adults are under federal, state, or local correctional control (including those on probation, parole, and other forms of supervision)—one in 31 adults. In FY2008, the most recent year data are available, states spent an estimated $47 billion of general funds on corrections, an increase of 303 percent since 1988. They spent an additional $4 billion in special funds and bonds and $900 million in federal funds, bringing total corrections expenditures to nearly $52 billion.” And this excludes the scores of US military/intelligence clandestine prisons located around the globe.
It has all gotten very confusing.
Kill ’em all or lock ’em all up
Arguably, the security of the American people is primarily the responsibility of civilian law enforcement and public safety personnel. An F-16 pilot or SOF operator in Libya, Somalia, Mexico or Guatemala is of no consequence to Americans living in high crime areas who want to get to school or work without being murdered, raped, assaulted or robbed.
The latest uniformed crime statistics for the period January to December 2010 published by the Department of Justice show that 14, 627 Americans were murdered; 53,481 were forcibly raped; 442,932 were robbed, and 649,650 were brutally assaulted. The Virginia Association of Police Chiefs reports that 56 law enforcement officers were “feloniously killed” in 2010.
The neighborhood fire station is more relevant to security in a local US community than a forward operating base or outpost in Afghanistan/Iraq. It’s a good thing too as the Department of Justice reports that there were 40,070 cases of arson from January to December 2010. That excludes the daily calls that firefighters must make to subdue other incendiary events. According to the US Fire Administration, “an estimated 103,000 multifamily residential building fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 390 deaths, 4,050 injuries, and $1.2 billion in property loss.” Over the first five months of 2011, 33 fire fighters lost their lives in the line-of-duty, according to the US Fire Administration.
The national security consciousness is preeminent now in the minds of Americans. Everything from seeds used to plant corn for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes to rare earth minerals are a matter of national security, of survival (agroterrorism). Americans have a dangerous disregard now for the sovereignty of other nations terminating—21st Century gang land style—any real or perceived enemy of the state.
The USA has planted the seeds of reprisal. American Homeland, watch out!
There is only one other nation with a similar psyche as this and that is Israel. That nation provides a very useful comparative template, a sort of mirror in which to look. There is much to be admired about Israel and its people, but adopting their narrow security-minded view of the world is absolutely wrong for the USA. How has it come to pass that an Israeli official speaking before members of the US Congress receives more applause than the president of the United States of America delivering a State of the Union Address? Is there a clearer message of America’s move away from itself and its ideals?
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security and political matters. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.