America Must Improve Its Care For Veterans, Says CNAS Expert

Press Release | Center for a New American Security (CNAS) | November 9, 2012

After more than a decade of war, several years of constrained national budgets and a changing veteran population, the second Obama administration must confront how best to uphold its promises to the nation's men and women who serve or have served in uniform.

In Upholding the Promise: A Strategy for Veterans and Military Personnel , CNAS Non-Resident Senior Fellow Phillip Carter urges the Obama Administration to develop an inclusive, strategic policy approach that serves veterans and military personnel as well as they have served the nation. A veteran of the war in Iraq, he calls upon the administration to tackle urgent issues such as military and veteran suicide while working over the long term to prevent the civilian "sea of goodwill" toward veterans from turning into an ocean of apathy as current wars wind down and public attention turns away from the men and women who have fought those wars.

Mr. Carter points out that the next Obama team will face some hard choices that will deeply affect the national veteran and military community. Citing the human dollar cost of national security, he reports that during the 11 years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the U.S. government spent more than $2 trillion on the 2.5 million Americans in uniform and the 22 million veterans who served before them. Between 2002 and 2012, this translated into a 46 percent increase in military personnel costs and a 95 percent increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, says Mr. Carter, even though the number of active and reserve troops increased only slightly and the number of veterans declined during this time.With the wars winding down and the nation grappling with a $16 trillion national debt, this level of spending is unsustainable, he argues.

Download Upholding the Promise: A Strategy for Veterans and Military Personnel

In the context of this operational and fiscal environment, Mr. Carter identifies three sets of veteran and military personnel policy challenges that the second Obama administration must tackle. These include:

  • Immediate issues - such as suicide, homelessness and veteran unemployment;
  • Operational issues - such as access to health care and ensuring government agencies can work together more seamlessly; and
  • Strategic issues - such as creating an effective structure of federal agencies and private actors to serve veterans and military personnel, planning for the next generation of veterans and continuing to provide leadership to bridge the civil-military divide.


The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.


Kay King
Director of External Relations
and Senior Advisor
Email: [email protected]
Ph: (202) 457-9408

Sara Conneighton
Deputy Director of External Relations
Email: [email protected]
Ph: (202) 457-9429