Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How justified are the proposed cuts to defense spending?

Compiled by JJ Feinauer, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Feb. 25 10:18 p.m. MST

 Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey follows Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a news conference at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, whereHagel recommended shrinking the Army to its smallest size since the buildup to U.S. involvement in World War II in an effort to balance postwar defense needs with budget realities. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey follows Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a news conference at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, whereHagel recommended shrinking the Army to its smallest size since the buildup to U.S. involvement in World War II in an effort to balance postwar defense needs with budget realities. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Carolyn Kaster, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On the heels of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposal to cut defense spending, commentators have begun to weigh in on the proper place for the military in the national budget.

According to the Associated Press, Hagel’s proposed cuts would shrink the military to a size not seen since before World War II, and to some, such a reduction is concerning.

“The budget is an announcement of American retreat,” The National Review said Tuesday in an editorial. “That is doubly true when combined with the Obama administration’s generally weak diplomatic posture.”

While The National Review believes Hagel lacks sufficient justification for the proposal and that American allies are “not capable of filling the gap we are opening,” The New Republic believes it’s important to note that “Hagel, a Republican, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on the cuts,” which suggests a bipartisan understanding by those closest to the decision that the time for the reduction is right.

“In fact, military leaders have been saying for months that they need to rein in military personnel costs,” The New Republic’s Danny Vinik continues, “which is exactly what Hagel intends to do.”

One major voice to emerge against the cuts, however, is retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who lamented to MSNBC’s Chris Jansing that the rationale seems to be driven by the budget and not national security concerns.

“You can’t create a fire department after the fire starts. We’re mothballing Navy ships, we’re standing down all the A-10 ground attack Air Force planes,” he told Jansing, “we’re slashing the size of the Army.”

Other concerns besides national security have risen after the announcement as well.

Brietbart’s Joel B. Pollak, for example, believes the cuts will worsen economic inequality. “By slashing tens of thousands of military positions, the Obama administration will not only be cutting jobs but also cutting off opportunities for promotion,” Pollak wrote Tuesday.

“For a president who purports to care about economic inequality, drastic cuts to the military — as opposed to do-nothing federal departments — is both hypocrisy and disgrace.”

However, The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss is worried that the cuts may not be deep enough.

“The cuts, though substantial, ought to be seen as only a down payment on the level of defense spending reductions that are needed,” Dreyfuss argues, adding that the cuts still leave room for liberals to complain.

“Major weapons systems that might have been cut were sustained, the U.S. special forces units are being increased substantially from already high levels and Hagel announced that the U.S. Navy would maintain all 11 of its aircraft carriers.

“Indeed, the military-industrial complex was so thrilled about continuing Pentagon support for big-budget, high-tech weapons systems that, according to the Wall Street Journal, stock prices for major defense contractors rose after the announcement.”

Dreyfuss also notes that the proposal has to make it through "Congress and its Iron Triangle, including hawkish members of the House and Senate, defense lobbyists and the military itself" before it can even be implemented.

JJ Feinauer is a Web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @jjfeinauer.

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1. mcclark
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 25, 2014

From the right I hear we are broke, we are broke, we are broke!! But cut defense spending? Oh no cant do that. What if we want to invade someone again for no good reason?

2. 2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Feb. 25, 2014

BOTH sides were supposed to be drastically impacted by the automatic cuts (part of the deal to get a budget deal the year before without cutting anything last time and to motivate Congress to DO SOMETHING this time).

Cuts both sides didn't want were in there (so both sides would be motivated). Seems like it didn't work (NEITHER side did anything).

===

The thing I find very interesting is... only cuts Democrats wanted actually happened.

Democrats didn't want cuts to social programs. And they got an EXTENSION of unemployment pay checks (hint... that costs MORE money). I don't know how they did it (automatic mandated cuts, and instead they EXPANDED social programs like unemployment). Democrats are tricky.

Republicans didn't want drastic cuts to Defense. But they actually got cut (drastically).

Seems like only Republican interests got cut by the sequester. Somehow Democrats were able to escape all the cuts that were supposed to hurt them.

I guess that's what happens when you have the majority. LAWS don't apply to you when you control everything. You can even vote to make the minority even weaker if you want!

3. BeSmart
Cheyenne, WY,
Feb. 25, 2014

I personally believe that the drawdown is fine.
The military should not spend more money on personnel cost but technology.
Get our troops out of harms way, but maintain a force which can repel or deter threats.
164,000 troops are stationed overseas.
With 60000+ in Europe. Bring them home and let technology protect us and our allies.

4. E Sam
Provo, UT,
Feb. 25, 2014

No, the proposed cuts aren't justified. They are much much much too small.
We spend more on defense than the next ten countries combined. Cut defense spending in half. We'd still be number 1.

5. Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Feb. 25, 2014

In all of human history there has never been a Great Power that is as secure as we are right now. We have no rival to our power at all. These cuts will not make us weak or defenseless. We will still be far and above anyone else in military capability.