Debating Hagel’s Call For A Smaller U.S. Military

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants to downsize the military, shrink the US Army to the lowest levels since before World War II. We’ll look at what that would mean.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces some personal changes, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, during a briefing at the Pentagon.  (AP)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces some personal changes, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, during a briefing at the Pentagon. (AP)

It’s “time for reality,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday.  And for the U.S. military, he said, that means cutting back and changing.  America’s post 9/11 war-footing, not sustainable on America’s budget.  Hagel and the Pentagon are now proposing the smallest standing U.S. Army since before World War II.  Cutbacks in major equipment programs.  More emphasis on technology and training.  More Special Forces.  The change comes with risk, Hagel said.  But “this is time,” he said, “for reality.”  This hour On Point:  Implications of the new Pentagon budget, and the debate ahead.

— Tom Ashbrook


Dion Nissenbaum, national security reporter for The Wall Street Journal. (@DionNissenbaum)

Russell Rumbaugh, director of the budgeting for foreign affairs and defense program at the Stimson Center.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute.

From Tom’s Reading List

Associated Press: Smaller Army: Hagel Proposes Cuts in 2015 Budget — “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed shrinking the Army, closing military bases and making other military-wide savings Monday as part of a broad reshaping of priorities after more than a decade of war. Hagel outlined his vision in a speech at the Pentagon, a week before President Barack Obama is to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress.”

Wall Street Journal: Hagel’s Military Budget Focuses on Changing Threats –“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is proposing a new budget plan designed to turn the military’s attention from the long ground war in Afghanistan toward emerging cyberthreats from China and increasing challenges from al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa. The Pentagon road map, sure to face fierce resistance from across the political spectrum, calls for reducing the military’s reliance on manpower-heavy troop buildups, investing instead in more agile special forces and cyberwarriors.”

The Atlantic: Eric Cantor’s Foreign-Policy Ideas Would Consign Us to Perpetual War — “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech last week at the Virginia Military Institute that left little doubt about his foreign-policy agenda: more wars of choice. The U.S. left Afghanistan and Iraq too early for his taste. ‘The plain truth is that we still have work to do in Afghanistan,’ he said. ‘It would be a terrible mistake for the U.S. to make the same mistake we made in Iraq. Our hasty and total withdrawal squandered the hard-fought gains won by the military at such great cost.'”

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