With the total withdrawal of U.S. ground troops from Iraq last month, now seems like an opportune time to reign in defense spending just a bit. As it so happens, the Pentagon has done so.
The Pentagon’s plan, which was announced earlier today, would cut a half-trillion dollars over the next ten years and drop the number of ground troops — Army and Marines — to only slightly above their pre-9/11 levels. The Navy and Air Force would also scale down but mostly through retiring planes and ships somewhat earlier than they might have otherwise.
The plan is a result of the debt ceiling agreement reached in August 2011, which dictated that defense spending would be cut by $487 billion by 2022. With our national debt continuing to be an issue, I think this is necessary. This plan presents a long-term improvement to a complex issue. $487 billion saved is $487 billion earned when it comes to the federal budget.
The Pentagon, along with the Obama administration, also wants to shift its focus from twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to counter new developments in Asia and the Middle East.
Predictably, a number of lawmakers bashed the plan immediately, calling it a major security risk. And with Republicans already pushing a narrative that paints President Obama as soft on defense, this plan figures to become an integral part of the upcoming election.
That being said, I think the plan is an important and major step forward in the process of cutting the national debt. With the Iraq war now finished and the war in Afghanistan theoretically winding down, there is no reason to keep the size of the military at wartime levels.
For more than ten years, the men and women of our military have borne the heavy burden of multiple wars, and they deserve to be relieved of said burden. And that extends to military families as well. The New York Times estimates that about 6,200 American servicemen had died in Iraq and Afghanistan as of November 2011. If cutting down on the military equates to less death and an equal amount of safety, I’m all for it.
And really, if 490,000 soldiers in the Army and 182,000 Marines aren’t enough to defend the country, then I think we might need to re-evaluate things.