National Security Contract With America
Posted by Suzanne Nossel
There's been talk in recent weeks about the need for progressives to devise their own version of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America. Nancy Pelosi is apparently putting the finishing touches on such a document, and analysts including Robert L. Brosage at The Nation are proffering their own formulations. Walter Cronkite has called for convening a mid-term Convention to ratify the ideas. The bulk of any such proposal will deal with domestic policy, but here are nine ideas to get the ball rolling on what the foreign policy planks of such a contract could be. When the Gingrich contract was issued within weeks of the 1994 mid-term elections, each provision was accompanied by draft legislation.
1. Truth in War Act - This law would require that before Congress could declare war (or shortly thereafter in exigent situations), the maximum possible disclosure of information be made to the American people concerning the grounds for military action and the challenges and risks of the proposed operation. It could be up to the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly certify that the requisite level of disclosure was made under the circumstances and the Senate could hold public hearings on their findings.
2. Strengthening America's Military Act (aka Uncle S.A.M.) - This law would enlarge the active-duty military and the the Special Forces, and reduce reliance on over-taxed reservists, stop-loss orders and extended tours. It would provide resources for DOD to develop recruitment, training, benefits and outplacement packages necessary to lure substantial additional recruits for active duty. More details on each of these are contained in this CAP report. CAP also identifies potential cuts to wasteful programs that could make expansion of the army revenue-neutral.
3. Accountability in Contracting Act - This law would require that all private contracting for national security-related functions be based on open bidding, would create a dedicated GAO audit function to detect overcharges and abuses, and would impose stiff civil and criminal penalties for firms that willfully or negligently defraud the US government under national security related contracts.
4. National Crisis Preparedness Act - This law would give the Department of Homeland Security six-months to develop comprehensive plans to deal with the most pressing domestic security threats - from dirty bombs to port security to pandemics - in every city and state in America, in order of priority. Insofar as possible, portions of these plans would be made public so that Americans would know where to go and what to do in the event of a disaster.
5. Restoring America's Alliances Act - This law would create a bi-partisan Commission to review the state of every U.S. alliance (formal and informal), what we can get out of it and how we might strengthen it. It would also consider and make recommendations on the need for new alliances - for example in South Asia - to respond to changing power relations. Based on this, the Administration will be required to report quarterly to the Congress on their efforts to strengthen America's alliances.
6. Quagmire Avoidance Act - This law would establish a set of conditions for America's continued involvement in Iraq including a plan to relieve overtaxed military resources, a strategy to increase international participation, an independent audit of the effort to train Iraq's military, and a commitment not to maintain permanent military bases in-country. These conditions would form the basis for monthly reviews of the state of America's involvement in Iraq, with the Congress committed to accelerating the timetable for withdrawal if these conditions for success are not met.
7. Nuclear Weapons Security Act - This law would require the Administration to increase its efforts to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into terrorist hands through measures including increased funding for threat reduction programs, more technical assistance for countries that participate, international standards for protecting weapons and facilities, and expedited removal of nuclear materials from vulnerable sites. More on that here.
8. Secure America for Our Children Act - This law would create a National Security Council function dedicated to assessing and preparing for long-term (5-50 years) threats. Such threats might include the rise of a second superpower like China, pandemics, or nuclear accidents. The Administration would be required to outline strategies for preparing and responding to each. Periodic reports on these threats to Congressional oversight committees would help ensure that political considerations do not result in over or underestimating particular threats.
9. Restoring the Beacon Act - This law would outlaw torture and other human rights violations by the US military, military interrogators and intelligence agents and would require that senior officials under whose watch such abuses occur be held accountable for them. It would also expand the human rights and cultural training that all members of the military from Generals to prison guards receive before serving overseas. It would aim to ensure that the U.S. is once again regarded as a beacon leading the way in the protection of individual rights and promotion of human dignity around the world.