Reagan2020.comFederalism and the New Conservatives

New Federalist Platform - The Common Defense

The defining conservative platform for this American Century.

  1. Preamble
  2. Honoring Our Founding
  3. A More Perfect Union
  4. Establishing Justice
  5. Ensuring Domestic Tranquility
  6. The Common Defense
  7. The General Welfare
  8. Secure Blessings of Liberty.

The Common Defense

We New Federalists believe that as citizens we all bear a more generally dispersed responsibility for the common defense than is today generally assumed in our country. We support a return to a less professionalized military, which today is often viewed and treated as a separate segment of United States society, in favor of the model of part-time but "well-regulated" citizen-soldiers clearly suggested by the Constitution. Of course, returning to the Constitution's original formulation for coordinated participation in the common defense will necessitate coordination and cooperation from citizens, the military services, the states, Congress, and the President acting in the role of Commander in Chief.

The Role of Citizens in Defense

When volunteer forces in the United States military replaced conscription, many American citizens adopted the belief that they may adequately discharge their responsibilities to provide for the common defense of our nation, by paying their income taxes. Quite perniciously, though, these volunteer military forces have in recent years been treated as willing volunteers for any overseas assignment whatsoever in service to political or diplomatic maneuvers, instead of as a last resort in service of the nation's security. This circumstance has been worsened by the fact that wealthier segments of American society have mostly disdained military service since World War II, so that our political leaders have often found participation in conflicts of dubious relevance to national security to be more acceptable than would have been the case, had the duties of military service been borne more generally throughout the nation. Military forces organized around the model of citizen-soldiers, more akin to current National Guard forces, replacing the career-oriented, professionalized military, are the preference of New Federalists for these reasons. Of course, the transition back to more equitably distributed responsibilities for provision for our common defense is an undertaking of major proportions, especially in light of the technological advances that have modernized the arts of war and issues of national security. This long-term project must begin with a change of perspective about the fundamentals of defense at home and abroad, which has certainly been accelerated with the need to defend against further terrorist attacks as lethal as those of September 11. 2001.

Support for the 2nd Amendment

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution gives the clearest rationale for the position we New Federalists take in regard to issues of the common defense. As this amendment plainly states, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." As noted elsewhere in this Platform, the Declaration of Independence recognizes that the only legitimate purpose of government is to secure the rights of its individual citizens, and that the only legitimate government is one based in the free assent of its citizens. However, concomitantly the individual citizens bear responsibility for the defense of that government. Hence, the right to bear arms in defense of the government, which guarantees individual citizens' rights, resides solely and in perpetuity with the citizens themselves. This right may not permissibly be reassigned to any other body or agency, as a government so constituted will inevitably embark on a train of decisions, proposals and abuses that will in the end render the state neither secure nor free. Infringements of the 2nd Amendment have already begun this process in the United States and must be rolled back.

When individual citizens knowledgeably and responsibly exercise the right to keep and bear arms, they may freely engage in acts of self-defense, defense of family, and defense of the nation itself against incipient tyranny from enemies both foreign and domestic. The evidence from multiple sources is overwhelming, indicating that an armed populace is both freer and safer than any group protected by a professionalized police or military force. Recognition and appreciation of this truth must be the cornerstone of any principled approach to matters regarding common defense.

We thus consider infringements on the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms through gun control measures to be impermissible constitutionally, and we therefore support programs that train children and youth with age-appropriate materials and procedures in the safe but effective handling and use of firearms, as preparation for assuming their proper roles, once adults, for bearing responsibility for the defense of this nation. Materials such as the Eddie Eagle series, which warn small children of the dangers of firearms, are an excellent starting point for a successful education in personal skills necessary for enacting the role of citizen-soldier. Similarly, firearms training by Boy Scouts troops and other private organizations can build on healthy attitudes toward the safe, appropriate use of weapons of defense. We urge parents to avail themselves of such materials and programs to teach their children, and we encourage parents to support introduction of these educational plans to the curricula in their children's schools.


Although we New Federalists prefer significant changes in the structure and composition of military forces serving the common defense, we nonetheless remain fervently committed to honoring the service to our country of veterans. Their contributions to the preservation of American freedom and to advancing the cause of liberty throughout the world are worthy of our deepest gratitude. We New Federalists thus support providing equitable pay and benefits to our service members on active duty, providing them with adequate tools and weapons during their terms of service, and maintaining generous health, education, and other benefits promised to veterans as compensation for their national service. We oppose efforts by agencies at any level of government to remove or reduce any promised benefits or compensation to veterans and their survivors, including pensions, educational benefits, and health care services.

The Role of Government in Defense

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the "power to lay and collect taxes ... to ... provide for the common defense ... of the United States," as one of the three specifically authorized broad purposes of congressional spending on behalf of the nation as a whole. The Constitution further specifies that Congress bears the power of decisions regarding national security matters, including the power to declare war, to raise and support armies for a period not to exceed two years, to provide and maintain a navy, to set rules for military forces and exercise authority over military bases, to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militias maintained by the states, and to call forth the militias when needed to serve in defense of the United States. The Constitution also assigns to the states the responsibility to appoint officers to their respective militias, as well as the authority for training each state's militia "according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."

Taken together, these constitutionally defined assignments of powers within our federal system of government suggest that, as with so much else in our present-day governing practices, our nation has strayed far from honoring the complementary roles that were set out for serving this legitimate purpose of government. We New Federalists believe that insufficient attention has been paid to the Constitution's 3rd Amendment, which states, "No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." This amendment implies that the Founders desired conditions of peace with only minimal burdens on the citizenry to support the military. The language from the Constitution also indicates, though, that a national navy may properly be maintained for extended periods of service, while standing land-based forces forming an army should be raised for limited periods of service (not to exceed two years) and reauthorized for longer durations only after congressional consideration. Clearly, the Constitution places greater emphasis than seen today on armed forces trained and maintained within the states themselves as militias, then called into national service only under extraordinary circumstances decided by Congress. We New Federalists support efforts to return to this model of citizen-soldiers, while at the same time preserving our national security interests in the increasingly dangerous world of today's rogue nations, international terrorist organizations, and spiraling proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Congressional Oversight for Defense-Related Exports

The Constitution provides that Congress assumes sole power in regulating commerce with foreign nations, and we believe that Congress should exercise that power with an eye to restricting exports on military-related technology that may endanger our national security. This is the only position consonant with serving to provide for the common defense. We New Federalists therefore support close cooperation between Congress and military experts on technology and products of defense-related significance in restricting such exports as necessary to protect the nation's security. Nevertheless, as such restrictions on exports can also be viewed as "takings" of property belonging to United States citizens and business organizations, we simultaneously support following the guidelines of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that no "private property be taken for public use without just compensation," and providing proper reimbursement in such cases.

Military Base Closures

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution assigns to Congress power to exercise exclusive legislation and authority "over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards and other needful buildings." This means that Congress alone is constitutionally permitted to reach decisions about those sites chosen and maintained as military bases for defense of the nation. Further, Congress may not properly pass this exclusive authority over to any other body, such as the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), in order to avoid difficult decisions and evade direct accountability to voters for participation in such decisions.

Ballistic Missile Defenses

Under current world conditions, perhaps the single most pressing need for the common defense of the American people is to complete an adequate system of protections to secure against ballistic missile attack. We New Federalists believe that the Constitution's assignment to Congress to provide for the common defense now assuredly demands that Congress authorize all necessary expenditures to finish projects necessary to research, test and build such missile defenses as rapidly as possible. We support, for example, ongoing expansion of the sea-based Aegis systems for theater defenses, as well as continuing research, development and implementation for land-based and space-based adjuncts to this defensive shield. Moreover, because we do not believe that any treaty can permissibly override the Constitution's assignment of duties and responsibilities, we applaud the negotiations in regard to rescinding the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (with the now-defunct Soviet Union) that removed dubious impediments to deployment of such defenses for United States citizens.

Defense Against Terrorist Attacks

Another pressing need in today's security environment is for appropriate protections to avert terrorist attacks as deadly as -- or possibly, even deadlier than -- the coordinated assaults of September 11, 2001. We New Federalists support the doctrine of preemption of terrorist threats that can be credibly and prudently foreseen in the nexus between international terrorist organizations and states that sponsor terrorism while simultaneously pursuing acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Where reasonable requests for alliance against terrorism are met with duplicity and deception, a military response may be our nation's recourse of last resort for properly fulfilling the duties of common defense.

Commander in Chief

The President is Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, as well as of the militia when those forces raised by the states are serving the United States (Article II, Section 2). As noted elsewhere in other contexts in this Platform, the constitutional assignment of powers and responsibilities can in no way be shirked or surrendered, absent constitutional amendment. Because this role of Commander in Chief is defined under the Constitution, it is constitutionally impermissible for the President to change this role and definition, through arbitrary exercise of executive decision, by assigning troops to foreign commanders or to international operations not under his direct control. We New Federalists therefore believe that participation by service members of United States military branches in any international operations or functions can only be constitutionally proper when all existing chains of command within U.S. forces are completely preserved throughout the duration of the assignment. In particular, we hold that it is impermissible to order service members to swear allegiance to any body outside the jurisdiction of the Commander in Chief, or to wear any uniform or insignia not specifically authorized and under the control of the Congress. Further, we do not believe that the duty of "peacekeeping," when undertaken in concert with international forces in foreign lands, can reasonably be extruded from the Constitution's specification that military campaigns are for the common defense of the United States. -- unless performed as a temporary mission following congressionally authorized military intervention serving to protect citizens.

Foreign Relations

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution states, "The Congress shall have power ... to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations." Article II, Section 2, assigns the President to "have power, by and with the consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur." While acknowledging shared divisions of role in foreign dealings, these constitutional passages place greater responsibility for international relations with Congress, as closer republican representatives of the American people, than with the executive branch. Because efficacious diplomacy is certainly a necessary tool and adjunct of the common national defense, this is consistent with other passages from the Constitution. However, we New Federalists note that diplomacy, as currently practiced on behalf of the United States, is more often treated as the province of the State Department, operating under the jurisdiction of the executive branch, and decidedly at loggerheads with the Congress. We thus support a return to the Founders' plan for a greater congressional role in international relations than is currently the case, in order to more closely follow the requirements of the Constitution.

In particular, we hold the view that Congress may not permissibly, absent constitutional amendment, transfer its responsibility for defining and punishing offenses against international law to any other body, including (but not limited to) any international tribunal or court. We further adhere to the view that, consistent with the belief that the Constitution is binding in perpetuity, treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate become domestic law, rather than superseding the Constitution. Treaties are therefore, under this understanding, revocable by a majority vote in Congress.

We are decidedly wary of the continuing usefulness of the United Nations under its existing forms of operation. In general, we favor replacing multilateral organizations and arrangements with a system of bilateral alliances, as only bilateral treaties and agreements remain under control of the two populaces represented. Multilateralism, almost by definition, transfers authority to an unaccountable agency or bureaucracy, and away from direct responsiveness to the consent of the governed. By contrast, bilateral compacts can be revised or revoked, should such demands arise from citizens of either nation party to the agreement.

Given the New Federalist principles about the proper purposes of government in guaranteeing individual citizens' rights, we do not support direct foreign aid, and especially not direct government-to-government foreign aid spending. We New Federalists further believe that our alliances with other powers of the earth should always be predicated on the extent to which those powers support and defend the God-bestowed rights of individuals under their jurisdictions. We thus encourage that all such alliances be evaluated in regard to their ability for advancing the cause of freedom throughout the world, in order to increase the numbers of those who enjoy the blessings of liberty.

Section 7: The General Welfare