April 26, 2010 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

Obamas lawbreaking Pentagon

President Obama's push for health care raised more than a few hackles, including the ire of 19 state attorneys general. "On behalf of the residents in Florida, and the states joining our efforts," declared Bill McCollum, who is spearheading one of the lawsuits, "we are committed to aggressively pursuing this lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to prevent this unprecedented expansion of federal powers, impact upon state sovereignty and encroachment on our freedom."

Questioning the constitutionality of Obamacare raises another question: Is flouting the law a pattern for how the president plans to govern?

By law, the Pentagon is required every four years to produce a Quadrennial Defense Review. It released its report late last year, but a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing raised questions over whether the QDR actually meets what is in the law.

The law requires that the report be based on the national security strategy. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 requires that the strategy be submitted to Congress annually. Obama failed to do that. According to the Congressional Research Service, the strategy was due in 2009, "150 days after the Inauguration."

No strategy is a real problem. By letting the QDR cart roll in front of the strategy horse, Obama is depriving both the Congress and the American people of a full and clear picture of what he is up to.

The contents of the QDR are of even greater concern. By law, the report must address 15 requirements. The report falls short on most of them.

For example, the QDR is supposed to lay out the "force structure best suited to implement that strategy at a low to moderate level of risk." Among other decisions, the QDR cut the number of troops specifically outfitted and assigned to respond to weapons of mass destruction attacks on the homeland by 3,000 -- almost 20 percent.

This is not a decision designed to keep risk "moderate or low." In fact, in most cases the QDR hides rising risks from the American people.

The QDR was also supposed to assess "the effect on force structure of the use by the armed forces of technologies anticipated to be available for the ensuing 20 years." Yet rather than look out two decades, the QDR largely rubber-stamps short-term budget decisions made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to gut the procurement budget, including cutting back on systems like the F-22 and missile defense.

There is more on climate change than on how the Pentagon is going to ensure the military does not hollow out under the anemic procurement budgets coming from the Obama administration.

It's not just the QDR that falls short. The Pentagon also recently released another congressionally mandated report -- the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). Section 1251 of last year's Defense Authorization Act required the administration to report to Congress on its "plan to enhance the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile"; "modernize the nuclear weapons complex"; and "maintain delivery platforms for nuclear weapons," including a 10-year budget outline, before it submitted the "new" Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to the Senate.

The NPR failed to adequately address any of these issues. Unless the White House plans to submit another report before it sends the treaty over, it will be ignoring that legislative mandate as well.

It is difficult to have a reasoned debate over whether our commander in chief is doing the right things to keep the nation safe, free and prosperous when he skirts the laws designed to fully inform the American people of how our government plans to "provide for the common defense."

Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at the Heritage Foundation

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First appeared in The Examiner