img Proposals

Guaranteeing an Efficient Military
ONC Editorial

Jun 21, 2023

Proposing a five-point plan working towards a more efficient military. (The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, whose information can be found below.)

Big Picture:
Guaranteeing an efficient and uncontested military is critical for protecting our way of life. We must make the most out of the Department of Defense’s potential while establishing clear goals to support our military.

Operative Definitions:

  1. Department of Defense (DOD): Founded in 1947. America’s largest government agency, responsible for coordinating and supervising all aspects of national security and the United States Armed Forces. 
  2. Modernization: Progression that is driven by recent advancements to meet present needs. This might include developing new equipment and gear, addressing a capability gap, providing improved capabilities and/or reducing costs.
  3. Readiness: The ability and willingness to quickly respond to adversity. 
  4. Effectiveness: The ability to set a goal and achieve a desired outcome.
  5. Congressional Oversight: The review, monitoring and supervision of the U.S. executive branch, including federal agencies, programs and policy implementation, to ensure that laws are being enforced as Congress intended. This allows the legislative branch to review and check the executive branch and its agencies.
  6. United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):  A cabinet-level executive branch that provides healthcare benefits to eligible military veterans across the 1,700 VA medical clinics across the country.

Important Facts and Statistics:

  1. Former President Donald Trump requested a total of $706 billion for the DOD in fiscal year 2021, which is four percent less than appropriated in 2020 (after accounting for inflation).
  2. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have cost the U.S. about $2 trillion each.

Five-Point Plan:

(1) Establish short and long-term defense goals; directly reflect these goals in the defense budget. Conduct detailed surveys to determine the defense goals of American citizens. This will help solidify the standards by which we judge our foreign and defense policies. Require authorization from Congressional Oversight of the DOD to identify detailed plans of all defense projects operating above a to-be-determined cost. This cost will be tied to percentages of the budget of previous years, based on the most recent projections, so as to have a concrete and actionable reference point. 

(2) Counter geopolitical competitors such as China and Russia by prioritizing annual modernization in our National Defense Strategy. Prioritize readiness and effectiveness to sustain the military’s heavy modernization. The U.S. must improve efficiency and protect troops by transferring project development from old human-run equipment, known as legacy systems, to computerized systems. We must also focus on developing and capitalizing on technological advances. We must spend $15 billion on hypersonic weapons and anti-hypersonic defense technology, and $15 million on suicide drone defenses.

(3) Support our military abroad. America must maintain its overseas bases with troops and equipment in sensitive locations, so that they are equipped to achieve key foreign policy goals. 

(4) Improve the physical, mental and financial welfare of veterans. Conduct VA center patient surveys to identify where VA mental health care is lacking. Afterwards, redirect staff and funds for significant improvement in health care. See Mental Health policy. Additionally, offer low-cost job training and college exploration programs on military bases to better prepare soon-to-retire troops for reintegration into the civilian world.

(5) Adapt resources to support goals in the Asia-Pacific. Utilize targeted funding to the military branches that are most anticipated to fight future conflicts. In particular, conflicts with China and within the Asia-Pacific will likely be of maritime nature. The budget for the Coast Guard, Navy and Marines should thus be increased by $15 billion by redirecting funds from the Army and using funds saved from withdrawals from Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Why This Initiative is Important: 

Even during uneasy times, America will maintain its status and benefits as a global superpower, be able to confront the influence of its adversaries and fight wars of the future. Defense spending will be stabilized at desirable levels, while defense potential and efficiency will be vastly improved. Military accountability will be expanded and veterans will be better protected by the VA. Current troops will have skill and job training opportunities available as they transition back into civilian life.

Economic Impact (From Our Student Economist Team):

Withdrawing from Afghanistan will save $150 billion to $280 billion over the next four years. When other related costs such as veteran health care and equipment wear are factored in, the cost savings could rise to over $400 billion.


The following student(s) worked on this nonpartisan proposal: Mehak Rajpal, University of Southern California; Royce Williams, University of California, Davis; Ahmad Ishakat, University of Jordan; Michelle Liou, Mountain View High School; Marco Wertheimer, Lafayette College; Connor O’Neill, Lafayette College; Cameron Olbert, University of Edinburgh.

The following individuals gave feedback during the creation of this proposal:

  1. Adam Saxton: Research Associate of International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, DC.
  2. Steven Lamy: Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California; Co-Principal Investigator, Luce Foundation Grant on Religion Identity. San Gabriel, CA.
  3. Samuel Wells: Professor of International Relations, Wellesley College and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Founder and Director, Wilson Center International Security Studies Program. Wellesley, MA.
  4. David Kawesi-Mukooza: Executive Assistant, Office of Chief of Naval Operations; Commander, U.S. Navy. Norfolk, VA.
  5. Chad Pillai: Deputy Director, Commander's Action Group at U.S. Central Command; Major, U.S. Army. Tampa, FL.
  6. Patricia Sullivan: Professor of Public Policy and Peace, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Director, Triangle Institute for Security Studies. Chapel Hill, NC.
  7. Winslow Wheeler: Director, Straus Military Reform Project of Project on Government Oversight. Washington, DC.
  8. Annita Nerses: Vice President and General Manager, Intrepid Networks. Indianapolis, IN.

Note: Not all participants agree with every aspect of this proposal. To arrive at a proposal that takes multiple views into account requires compromise and difficult decisions.


Almukhtar, S. and Nordland, R., 2019. “What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?” The New York Times.

Cachero, P., 2020. “US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone,” Business Insider.

Congressional Budget Office, 2020. “Long-Term Implications of the 2021 Future Years Defense Program”,estimates%20(see%20Table%201)

Keller, J., 2019. “The U.S. Military's Next Wonder Weapon: Suicide Drones,” The National Interest.

Obering, H. A., 2020. “Should the US rely on Iron Dome for the long term?”, Defense News.

Roblin, S., 2019. “Why U.S. Patriot missiles failed to stop drones and cruise missiles attacking Saudi oil sites,” NBC

News. -for-the-long-term/.

Stone, R., 2020. “‘National pride is at stake.’ Russia, China, United States race to build hypersonic weapons,” ScienceMag.

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