National Defense Overview

The Department of Defense is America's oldest and largest government agency. With our military tracing its roots back to pre-Revolutionary times, the Department of Defense has grown and evolved with our nation.

Today, the Department, headed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, is not only in charge of the military, but it also employs a civilian force of thousands. The Department of Defense has a budget of $419.3 billion and more than three million employees; Wal-Mart has a budget of about $227 billion and employs about 1.3 million people; Exxon-Mobil has a budget of $200 billion and employs almost 98,000; the GM company budget equals $181 billion, it has a workforce of 365,000; and Ford has a budget of $160 billion, and employs 354,400 people. With over 1.3 million men and women on active duty, and 684,000 civilian personnel, the Department of Defense serves as the nation's largest employer.

The Department of Defense contributes to homeland security through its military missions overseas, homeland defense, and support to civil authorities. Ongoing military operations abroad have reduced the terrorist threat against the United States.

Homeland defense is the protection of US sovereignty, territory, domestic population, and critical defense infrastructure against external threats and aggression, or other threats as directed by the President. The Department of Defense is responsible for homeland defense.

September 11, 2001 changed the way our country approaches national defense issues. After the series of coordinated attacks on our country, the United States responded by launching a "War on Terrorism", entering Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, and by enacting the USA PATRIOT Act. Many other countries also strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. The War on Terror eventually expanded into Iraq when coalition forces entered the country with the ultimate effort eliminating weapons of mass destruction and eliminating the human rights abuses. While extremely supportive at the onset, the American public slowly began to question U.S. strategy in the war and ultimately national defense became one of the top issues of the 2008 presidential election.

In 2009, President Obama took office promising to do the following:

  • Add National Guard Chief To Joint Chiefs
  • Address Al-Qaida Prison Recruitment Efforts
  • Ban Torture
  • Close Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
  • Combat Terrorism
  • Consult Military Commanders
  • Consult National Security Experts In Congress
  • Create Information Declassification Center
  • Create International Anti-Terrorism Network
  • Ensure Military Has Enough Training
  • Establish Quadrennial Review Of Homeland Security Threats
  • Expand Army And Marine Corps
  • Give National Guard Appropriate Equipment, Rest
  • Increase Funding To Train Police To Gather Intelligence
  • Keep Nonproliferation Commitment
  • Make Cybersecurity A Federal Priority
  • Open 'America Houses' In Islamic Countries
  • Provide Soldiers With Necessary Equipment
  • Require National Security Officials To Hold Broadband Town Halls
  • Safeguard All Nuclear Material Within Four Years
  • Set Fixed Term For Director Of National Intelligence
  • Stop Development Of New Nuclear Weapons
  • Strengthen Civilian Agencies
  • Strengthen Nonproliferation Treaty
  • Support A Global Education Fund
  • Target Every Source Of Fear In The Americas

Shortly after the campaign, President-Elect Obama announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would continue his role in the Obama administration. Gates has been integral to the United Statesí military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.

Congressional Republicans assert the following principles related to the war in Afghanistan and general national defense issues.

  • We must prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into the hands of the Taliban and deny Al Qaeda a safe haven to plan future attacks against America and our allies, a goal that President Obama has reiterated many times.
  • It is clear from General McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan that additional troops are needed to effectively counter the insurgency. We owe it to the men and women of our Armed Forces to provide them with the resources they need to succeed in their mission.
  • General McChrystal should testify before Congress - and the American people - and personally deliver his assessment on how to effectively implement the counterinsurgency strategy President Obama announced in March.
  • In March, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan designed to beat back the insurgents, deny Al Qaeda and the Taliban safe haven in the country, and give the Afghan government time to build long-term economic and political stability.
  • President Obama's latest remarks suggest that he may abandon the counterinsurgency strategy that he endorsed just six months ago.
  • House Republicans support the strategy outlined by the president in March, and ask the president to overcome the objections of some in his party and give the new strategy an opportunity to work.
  • It is critically important that President Obama clarify where he now stands on the Afghanistan strategy he articulated in March.

The Show-Me State series, along with the Republican Party, believes in the concept of peace through strength, as displayed by President Reaganís approach to American defense. Peace through strength indicates a peace based on freedom, and the will to defend that freedom. In post September 11 days, it requires defending our homeland and remaining vigilant in the global war on terror. We see the need to maintain a robust defense against nuclear proliferation, including a missile defense system for America and our allies. We must also ensure our country has a formidable intelligence community, capable of handling modern security needs.

We are fully committed to Americaís Armed Forces and seek to ensure they have all the resources they need to remain safe, modern and adaptable.

We also support policies that develop and maintain alliances and relationships that will promote peace and stability. While the U.S. participates in international organizations which can serve as the cause of peace and prosperity, it must not substitute principled American leadership, nor prevent America from joining with other democracies to protect our national interests.

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Sources: DOD.gov; GOP.gov; NationalJournal.com