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U.S. national security is a state of mind, something we feel or sense. It is a way of being affected by and having an effect on the world, rather than an absolute state of existence that can be precisely defined in everyday life. Nonetheless, some people have strong views about the state of national security, with one person believing (for what seem valid reasons) that the nation is secure from its enemies while another (for equally valid reasons) sees great dangers looming. The Calvert-Henderson National Security Indicator articulates the state of the nation�s ability to protect its vital interests and the American way of life against unwanted intrusions and influences. The process and pressures that impinge on the formation and execution of national security policies are examined, ranging from the public�s perception of a threat of war, to the President�s national security strategy, the Congressional budget, and international diplomatic relations.
Comparing the early rhetoric and actions of the Bush Administration to those of its Democratic predecessor illustrates once again the overall continuity of American foreign policy. Forces exerting greater influence on thinking about national strategy include the expectation that foreign terrorists will strike U.S. territory sometime before 2020 or 2025; the rise in the number of major armed conflicts throughout the world; sharp jumps in both arms transfer deliveries and world military expenditures; and the potential for petroleum-producing states to start buying arms again (with rising oil revenues) and disposing of old weapons to less wealthy countries. Moreover, the Indicator shows a growing imbalance between military strategies and preventive activities through diplomacy.
In the near term, expect military units, equipment, and vehicles to be smaller, easier to transport, more agile, at least as lethal, and operated by robots. The real military challenge will be one of integrating the new force structures and weapons of the individual services to mold a military whose contributions in peace and war to national security remains strong and responsive.
National Security Expert: Colonel Daniel M. Smith, Ret.
- Figure 1. Major Armed Conflicts, 1986-2002
- Figure 2. Value of World Arms Transfer Deliveries, 1978-1997
- Figure 3. Worldwide Military Expenditures, 1978-1997