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Former defense secretary thinks US defense budget should be cut in half

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Chris Miller has had an up-close view of America’s endless wars from the tip of the spear as a Special Forces officer and as the acting secretary of defense in the final months of the Trump administration. And his views that the Defense Department budget should be slashed by half are hardly what you’d expect from a Defense Secretary. 

In his new book Soldier, Secretary: Warnings from the Battlefield & the Pentagon About America’s Most Dangerous Enemies, he says that the U.S. Defense Department and the military need to be smaller, more flexible, have their priorities in focus, and not be the world’s policeman. 

“Our colossal military establishment was essential for our Cold War victory, but the Cold War has been over for 30 years,” Miller writes.

“If we are truly going to end American adventurism and retool our military to face the challenges of the next century, we should cut military spending by 40-50 percent.”

The defense spending for Fiscal Year 2023 is $857 billion, which is $80 billion more than Fiscal Year 2022. The Chinese spend the second highest amount on defense at around $300 billion.  

Miller said the budget cuts he is suggesting aren’t as dramatic as one would imagine. They would only reduce spending to pre-9/11 levels, and since there aren’t combat operations going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, that would be feasible. 

Related: What the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ incident tells us about global espionage

Secretary Christ Miller Afghanistan
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller walks with Lt. Gen. John Deedrick, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan after arriving to Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2020. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

In his book, Miller wants people to get out of their cubicles and start thinking creatively. The military-industrial complex has spiraled out of control and is unsustainable, he says which causes military and political officials to exaggerate global conflicts.

In an interview with Esquire Magazine Miller said that, initially, the invasion of Afghanistan was “a righteous war.” But after the quick collapse of the Taliban, the U.S. made the same mistakes that it had made in Vietnam by shuttling in thousands of conventional troops and making the Afghans reliant on Washington for all of the country’s needs. 

“You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in history. But the Army typically has one way of doing things, and the decision was made. We did it in Iraq, too,” Miller said.

In an interview with Major Garrett on The Takeout podcast, Miller said that by “constantly harping on the fact that China is the new threat and we’re going to go to war with them someday actually plays right into Chairman Xi’s hands and the Chinese Communist Party.” He explained that the Chinese need a threat, too, to focus their own people’s anger on, but the U.S. should stop portraying China as its main antagonist.

Regarding the government’s comments that Chinese balloons had violated U.S. airspace during the Trump administration, Miller said he had never heard of such violations. “If something like that had happened, that’s like a national security threat.”

“The first time I ever heard of anything like this was this weekend,” he added. Although he was the Pentagon’s chief for only 73 days, he had worked for the Trump administration for a year before being appointed to that position. 

Feature Image: Then Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller speaks to reporters on a government aircraft en route to Joint Base Andrews, MD, Jan. 14, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

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