Hagel Cuts Pentagon Back to Pre-WWII Levels

Editor’s Note – Prior to World War II, despite FDR’s desires, the nation preferred to stay out of the war raging in Europe, for right or wrong. What we did not know was that Japan was about to make us enter, and FDR had already been supplying England through the Lend/Lease Act to avoid ceding so-called neutrality.

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No matter what the tenor of the nation, the war was about to pull us in, and we were not prepared. The signs were there, in broad colors, and in large measure, the signs of World War are present today, some say in starker terms. Fortunately, when Japan unleashed the ‘sleeping giant’, we quickly turned the foremost industrial engine on the Earth into overdrive and we eventually overwhelmed our enemies and saved our allies.

Now, we are decreasing our military, at a time we should be modernizing it and insuring it fits the threat, not just a bottom line number, but we do not have the money allocated by threat priority in other budgets due to waste, fraud and abuse. At a time when our collective intelligence reports read that the threats are greater today than ever, supported by the Intelligence Community congressional testimony, what criteria did Hagel use?

It is also clear that our nation is considered weaker than ever, and now our enemies see us cut further. This emboldens the likes of Iran, Putin in Russia, China in the Pacific, and al Qaeda. Let us also not forget the Taliban threat once we leave Afghanistan.

Of course, past bad fiscal management by all parties has brought us to the brink of financial ruin, the Obama Administration has only deepened the abyss and now Secretary of Defense Hagel announced massive cuts; cuts that will place us right back in the pre-WWII levels. The question is, if World War comes again, we will be able to recover as quickly, and strike our enemies into total submission?

You be the judge, but you also need to ask why, that for at least three generations we have not reined in unreasonable spending in the Pentagon as well – a ‘perfect storm’ appears on the horizon, and we have a ‘paper tiger’ in the White House. Bad management has reduced our national security because of politics, not priorities.

perfectstorm

The Defense Budget vs. History

 – Commentary Magazine

Traditionally, military planners have operated under a worst-case scenario: i.e., what do we need to have in place to respond if nothing goes as planned? The Obama administration and Congress appear to be operating under a best-case scenario: i.e., what is the minimum force we can field on the assumption that nothing will go terribly wrong?

Thus the new defense budget, being unveiled today, which cuts the army’s active-duty force size to the smallest level since before World War II–just 440,000 to 450,000 soldiers. That’s down from a wartime high of 570,000, although even that figure was painfully inadequate to allow the U.S. to respond to two unforeseen wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

defense-budgetAs critics of the Bush administration–including Senator Barack Obama–were once fond of pointing out, Bush never sent enough troops to stabilize Iraq until 2007 and that commitment was only made possible by keeping a ludicrously small force in Afghanistan, once known as the “necessary” war.

The failure to send more troops early on allowed the Taliban to rebound from near-defeat in 2001 and allowed various insurgent groups to sprout all over Iraq.

So if 570,000 troops were not enough to handle such relatively weak foes as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban, how on earth would 440,000 troops be able to handle more robust contingencies–unlikely but not impossible–such as simultaneous wars with Iran and North Korea and a stabilization mission in, say, Yemen? The answer is that they couldn’t.

Actually the situation is even worse than the news would have you believe. Because the army’s plan to cut down to 440,000 to 450,000 is premised on the assumption that Congress will continue to provide relief from half a trillion dollars in sequestration cuts.

But the budget deal reached by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray only provides sequestration relief in 2014 and 2015; unless Congress is willing to turn off sequestration in future years, the army will have to go even lower in end-strength.

Moreover, the defense budget includes modest cuts in personnel spending–spending on pay, pensions, and health care–which are long overdue but which are likely to be blocked by Congress, as was the case with a recent attempt to cut cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees by a measly one percent.

"Peace for Our Time" was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration
“Peace for Our Time” was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration

Unless Congress goes along with cuts to personnel costs, which now constitute half of the defense budget, other parts of the budget–including, no doubt, the army’s end-strength–will have to endure further scaling back.

That is a responsible decline in military strength only if you assume that we will never fight another major land war, or engage in simultaneous stabilization and counterinsurgency operations. And that, in turn, is a tenable assumption only if you assume that the laws of history have been repealed and a new era is dawning in which the U.S. will be able to protect all of its vital interests through drone strikes and commando raids.

We all hope that’s the case but, as the saying has it, hope isn’t a strategy. Except, it seems, in Washington defense circles today.

If history teaches anything, it is that the era of land wars is not over and that we will pay a heavy price in the future for our unpreparedness–as we have paid in blood at the beginning of every major war in American history.

Our failure to learn from history is stunning and (from a historian’s standpoint) disheartening but not, alas, terribly surprising: Throughout history, supposedly enlightened elites have been able to convince themselves that the era of conflict is over and a new age is dawning.

The fact that they have always been wrong before does not, somehow, lead them to question those assumptions in the present day, because this is such a convenient belief to have.

Today, for both Republicans and Democrats, the president and Congress, these hope-based assumptions about defense spending allow them to put off the truly difficult decisions about cutting entitlement spending. But at what cost? If history is any guide, the cost of unpreparedness will be steep and will be borne by future generations of American troops.

Military Leaders Oppose Hagel as SecDef – Letter to Senate

By Frank Gaffney – Center for Security Policy

(Washington, D.C.): A distinguished group of fourteen retired generals and admirals, representing all branches of the United States Armed Forces, has signed a letter opposing the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.

The letter – addressed to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), respectively, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – raises several concerns about the nomination of Sen. Hagel, including:

Sen. Hagel’s support for further cuts to the defense budget. Sen. Hagel stated in late August 2011 that the Pentagon is “bloated” and needs to be “pared down”, contrary to Sec. Panetta’s and Chairman Dempsey’s views that sequestration – the additional hundreds of billions in across-the-board cuts to defense that go well beyond the $787 billion in cuts already sustained by the Department since Sec. Gates’ tenure – would be “disastrous for the defense budget” and “very high risk” to national security;

Former U.S. Senator Hagel walks past U.S. President Obama after being nominated to be Defense Secretary at the White House in Washington

Sen. Hagel’s support for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Sen. Hagel is a public supporter of the “Global Zero” Initiative, the goal of which is the “elimination of all nuclear weapons.” This stance is ill-advised for any Secretary of Defense, as Russia and China continue to modernize their nuclear capabilities while North Korea and Iran move closer to obtaining them.

Sen. Hagel’s hostility towards Israel. Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our only stable, reliable ally in the Middle East were he to become Secretary.

Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran. Sen. Hagel repeatedly opposed sanctions against Iran while serving in the Senate, and in 2006 stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option” – an ill-advised statement that undercuts the effectiveness of both diplomatic and military policies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities.

The signers of the letter are:

    • Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
    • Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
    • Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
    • Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
    • Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
    • Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
    • Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
    • Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
    • Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
    • Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
    • Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
    • Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
    • Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
    • Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, which facilitated this letter, stated: “These military leaders deserve our profound thanks for once again acting in service to our nation – in this instance, for the purpose of raising awareness of the risks associated with confirming Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

This group knows firsthand that the United States military requires leadership that recognizes the need for a defense budget commensurate with the threats we face; the need for a credible, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent; and the need to support our allies and not accommodate our adversaries. Sen. Hagel lacks these qualities, and hopefully the United States Senate will heed the concerns of these flag and general officers during the course of his confirmation process.”

Read the letter here:

29 January, 2013

Dear Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe:

As individuals who were privileged to serve our country as flag and general officers in the United States military, we write to you to express our deep concerns about the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Our nation faces enormous national security challenges as we enter 2013. Addressing those challenges will require leadership at the Pentagon that recognizes the gravity of the threats we face and understands the requirement for a formidable military capable of deterring and, if necessary, overcoming them. Senator Hagel’s record on key issues indicates he is not such a leader.

First, Sen. Hagel stated on 29 August, 2011: “The Defense Department, I think in many ways has been bloated…I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.” This statement seems to ignore the fact that, the Budget Control Act of 2011 had already cut $487 billion from the defense budget over ten years — let alone that this round of reductions comes on top of the more than $300 billion in cuts that took place under then-Secretary Robert Gates.

Recall that Secretary Leon Panetta on 4 August, 2011 stated that hundreds of billions more in cuts over ten years that sequestration will bring about will be “disastrous to the defense budget.” JCS Chairman General Martin Dempsey has indicated that sequestration poses “very high risk” for national security. Consequently, Sen. Hagel’s assertion that still further cuts are warranted is at odds with the judgment of the Pentagon’s current civilian and military leadership. It suggests a disqualifying lack of understanding of the dire effects such reductions would have on our defense capabilities.

Second, Sen. Hagel is a signatory of the “Global Zero” Initiative, which describes itself as “the “international movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.” At a time when Russia and China are increasing and modernizing their nuclear capabilities, North Korea is enhancing its long-range nuclear delivery systems and the weapons they will carry and Iran is moving ever closer to obtaining such arms, we cannot responsibly abandon our deterrent. It would be ill-advised and possibly very dangerous to have as a Secretary of Defense someone who believes otherwise.

Third, Sen. Hagel has demonstrated an abiding hostility towards Israel, a view that would be detrimental to our national defense and perhaps perilous to our ally were he to become Secretary. For example: In 2009, he urged President Obama to undertake direct negotiations with Hamas. In October 2000, he was one of just three Senators to refuse to sign a letter expressing support for Israel during the second Palestinian intifada. In 2002, following several deadly Palestinian suicide-bombing attacks in Israel, he authored a Washington Post op-ed asserting that “Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue.”

Israel is our only stable, reliable ally in an increasingly turbulent and hostile Middle East. Given Sen. Hagel’s record of hostility towards the Jewish State, his confirmation could signal to Israel’s enemies and ours that this important bilateral relationship is unraveling. That perception could invite aggression and perhaps another, otherwise avoidable regional war.

Another matter of profound concern is Sen. Hagel’s outlook towards Iran — a country that, among other acts of war against our country, employed its proxy, Hezbollah, to bomb the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, resulting in the deaths 241 American servicemen. Sen. Hagel has repeatedly refused to support sanctions against Iran while in the Senate, and in 2006, he stated that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” This ill-advised statement telegraphs to Tehran that it should not fear a U.S. military response to the continued pursuit of Iranian nuclear weapons. Whichever policies are pursued with the objective of preventing a nuclear Iran can only have hope of success if backed by a credible military deterrent. It would be unwise to confirm a nominee for Secretary of Defense who has already publicly taken that option off the table.

For all of these reasons, it is our professional assessment that confirmation of Sen. Hagel to be Secretary of Defense would be contrary to the United States’ vital national security interests.

Sincerely,

Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.)
Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.)
Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Vincent E. Falter, USA (Ret.)
Rear Adm. H.E. Gerhard, USN (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Robert H. Gormley, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Higginbotham, USMC (Ret.)
Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Mel Thrash, USA (Ret.)
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret.)
Brig. Gen. Ronald K. Kerwood, USA (Ret.)

For more information, contact Ben Lerner at (202) 835-9077 or lerner@securefreedom.org<mailto:dreaboi@securefreedom.org