A former United States Senator from Missouri, who served on a panel reviewing military planning, says the nation has been neglecting vital parts of its national defense.

Congress appointed former Senator Jim Talent to the bipartisan panel that evaluated the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review and found it came up short.

“Well, our panel found that in very, very important ways we are not providing for or planning for the needs of the national defense,” Talent tells the Missourinet. “And that this is already compromising American security and will get worse in the future.”

The good news, according to Talent, is that the trends can be reversed.

The panel’s report states the sustainability of the volunteer military is at risk.

“Because it’s under tremendous stress,” according to Talent, “and in part that’s a size issue. I mean, you know, Missourians know, that there are men and women doing their third and fourth tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in part because it’s too small.”

The co-chairman of the panel, William J. Perry and Stephen Hadley, wrote in an OpEd piece in the Washington Post:

We deduced four enduring national interests that will continue to transcend political differences and animate American policy: defense of the homeland; assured access to the sea, air, space and cyberspace; the preservation of a favorable balance of power across Eurasia that prevents authoritarian domination of that region; and providing for the global “common good” through such actions as humanitarian aid, development assistance and disaster relief.

We identified the five gravest potential threats to those interests likely to arise over the next generation: radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism; competition from rising global powers in Asia; the continued struggle for power in the Persian Gulf and the Greater Middle East; an accelerating global competition for resources; and persistent problems from failed and failing states.

The panel makes several suggestions. Among them: increasing the size of the volunteer military, especially a buildup of the Navy; upgrading the nation’s weapons and military equipment; increasing the ability of the Defense Department to come to the aid of homeland defense, including cyber attacks; and making it more attractive to stay in the military rather than retire early.

The panel would like to see the nation integrate civilian agencies with the military. It calls for an end to a Cold War mentality that separated the two and prevents America from using its full range of national power. The report says America needs substantial change to respond to the crises of a modern world.

The report acknowledges that the nation remains at war on two fronts, but it states that the Defense Department must look beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. It states America faces challenges unique to this century, yet also has opportunities it must seize. The federal government, according to the report, must prepare now for the long-term threats the country will face.

Talent says the nation must ponder the question what is America’s role in the world?

“What is it we’re doing? How can we recruit supporters? And what foundation of power, military and civilian, do we need to do it?” Talent asks.

He says it appears leaders in Washington are listening.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]

AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews former Sen. Jim Talent on QDR [17 min. MP3]