Monday, February 24, 2014

Hagel's Military Budget Cuts - Too Much Too Early

Firstly, a brief note from  previous posts (links at bottom)on US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel-


Am I crazy, or does Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel always look like he just finished a three-day bender?

".....What did you expect from Chuck Hagel? The man couldn't admit the truth about Israel's plight if he himself lived within range of rocket attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas:"


The proposed cuts in the US military budget start with the usual screwjob on members of the military and their dependents. These include such things as (in Hagel and Obama's eyes) too-high pay increases and housing allowances, both of which are crucial to keeping good, well-trained members from leaving the service for the private sector. The proposed increases in retiree contributions to their medical coverage is the easy one for a jerk like Hagel; we in the US only routinely screw people who have paid into systems by years of service and contributions anyway. Welfare payments and other - non-contributory payouts are never considered for reductions.

Before we continue, we should note that the talking points that are being employed in support of these cuts are nothing more than Orwellian Newspeak and Doublethink. When we hear blandishments such as making the military more streamlined and efficient, and are assured that the Special Operations units will not be reduced, or that we must deal with "reality", we are being told that our strength will be drastically reduced. The A10 Warthog is (for example), relatively speaking, a huge bargain when one considers what we get out an inexpensive close-air support plane, and we must note that our current unit/ troop numbers are largely the result of the already-substantial cuts that were made in the 1990's. Any new reductions would be cuts to (of course post 911 did result in some rebuilding) previous reductions. 

I have long been in favor of an substantial change in our strategic outlook and an accompanying withdrawal of our military from many region in the world. Aside from the basic realities that we are no longer the only major power in the world and that we should avoid conflicts that could quickly turn terribly large-scale and long, we just don't have the money any longer. With every American effectively owing well over $100,000 for the offense of  having been born to American citizens, it is no secret that we have to go back to a outlook that is closer to the older isolationist view. 

What makes Hagel's (Read - Obama's) proposed cuts so clearly dangerous is that they are a willful act of putting the cart before the horse. Whenever anything like this is considered, we have to make preparations for it ahead of time. Whether we like it or not, we are not yet energy-independent, we still have allies who expect us to be able to engage in large-scale force projection in a brief period of time (and in more than one location), and those allies have not been given even a brief period of time to make necessary arrangements to deal with offsetting the losses of what they have come to expect in US capabilities. 

I have little doubt that the Obama administration wants it that way. he would revel in watching our allies be rendered - if not helpless, at least in serious trouble. 

Prior to making any appreciable cuts in either troop, unit, or materiel numbers, we would need to spend a few years years doing - at the very least, the following:

-Continuing with our domestic energy programs to make a Middle East (maybe Iran) crisis something we could possibly avoid joining. We can't have oil being something that requires our intervention. 

-Meeting with military leaders from India, Japan, the Republic of (South) Korea, Australia and other far east nations so that they understand how our proposed cuts will affect our strength on the actual battlefield and give them time to consider forming their own alliances. It is a crime to tell them on short notice that we may well be able to do little or nothing if China begins to make large-scale aggressive moves.  

-The same nations would also have to be given more time to make necessary changes in their military capabilities to - again, offset the reductions in what assets would hitherto been available to support them. Japan, for example, is still being held to restrictions on its military that are reflected in  the post-WWII treaty that was signed by people who are long since dead. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been moving as quickly as he can to increase his nation's military capabilities, but that takes time. And, as we would note with Germany, we can't hold sins against people for multiple generations. 

-Latin America will also have to be given time to make preparations for their dealings with cartels, Marxist rebels, and various combinations of both.  

-Israel will be a problem, but I submit that we will simply not be able to afford to fight in that region unless the Israelis obtain agreements of military assistance with their nations. With pro-Palestinian support at all levels of many Western European governments, Israel may have to court Russia (not that this will be easy given Russia's relationship with Iran) or other nations. To sum this up, we won't be able to help much unless we have significant support from other nations. Whatever happens in that case, we still owe it to the Israelis to give them time to make arrangements. 

-Drop the idiocy of acting as if we need troops deployed in Western Europe (or even worse in former Warsaw Pact nations). Russia will not invade through the Fulda Gap, nor will that nation attack her former satellite states. 

Most importantly: 

-Make MAJOR cuts in foreign aid to the vast majority of nations that have been the beneficiaries of our erstwhile strong dollar and accompanying wealth. We should not make any cuts until we have brought these monies back into our own budget. 

Until these steps are taken (and I will probably think of one more tomorrow), Republicans and good Democrats should not budge one inch on reductions. With the foreign aid cuts alone, we may be able to postpone the cuts for many years. 

"He [Hagel] proposed, for example, a variety of changes in military compensation, including smaller pay raises, a slowdown in the growth of tax-free housing allowances and a requirement that retirees and some families of active-duty service members pay a little more in health insurance deductibles and co-pays........

Another proposal likely to draw fire on Capitol Hill is Hagel’s call for a new round of domestic military base closings in 2017. In the years following the last round, in 2005, members of Congress fought to protect bases in their home districts and states, arguing that the process does not yield as much savings as advertised.

Among other changes Hagel proposed:

- The active-duty Army would shrink from today’s 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000 – the smallest number since 1940 when the nation was gearing up to enter World War II. The Army currently is scheduled to be reduced to 490,000.

The Army’s post-World War II low was 480,000 in 2001, according to figures provided by the service. In 1940 the Army had just 267,000 active-duty members, but that number surged to 1.46 million the following year as America prepared for war in Europe and the Pacific.

- The Army National Guard would drop from 355,000 soldiers to 335,000 by 2017, and the Army Reserve would drop by 10,000, to 195,000. The National Guard also would send its Apache attack helicopters to the active-duty Army in exchange for Black Hawk helicopters more suitable for domestic disaster relief missions.

- The Marine Corps would shrink from 190,000 to 182,000.

- The Navy would keep its 11 aircraft carriers but “lay up,” or temporarily remove from active service, 11 of its 22 cruisers while they are modernized. The Navy would reduce from 52 to 32 its purchase of littoral combat ships, which are smaller vessels designed to operate closer to shore.

- The Air Force would retire its fleet of A-10 “Warthog” tank-killer planes for an estimated savings of $3.5 billion over five years. It also would retire the venerable U-2 spy plane, which debuted early in the Cold War as a stalwart of U.S. intellige

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