Proposed defense budget would shrink army to pre-World War II levels
The proposed defense budget by the Obama administration would cut 120,000 active duty servicemen from the army and eliminate the A-10 Warthog from the air force. The budget would also cut housing allowances for servicemen as well as increasing the fees for health care benefits, freezing the pay of some officers while limiting the pay raises for others.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will reportedly propose a Pentagon budget that will shrink the U.S. Army to its smallest number since 1940 and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets.
The New York Times reported late Sunday that Hagel's proposal, which will be released to lawmakers and the public on Monday, will call for a reduction in size of the military that will leave it capable of waging war, but unable to carry out protracted occupations of foreign territory, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under Hagel's plan, the number of troops in the Army will drop to between 440,000 and 450,000, a reduction of at least 120,000 soldiers from its post-Sept.11 peak.
Officials told the Times that Hagel's plan has been endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and protects funding for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. It also calls for the Navy to maintain all eleven of its aircraft carriers currently in operation. However, the budget proposal mandates the elimination of the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft, as well as the retiring of the U-2 spy plane, a stalwart of Cold War operations.
The budget plan does keep money for the F-35 warplane, a project which has been beset by delays and criticism over design flaws.
Other characteristics of the budget will likely draw further ire from veterans groups and members of Congress. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Hagel would recommend a limit on military pay raises, higher fees for health-care benefits, less generous housing allowances, and a one-year freeze on raises for top military brass.
"Personnel costs reflect some 50% of the Pentagon budget and cannot be exempted in the context of the significant cuts the department is facing," Defense Department spokesman Adm. John Kirby told the Journal. "Secretary Hagel has been clear that, while we do not want to, we ultimately must slow the growth of military pay and compensation."
"This is a real uphill battle with Congress," Mieke Eoyang, director of the National Security Program at Third Way, a centrist think tank in Washington, told the Journal.
This is very bad news for active duty military personnel and I'm sure Congress will have a thing or two to say about the cuts in benefits.
But the cuts in the army and air force reflect current thinking about warfighting. Bottom line: We are not likely to get involved in a war where we would need huge numbers of troops and armor to be successful. This makes the A-10 - a spectacularly successful close support combat aircraft - pretty much obsolete. The U-2 is a nice gadget to have, but other national technical means can replace it.
In short, the Pentagon's thinking, which has been evolving since the days of Donald Rumsfeld, is turning more toward special operators and other assets needed for asymmetrical warfare rather than having the capability of fighting a ground war on the plains of Europe.
The problem with the cuts is that in today's world, you go to war with what you have. There's going to be no such thing as a World War II type buildup of men and material. The smaller army will make readiness even more important than it has been in the past, as maintaining equipment, stockpiling weapons and spare parts, as well as pre-positioning supplies will be vital to success.
The fact that we are maintaining all 11 carrier battle groups means that our ability to proiject our power will be only slightly diminished. So, taken in its entirety, the budget seems to be reflecting some new realities while proposing some troubling cuts in benefits for personnel that will almost certainly lead to recruting and retention problems.