January 9, 2009
President-Elect Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC, 20500
History provides few leaders with the opportunities now before you. America is in crisis and Americans believe you can - and you will - restore our economy, our liberties, our national security, and our public conscience.
Upon your shoulders rests the aspirations of millions. Soon enough your time will be consumed with the awesome burdens associated with your new office.
Before this moment passes, I believe it is my duty as a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq - a proud American - to advance the following proposal for your consideration.
It is time to reconstitute the structure of our Armed Forces.
It is time to establish a citizen-centric military organization that fits our budget, our international challenges, and our national character.
It is time to rethink the logic and purpose of a massive full-time force and to reconsider the inherent strengths of an adaptable, integrated force structure - one that invests our talent, time, and treasure in a military reflecting our values.
Now is the time to establish a new framework: a relatively small full-time force responsible for strategic defense, navigation of the seas, rapid response, and the sustained training required for a robust National Guard: a "cadre" system that taps into the benefits of both full-time and part-time service.
This is not an argument to scuttle the active duty architecture: there are functions that a standing military force is uniquely suited to perform. Yet, history clearly shows that enduring massive armies blur the necessities of armed conflict and color the dynamics of international relations.
We need a force that is not only effective and efficient, but which, by its very structure will sharpen and balance the judgments that lead to its use.
Since 1776, the National Guard has answered the call of service; it is far more reflective of our national character - it embodies the form and function of a citizen-led enterprise. Throughout most of our history the peace was kept with a small administrative full time force and an integrated scalable reserve.
Especially over the past five years, the National Guard has proven its competence and worth every day in Afghanistan, Iraq, and places throughout the world. The citizen-soldier philosophy allows for response during domestic emergency as well as tailored application of combat power when circumstances require.
Only in the shaded fear of the Cold War did we transform the organization and purpose of our military. Eisenhower knew the dangers and false security that massive military complexes provide: wars appear easier and less costly than reality.
Ironically, your predecessor accomplished through incompetence, mismanagement, and recklessness what no enemy was ever able to accomplish on the field: the near total collapse of our military might.
His failures put our nation at risk; we must rebuild a new military from the ashes of the past seven years.
We must accept that there is no wallet large enough for fulfilling our will - at least in terms of refitting our force. Our equipment has been driven past its ability to be repaired, and we do not have the economy to develop modern alternatives in similar strength.
We simply cannot afford the military we had prior to engaging in Afghanistan and Iraq; we find opportunity in every crisis.
Mr. President-Elect, our recent past does not have to be prelude; we can develop an intelligent military structure that uses the advantages of the profession of arms as well as the democratic values of a citizen-soldier model.
We can provide a national defense that makes our nation, states, and communities even stronger - more connected to our citizens than ever before.
We can invest precious resources in training the most capable part-time military force in history. Reports long buried since the 1990s suggest a difference of as much as $1 million between an active duty and reserve career - per sailor, soldier, airmen or marine.
We can reframe the military industrial complex into an emergency response industry that promotes peaceful applications at least as much as warcraft. It is an opportunity that will yield both a stronger economy as well as a more flexible force.
Mr. President-Elect, think beyond the boundaries of what "has been" and consider the possibilities of what "could be." In recent days you have empowered studies on reforming our policies on the economy, energy, and health care.
It is now time for us to assess the kind of military force structure study Our America requires for the challenges of the 21st Century.
The bond between civil society and the modern military has been the National Guard - that connection more than any other has provided us the landscape for peaceful debate during a time of war.
As we begin to recast Our America, let us include investment in a central ideal of citizenship: a military vested in the hands of volunteer citizenry that is ready, relevant, and responsive.
OIF (2003/2005), OEF (2006)
Paul L. Evans
744 Main Street E.
Monmouth, OR 97361