Now might be the time to reduce U.S. military spending. However, now is not the time for draconian cuts that will cripple our ability to defend our nation while at the same time committing us to more reckless domestic deficit spending. A balance must be sought, but what President Obama is proposing in both military cuts and his overall 2015 budget is unwise.
The proposed cuts are staggering, especially when added to the sequester cuts, and most will come on the backs of those serving in the Army: slashing our current levels of Army personnel by 20 percent, from 522,000 troops down to approximately 420,000. This includes a 1 percent pay decrease for most troops, while at the same time slowing the growth of housing allowances. Obama’s budget would also require active duty members and retired military to contribute a larger share for their health care costs. The Democrats did promise they would go after the 1 percent, and God knows those fat cat soldiers have been living the high life of warm weather and exotic locations for far too long!
Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno warned the proposed troop levels would be “too small,” and would come at a “high risk to meet (just) one major war.” Translation: more soldiers dying in combat. Pentagon documents also indicate that General Martin Dempsey said the reductions that some are proposing would make it nearly impossible for the Army to provide additional services to the other branches, and that Army leaders have made it clear they could not adequately protect the country and also fight abroad if troop levels were reduced to 420,000 or lower.
Obama’s budget also calls for the elimination of one of the most trusted and least expensive ground support/anti-insurgency weapons, the A-10, without a credible replacement. Some have suggested the extremely expensive and trouble-plagued F-35 might be a suitable standby. At issue with that suggestion is the F-35 was not designed for that role, has yet to be tested in this possible new capacity, and the military is still trying to work out major kinks with the F-35. It is easy for politicians, many of whom have never served in the military, to make political calculations, but this move places our ground troops at great risk and prematurely puts out to pasture a platform that still has a vital role to play.
Obama’s 2015 budget also calls for the elimination of the U-2 spy plane (to be replaced by the costly and unreliable Golden Hawk drone), reducing our naval fleet, diminishing training and maintenance (killing the Ground Combat Vehicle program, meant to repair and replace our battered armored vehicles) and closing additional bases. Even as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was announcing these slashes, he stated that with these cuts, “our future force will assume additional risk,” while “diminishing our global readiness even as we sustain a heightened alert posture…;” Translation: More of our soldiers and sailors will die and America, along with the rest of the world, will be extremely vulnerable to the growing threats of China, Russia, Iran and “the on the run” Al-Qaeda.
As to the base closings, some have falsely suggested that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard would once again survive another round of cuts. Not so fast. Energy, logistical needs and labor costs are substantially higher in this region, and Obama has suggested he would bypass Congress and the Base Realignment and Closure process to reduce the defense infrastructure, a position reinforced by Hagel’s statement: “I am mindful that Congress has not agreed to our request,” he said, “but if Congress continues to block these requests … we will consider every tool at our disposal to reduce infrastructure.”
Some would suggest that we are not the world’s policeman, believing that is somehow a comforting thought. We live in a dangerous world, one in which the United States of America just happens to be the strongest, not just because of our military might but because of the virtue of our people. Regardless of what some uninformed extremists want to believe, the world is a safer place because of that fact.
The rest of the world lives under an umbrella of safety provided by the United States and a few honorable allies. We do not carry this burden because we want to. We do not carry this burden with arrogance or malice. Not all of our actions have been just, but no country can claim that either. For all the criticism leveled against an omnipotent America, including some who will criticize this article, very few can say with complete honesty that a strong America has been bad for the world.
As trust wanes for our elected representatives at all levels and from all political spectrums, one thing is clear: The American people overwhelmingly trust our military. Recent polls (Pew/Gallup) indicate that the American people hold the U.S. military in high regard, with 78 percent of those polled saying the armed services contribute “a lot” to our well-being, more than teachers, medical doctors and the media.
Foreign policy and security scholar Mackenzie Eaglen said it best. “President Obama is submitting another defense budget that essentially seeks to cash in a peace dividend in a world with little peace,” she said. “His own director of national intelligence recently told Congress that in over a half century, he has not experienced a time when the U.S. has been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”
These cuts are not only dangerous, but show that President Obama does not have our best interests at heart. Do we need to reduce our defense spending? Yes, but not at the risk of the men and women who serve on our behalf and certainly not to the level that places our country in peril.