Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took Monday afternoon to explain in detail what is being cut in his proposed defense budget. In the solemn departure from what observers say is a no-win war in Afghanistan, Hagel plans on cutting the defense budget to pre-World War II size. Observers of Hagel’s defense budget proposal say that the reduction is necessary to remain tied to the reality of fiscally tight times.
Hagel outlined cuts in the number of active soldiers in the Defense Department’s largest unit, the Army, by almost one-fifth, equaling about 100,000 soldiers. The current level of 522,000, which is down from the height of the Afghanistan war of 572,000, is something Hagel has said is unnecessary in the transitional period following the pullout from the region. Hagel says he recommends a “smaller and more capable force,” one that is more nimble and “rapidly deployable,” much like the forces of European countries. Hagel hopes that the cut down to 490,000 soldiers by 2015 can be improved by an additional reduction in forces, to a total of 440,000 active soldiers.
On the chopping block is a series of wartime aircrafts that many see as outdated or over-produced. Such aircraft as the Air Force’s A-10 “Warhog” aircraft which was designed to carry out close air support missions for ground troops, as well as battle roving tanks on the battlefield is disposed of under Hagel’s budget. Analysts say that there are other aircraft which are suited for such tasks and maintaining and producing the A-10 “Warhog” aircraft is unnecessary.
Next under the category of aircraft that will see the last of its days under Hagel’s plan is the U-2 spy plane, which does exactly what it sounds like – gather intelligence and spy on foreign targets. This particular aircraft can be replaced with less costly and more easily manageable technology like unmanned drones, specifically the Global Hawk spy plane, which observers say is more efficient and accurate as well. Critics of Hagel’s plan cited technical issues with the Global Hawk spy plane, which necessitated that the U-2 spy plane remain in service until the glitches could be fixed. Hagel has assured that the problems have been fixed and its operational cost lowered in the process.
Aircraft aren’t the only military vehicles being considered for Hagel’s cuts – the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships, which are currently under construction at a grand total of 52 ships, would represent one-sixth of the U.S.’s 300-ship Navy, something Hagel says is not proportional to the Navy’s size. Hagel proposes that 20 of those ships be cut from production, bringing the total number of ships to 32, which Hagel says would balance the Navy’s fleet away from being skewed in one direction. Hagel blamed supporters in the shipbuilding industry, their lobbyists and Congressmen and women who have secured deals at the expense of what is fiscally responsible.
Of course, Hagel has his critics for the proposed budget that would slash one of the largest industries in the U.S., the military industrial complex. Much like other institutions such as social security or medicare for those on the left, the defense budget has been seen as the “sacred cow” for many on the right. Whatever may be the outcome, observers say that if you look at what is being cut in the Chuck Hagel defense budget, you will find waste and abuse, hallmarks of an industry that is more interested in securing their own contracts than securing the fiscal future of the American economy.
by John Amaruso