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Hagel Begins Trimming Army to 1940 Levels

New America Foundation (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A reduction in the size of the military has been a long time coming. And now, it appears to have finally come. The New York Times reported last night that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, largely invisible since his confirmation a year ago, would be announcing “what officials describe as the first Pentagon budget to aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.” The budget, according to the Times‘s anonymous sources, would be “a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.”

The military-industrial complex is not likely to take the cuts lying down, as there are many interest groups targeted for outright cuts or reductions in growth. And already, the Times reports, the lobbies are ramping up:

For example, some members of Congress, given advance notice of plans to retire air wings, have vowed legislative action to block the move, and the National Guard Association, an advocacy group for those part-time military personnel, is circulating talking points urging Congress to reject anticipated cuts. State governors are certain to weigh in, as well. And defense-industry officials and members of Congress in those port communities can be expected to oppose any initiatives to slow Navy shipbuilding.

The cuts come across the board, including the Air Force’s entire fleet of A-10 “Warthogs,” which Kelley Vlahos recently profiled in depth.

Post-Iraq, and soon to be post-Afghanistan, the Army was already “scheduled to drop to 490,000 troops from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000,” but “Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the Army would drop over the coming years to between 440,000 and 450,000.” The Times reports that Hagel has the sign-off of all the Joint Chiefs, but in a recent Hagel profile, Kelley Vlahos mentioned that such a number “conflicts directly with what Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno says is an acceptable readiness level.” This will require a transition away from the Cold War-era “two wars” doctrine that required the military to maintain the capacity to wage two simultaneous land wars. Now, according to the Times report, “the military has been ordered to be prepared to decisively win one conflict while holding off an adversary’s aspirations in a second until sufficient forces could be mobilized and redeployed to win there.”

about the author

Jonathan Coppage is a TAC associate editor. He received a BA in Political Science from North Carolina State University, and previously attended the University of Chicago, where he studied in the Fundamentals: Issues and Texts great books concentration. Jonathan also worked at The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society. Jon can be followed on Twitter @JonCoppage, or reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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