By Major General Jerry Curry, USA (Ret.)
President Obama has announced that he intends to shrink the United States Army to the smallest it has been since before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Officials in the White House and the Defense Department say this can be done by fighting future wars with smaller, more flexible, agile and more highly mobile special operations forces. They forget that such forces while they may be perfect for winning a small battle or a special operation, lack the force and staying power necessary to win a war.
Senior White House and Pentagon officials say the President is deadly serious about reducing the size of the nation’s military and cutting military pay and benefits, which is in keeping with President Obama’s disdain for our military forces, some of which was described by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in his book “Duty.”
These officials believe that the Air Force can overall shrink its numbers of aircraft and support facilities and can eliminate its air-to-ground capability and replace it with remotely piloted aircraft. The Navy for now would be able to keep its reduced numbers of aircraft carriers and submarines along with a reduced surface fleet. The National Guard and the Reserve Forces would also be reduced: however, the Army will be singled out to take the most severe reductions.
If the security of the nation is not preserved, what good does it do to shrink the size of our armed forces and allocate money to non-security programs? Just because non-defense spending goes down, does not mean that defense spending must go down. The size of the nation’s defense budget should be based on strategic national defense interests, requirements and needs, not on how much money is left over after the non-defense spending programs have been satisfied and allocated by the scribbling’s of some contract accountant who has never been shot at by an enemy.
There are those in the Congress and the Administration who would send our soldiers off to fight in the Middle East and when they return wounded and psychologically crippled, cut their health-care benefits. While fathers and mothers are overseas being shot at by snipers or blown up by Improvised Explosive Devises, their children back in the United States are being forced to exist off of food stamps. Not satisfied with these extreme sacrifices, those same officials want to eliminate the military family commissary grocery store subsidies on which some of those families barely manage to exist.
No priority is more important than that the members of our armed services – those who risk and sacrifice their lives for the future welfare of this country and its citizens – be fairly and properly rewarded and that they be freed from the shackles, penalties and clever congressional budgeting gimmicks of this Administration. Military pay and benefits are not paid to our service members because they are owed, but because they are earned. There is something wrong with a nation which insists on slowing the growth and reducing the pay, benefits and housing allowances of those who have lost arms and legs in the service of their country.
Defense spending should not be determined by the size of entitlement spending or savings. We should first determine the size of the military forces needed to win, and then match that requirement. If we can’t match it, we shouldn’t be involved in that particular military action in the first place.
America shouldn’ increase or limit the number of soldiers, aircraft, submarines and carriers it deploys around the world based on non-military budgetary matters such as entitlement spending. We should deploy the nation’s armed forces into combat based only on national defense needs, requirements and strategy.
Academic military and foreign policy elites believe that in the future there will be no more full scale ground wars. Haven’t we heard all this before? No one can make such predictions with complete confidence. Who knows whether China or Russia will stir up a limited ground war, as could North Korea or Syria, or whether China will strike out by scarfing up several South China Sea islands, or make trouble in the Formosa Strait. What if Iran looses some of its hordes into Saudi Arabia?
This is no prediction, it is simply a reminder that stranger things have happened, and that wise leaders should not shrink their nation’s armed forces in, the midst of this unrest and uncertainty. Is this really the right time for a rash of military personnel reductions, base closings, military pay and compensation shrinkage, military commissary closings, and a decrease in military health compensation?
What kind of insanity is this? In Afghanistan we are counting our chickens before they hatch. We really don’t know how that war will end and neither does anyone else. What nation in the middle of an existing war down-sizes its military forces worldwide?
Is there some kind of a divine deity at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who foretells the future? Our American President, his officials, the Chinese and the Russians may be sleeping well, but the leaders and officials at Riyadh, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Seoul, Paris and London can’t be sleeping well at all.
After WWI we viciously shrunk our armed forces and that led to WWII, after which we again shrunk our forces which led to Korea. Who could have predicted that North Korea would invade South Korea? After Korea we shrunk our forces which led to Viet Nam and the Middle East Wars which no one could have predicted.
Isn’t it time the Congress learned the lesson that the United States of America — the world’s only Super Power – cannot afford to drastically and arbitrarily down-size its military forces, ever? I say the Congress because The White House, just as it seems determined to work around the Constitution, seems determined to unilaterally disarm the United States.
Jerry Curry is a retired Army Major General, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Carter administration; Acting Press Secretary to the Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration; and Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration in the Bush Sr. administration.