Recently, the Defense Department announced its plan to reduce military forces, due to the coming end of our involvement in Afghanistan, and reductions in budgets.
“It’s the first budget that’s not a budget based on war footing. We’ve been at war for 13 years constantly, two wars,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Not unlike after every war the United States has been in, you reset your posture. You reset your assets. You reset your whole enterprise based on the new realities and based on preparing that institution for the challenges of the future. ”
Hagel also placed part of the blame for the proposed shifts in spending on Congress.
Quite predictably, the Republicans started to scream about the cuts in forces.
Republicans say this move is foolish, given the effects of previous post-war drawdowns.
“You look at what happened at the end of World War II. We took the largest, strongest Army, Navy and Air Force that had ever been on the earth, and we destroyed it, totally eliminated it for the next year,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) on Thursday.
Yes, they’ve never done anything like that, and they’re against reducing the forces. Except when they’re in office, and they can call it “the peace dividend.”
Under Mr. Cheney’s plan, the number of Army and Air Force personnel would be reduced in 1991 to its lowest level in 40 years, a cut that includes the elimination of two active Army divisions, the Second Armored Division at Fort Hood, Tex., and the Ninth Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Mr. Cheney said three additional divisions, one active and two reserve, would be eliminated in the future if the Soviet conventional threat continues to recede.
That was in addition to the Base Realignment and Closure commissions, which closed quite a number of “unnecessary” military bases. One might also point out that when George W. Bush took office, the plan was to further cut the military.
The proposal to reduce manpower—part of a congressionally mandated defense review due next month—calls for the Army to trim as many as 2.8 of its 10 divisions, or about 56,000 troops. The Air Force would lose as many as 16 of its 61 fighter squadrons, according to the plan, and the Navy would drop one or two of its 12 carrier battle groups, defense officials said. Mr. Rumsfeld and top generals of each military service were briefed on the recommendations for the first time yesterday.
In short, many of the people – and definitely the same party – who are yelling about defense cuts are the same people who went and cut the military when they were in office. If you listen to them now though, you’d think we were going back to a very tiny, weak military. Which a more objective analysis shows isn’t quite the truth.
In terms of manpower, if you’d totally eliminated the Army and the Navy on December 31, 2013, the combined total of the Marine Corps and the Air Force alone—523,425 people—would still be significantly bigger than the whole military circa 1940.
Also, if the Army is indeed cut to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel, as the Obama Administration has proposed, the Army could be characterized as operating with the smallest force “since just before the U.S. entered World War II,” but it would also be accurate to say that the Army of 2014 will have 170,977 more people than the Army of 1940.
So what’s really behind the screams? Worries about potential wars or attacks on this country? Not really. It’s more a function of who and where those cuts will impact. The big impact will be in military acquisitions, which means that defense industries will have reduced income, and they tend to give more in donations to Republican candidates. That in itself, along with lobbying, is a matter of real concern to Republican politicians. But that’s not the whole story. 2015 is also the year another round of BRAC evaluations takes place, and with the defense budget cuts, it means that military bases are going to be slated for closure or reductions. Which this time around means in … Republican areas. It’s not because there’s a Democrat in the White House, it’s because of a simple fact: Most of the bases that could be closed in “Blue states” have been. They got cleaned out in the previous rounds of base closings. What’s left? The ones in the “Red states.”
What this means for their constituents is that a previously stable part of their economy will be gone, or reduced. Fewer personnel will be around to spend money at local businesses. The bases that remain will be reducing their purchases from local businesses. There will be fewer people needed for support jobs. That’s assuming that the local base remains open, and if it doesn’t, it’ll all disappear.
But here’s the ironic thing about Republicans screaming about this, and the areas they’re representing: They asked for this. Yes, they’ve been demanding cuts in government spending, instituting sequesters. demanding budget cuts, refusing to raise taxes and the debt limit. “Small government, low taxes” is their platform. That the defense industry jobs, and the military bases in their areas might be considered “wasteful government spending,” or that it might be the target of major cuts as times changed never occurred to them. They’ve set up the very conditions that are going to impact them very negatively, and once that becomes clear, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction in their home districts and states. But the people who voted for them will have gotten what they said they wanted when they elected them. It’s going to be a lesson for them in being careful of what you wish for: You might just get it.