You’ve just heard the latest shot in the fight between congressional Republicans and the White House over a key budget matter.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a proposed Pentagon budget that, in his words, takes the United States off its “war footing” for the first time in more than a dozen years.
I want to make a couple of points:
One is that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. As the liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell noted Monday night, it took a retired five-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, to coin the term “military-industry complex” in his farewell address to the nation as president of the United States. Ike understood the military better than most presidents. Hagel also understands the nation’s defense needs in this post-Cold War period.
Second is that even with the big cuts in defense spending, the United States still will spend more on defense than Russia, China and the United Kingdom combined.
The elimination of the A-10 Warthog close ground support jet is going to raise hackles. So will the reduction in surface ships for the Navy. Same with the elimination of the U-2 spy planes that will be replaced by unmanned drones. The Army will see its force reduced to 420,000 men and women.
Hagel’s point, though, is that the United States no longer will be fighting a war abroad but still will be able to respond to a future conflict while defending the homeland.
Our arsenal remains the most potent the world has ever seen.
The cuts will save the country billions of dollars over the short and the long terms, which is what fiscal conservatives say they prefer.
However, wait for it. The critics are going to declare that Hagel and the Obama administration are hell bent on disarming the United States in favor of domestic spending programs.
It’s untrue. That won’t stop the barrage.