Playing Politics with National Security

Playing Politics with National Security


There is a deeply disturbing trend regarding national security risks, both in the official government response to new developments and the media reaction to them.

Both civilian and military leaders appear shocked and surprised at the growing technical and numerical prowess of America’s adversaries. The media, when news such as Russian satellite killer missiles and Chinese hypersonics are revealed, tend to underplay the seriousness of the issue.

The answer to why Washington has been less than adequate in its ability to foresee worrisome trends has much to do with the politicization of intelligence agencies.

In 2016, Dan Harris, writing in Cipher Brief, noted “The U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) clandestine human intelligence (HUMINT) services are experiencing an erosion of their core mission and values, with consequences to our current and future collection capability…”  Speaking of the Obama Administration, but stressing that this has been an ongoing problem, Harris explained that “the increasingly common practice of deferring core mission decisions to the National Security Council and a shifting vision of intelligence to ‘in support of’ rather than ‘independent of’ policy, have led to questions whether a disregard for the unique requirements of clandestine HUMINT [human intelligence] are so pervasive as to require an entirely new and dedicated service…I believe the issue …is not the need for a new service but the need for experienced mission-enablers, not vice political loyalists, at the command level.”

Several recent events demonstrate the increasing threat level, unforeseen by Washington, and, when finally revealed, underplayed by the media.

More than any other nation, the United States is dependent on satellites for defense.  In 2007, China, and just recently in 2021, Russia demonstrated the ability to destroy those orbital assets with killer missiles.  These were not only a threat that could render the Pentagon deaf, dumb and blind in a potential conflict.  They produced an immediate danger to the planetary orbital infrastructure of commercial and navigational satellites, and in the case of the recent Russian test, the International Space Station. Astronauts were forced to take refuge in safety chambers until it was determined where the debris would strike.

The U.S. Defense Department was similarly unaware of how far China had progressed in hypersonic missiles. Both civilian and military leaders expressed surprise when Beijing performed a very successful test of a hypersonic weapons delivery system that circled the globe and delivered a payload to a target site.

Some have noted the disturbing failure to recognize China’s meteoric increase in military power. In a recent interview with the Washington Times  Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements stated “One of the most interesting things about being a China-watcher over maybe the last 10, 15 years has been it’s the only country certainly in my memory, and I’ve had people in the intelligence community tell me that they’ve never seen a country that consistently accelerates faster than we estimate…The Soviets didn’t do that. Certainly not North Korea or Iran, anything like that. But China has done a good job of taking their economic power… and applying that to acceleration of military capability. And this is why you’re seeing things like the hypersonic test…”

The media has not been eager to pursue the issue. Intense discussion of Beijing’s extraordinary military prowess would lead to calls for more adequate funding for the Pentagon.  That would put pressure on the Biden Administration to limit its push for massive spending on social welfare issues, some of which have been masked as infrastructure, as well as on actual infrastructure spending itself.

The powerful progressive caucus in Congress, which many maintain dominates the Biden Administration, ignores the dire information, and advocates cutting defense spending by at least 10%.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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