Finally Americans chattering classes seem to have awoken to the fact that the US military ain’t what it used to be. The NYT “the Pentagons proposals to reduce the Army to pre-WW2 levels” could “seem unsettling to a nation that prides itself on having the world’s most capable military”.
This is the first time Obama has cut military spending. Obama, with Gates at the helm, proceeded to cut some $400 billion more form the military planned spending—this entire coming before the BCA and its nearly trillion dollars in mandated cuts. (Budget control act). Now living under the BCA and despite some small relief from sequestration caps, this years defense budget and the just-announced budget for next year will be nearly $200 billion less than what even the Obama team had planned to spend when it put forward its budget plans just three years ago. Thus the number of soldiers in the active-duty Army is projected to fall from the pre-Obama strength of almost 570,000 to about 400,000. The adm., is assuming that after this year the BCA spending caps will disappear. On the current budget trajectory, the Army will slip below 400,000 by the end of the decades.
The Navy will be able to buy just 32 littoral combat ships—the smallest and cheapest surface combatant—instead of 52. Navy’s hopes of having a 300 ship fleet, the minimum it has long said it required to meeting its global responsibilities. The A-10 “Warthog” close-air support aircraft, the U2 spy plane, 11 Navy cruisers—are being retired before the end of their service life, even though they are in high demand by US theater commanders. Irony of ironies the adm while subsidizing a monumental expansion in civilian health care entitlements and reneging on a proposals to constrain the outlandish cost of living adjustments for social security, wants to hike co-pays for military retirees and reduce other benefits. So while the country’s defense burden slips below 3% of GDP, while entitlements spending is well over 4 times that of defense and continues to grow and grow.
Hagel rationale is that he’s “not budgeting and prioritizing for wars.” The adm ignominiously “ended” the US efforts in Iraq, and is setting the stage for a similar bug-out in AFG later this year. Obama “led form behind” in Libya and made the military ea the billions his feckless strategy cost out of its baseline budget. He’s sidestepped any action in Syria BUT has drawn a red line to Assad. Just last week a Chinese general demanded an “air defense identification zone” for the S. China Sea, having gotten the US to acquiesce in one over the Sea of Japan.
The notable thing about returning to “prewar” force levels is that they set the stage for the wars to come. Obama finds it “unsettling”—to reverse the Times formulation –to reside over an America that still “prides itself on having the world’s most capable military”. The US military has become a one-war-at-a-time force and has cast aside the traditional tow-war standard that guided American strategists in the past and which kept the great power peace for the past 60 years plus.
Alas, congressional republicans have been the enablers of this disarmament. The party’s accountant wing cooked up the BCA and accepted its sequestration provision that allowed Obama to do what no previous demo president would dare. So the weapons used to assault our military preparedness and national strength has republican fingerprints on it as well.
In the meantime the world, from East Asia to the Middle East, is “unsettled” and becoming ever more so. Does anyone doubt that the decision in DC to slash its defenses has been fully noted in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Teheran and North Waziristan? Unless the present course is reversed the wages of weakness will be paid in increased instability, crises and ultimately conflicts that might well have been avoided.

Sources—weekly standard, times, NYT, Thomas Donnelly, gary schmitt


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