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Former acting defense secretary thinks the U.S. should slash its military budget in half

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Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller has a message for Washington: cut the defense budget "dramatically" and stop making China a bogeyman.  

Miller argues the Pentagon budget, now at $816 billion, could be slashed by as much as half.  

"We have created an entire enterprise that focuses economically on creating crisis to justify outrageously high defense spending," Miller said in an interview with chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout."  

"You have to starve the beast to make people come out of their cubby holes and start thinking creatively," Miller said, adding that legacy weapons systems could be phased out in favor of newer, more efficient technology. 

Miller served in the waning days of the Trump administration and recently wrote a book about his experience, "Soldier Secretary."  

He suggests the military-industrial complex, a term first used by President Dwight Eisenhower to describe the symbiotic connection between a country's military and industrial bases, has spiraled to unsustainable levels and encouraged military and political leaders to exaggerate global conflicts.  

He points to policymakers' approach to China as an example and argues they should de-emphasize the potential conflict. 

"I think 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," Miller told Garrett. "They need to have an enemy that they can, you know, focus their people's anger and attention on and I think we provide them that opportunity by constantly harking on the fact that the Chinese are the greatest threat to America and what not." 

The interview with Miller was recorded days before a suspected Chinese spy balloon traversed the continental United States.  

Miller served as acting defense secretary for just 73 days. But his tenure included Jan. 6, 2021, a day he says is "still pretty raw" in his memory.  

"It was a horrible day, nightmare day for the republic," Miller said, defending his agency's response to the unfolding chaos on Capitol Hill. "I felt that we did our duty and served our country appropriately." 

Miller admits there were communications breakdowns amid "fog and friction" that day, and critics have blamed him for not dispatching troops to quell the violence sooner.  

In a report on Jan. 6 prepared by the Defense Department inspector general, Miller said he feared that injecting military personnel into the fray would make the situation worse. "There was absolutely no way … I was putting U.S. military forces at the Capitol, period," Miller told the inspector general.  

"If we put U.S. military personnel on the Capitol, I would have created the greatest Constitutional crisis probably since the Civil War," Miller said, suggesting President Trump could have used those troops to invoke martial law and attempt to hold on to power. 

Miller says Trump deserves blame for what occurred Jan. 6. "I think, yes," he said. 

Asked whether he would he work for Trump again, Miller demurred. "You probably have to ask my wife." 

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
Show email:
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast

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