Can you balance the military budget?

There's a lot of military budget analysis out there. The New York Times has charted 12,000 reader responses to what should be cut.

Fred Kaplan, who writes for the online magazine Slate, has a critique of the Defense Department cuts, calling them surprisingly modest.

Kaplan concludes by saying it is time to take a deeper look at the military's roles and missions. That, gentle reader, is in part our job.

For example, is it the military's role to train police forces to protect the populace? Or would we be better off sending police to do that training -- or funding United Nations police academies?

Taking a different tack, how many nuclear weapons do we need? Do we plan to use them? Are there other ways to achieve deterrence while saving billions of dollars?

This week, we celebrate the first anniversary of the launch of our podcast, NCR in Conversation. Catch the latest episode here.

Do we expect fighter-plane dog fights? With whom?

We have used the military instead of the State Department to establish relationships with governments in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We give away weapons instead of water purification systems. Our strongest diplomatic links are among the officer corps instead of civil society. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has striven mightily to regain a policy role. But we haven't really answered the question about the Department of Defense role and mission in developing diplomatic relations with foreign governments.

A first step in defining the Pentagon's roles and missions is to review its budget. I suggest you try your hand at cutting the DOD budget at The New York Times' interactive budget strategy site.

Then read Kaplan's analysis of the current budget, then pause to pray. Ask for God's assistance that we may use our treasure for life, not for death.

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