In a recent article in the Washington Monthly James Fallows named America's Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress as a report President Obama should read. If I had to suggest a sequel for the president's reading list, I would pick Military Reform: An Uneven History and an Uncertain Future, coauthored by Winslow Wheeler who has contributed to both these books.
In making a case for comprehensive reform (as opposed to "cosmetic dabbling") of the US military, the book begins by citing the little known fact that while America's budget is now larger than at any point since the end of the World War II (and almost half of the combined world total, see source), the army has fewer combat brigades than at any previous time, and the navy and the air force have fewer combat ships and aircraft at their disposal. The effectiveness of all the hi-tech weapons at the disposal of the armed forces does not make up for these reduced numbers. And, even by this measure the new, hi-tech weapons acquisitions programs have been badly mismanaged by the Pentagon and have proved to be unreliable in delivery. According to the authors of Military Reform, a bloated, declining military structure with a reduced combat capacity has been the result.
Underlying these tactical issues are important questions about our national security strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book uses Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom—and the subsequent insurgency in Iraq—to outline key areas for reform in the US armed forces and the Department of Defense.
"He campaigned on "Change We Can Believe in" and his transition almost immediately switched to "Continuity We Can Believe In." The people so far selected, especially Robert Gates, have a track record, and that track record is basically to keep things the way they are. Gates will do what he's told on issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. He's already made it clear that as far as managing the Pentagon is concerned he thinks he's been doing a competent job. But during his tenure things have only gotten worse. The budget's going up faster than ever before in recent history; the size of our forces is going south; the equipment continues to get older."