Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, now Secretary of Defense, has made a recommendation for drastic military budget cuts, totaling billions of dollars, according to Tracy Connor contributing author Kara Kearns in a recent NBC News article. The recommendation also would bring the number of American military forces down to around 440,000 - 450,000. This would be the lowest since before World War II. This cut would be a full 10 percent greater than planned.
The cuts would be made in military spending, forces, and weapons programs. The premise is that such action would alleviate budget pressures. Some see this as an indication America will not soon become involved in further wars. However, others object that an impeded ability to do so is a potential risk.
The budget reductions, a consequence of large budget cuts, may lead to further consequences. This would be due in part to gaps in training and maintenance, in addition to the smaller force size. The US military would be "stretched thin," the article states, if a number of major conflicts occurred in the same period.
Hagel, on the other hand, believes the current 520,000 troops are both unnecessary and unaffordable. By his analysis, even a smaller Army could manage major combat in one area, support of air and naval forces in another, and defense of the homeland.
With the proposal came warnings to Congress that any re-imposition of sequestration-level cuts in 2016, may cause Hagel to seek retirement of the George Washington aircraft carrier, removal of six additional cruisers, reduction in purchases of destroyers, elimination of the KC-10 tanker fleet, cuts in number of flying hours, and further reduction of Army troops, down to 420,000.
Such a move would affect the military's ability to deploy into combat, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the article. The article asserts Gen. Dempsey is emphatic in his opinion that 420,000 troops would be insufficient.
In the article, Hagel was quoted as saying to avoid a "worst-case scenario," Congress would need to "partner with the Department of Defense" to make tough choices.
In addition to cuts, the article states there will be requests to close some military bases in 2017, though Congress recently rejected two such requests. In contrast with the Army, Special Operations forces would increase from 66,000 to 69,700.
Rep. Buck McKeon, of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was quoted in the article as stating President Obama and Hagel are attempting to “solve our financial problems on the backs of our military — and that can’t be done.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has voiced her intent to fight the elimination of A-10 “warthogs” to replace them with F-35s, as included in the plan. The Army also would need to do away with its Kiowas and Jet Ranger training helicopters. Further, the plan includes doing away with the U-2 spy plane in favor of unmanned recon drones, such as the Global Hawk.