On Jan. 5, President Barack Obama made a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room to reveal to America his new strategy for the military. In light of the recent debt-ceiling crisis, which was systemically resolved by the passing of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the U.S. military has been scrambling to prepare for hefty budget cuts.
As of now, the military is facing more than $400 million in cuts toward military spending over the next decade.
This means military focus will shift and the armed forces will shrink down to where they were before 9/11. Now the military will focus on the Far East, Africa and combating cyber warfare.
At last week’s strategy reveal, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tried to affirm speculations about flaws in the cutbacks by saying the military will still remain competitive by continuing to conduct missions from counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destructions and monitoring nuclear threats. He stated, “We will be fully prepared to protect our interests, defend our homeland and support civil authorities.”
However, according to National Public Radio reporter Tom Bowman, officials say the army may lose 70,000 troops from more than half a million.
The two primary branches of the military that will see fewer numbers will be the Marine Corps and the Army, which are set to shrink around 2015. Branches such as the Navy and Air Force will be vital in these regions because of their skills in sea and air navigation.
Moreover, according to Bowman, the new strategy will “no longer be sized to conduct large-scale contingency operations” and the “U.S. will abandon its ability to fight two wars simultaneously.” These two major distinctions were how America fought wars in the last decade.
The primary focus for the military shifting its focus on the Far East is an attempt to keep an eye on China. This is where cyber war comes into the mix. In an interview with CBS News, Panetta explained why cyber war is a growing threat for America.
He said, “The reality is that there is the cyber capability to basically bring down our power grid to create … to paralyze our financial system in this country to virtually paralyze our country… We’ve got to develop the technology, the capability; we’ve got to be able to defend this country.”
Panetta must not be alone in his fear of an enemy attacking our power grids. According to Bowman, our military is watching China because they are mastering cyber war techniques.
This is a pivotal time in American history. So what do these cutbacks mean for the average American?
1) Generals and admirals reduced
Since the end of the Iraq War and the troops in Afghanistan are preparing to withdraw, top-ranking generals and admirals are getting the boot. As of March 2011, Pentagon officials have eliminated at least 27 high-ranking jobs.
According to a Dec. 28 article in The Washington Post, Gates approved the plan to reduce the number of billets of generals and admirals from 952 to 850. Moreover, jobs that previously went to three-star generals will now go to two-star generals.
According to the article, military leaders fear that the cuts could “make it more difficult to promote and retain promising officers.”
2) Fewer benefits for troops and their families
While the Pentagon has yet to disclose the troop reduction numbers, the strategy says the Pentagon will have to find savings in pay and health care benefit for members of the military. However, nothing has been revealed thus far. The question is what is going to happen to troops who are cut or who are asked to retire early? The Pentagon has yet to tell us.
3) Helmet Theory
Last semester, I learned about this theory in my Media and the Military capstone from Ret. Naval Captain Richard Dubberly. He said you have the choice on helmet if you buy a motorcycle. You can either buy a helmet based on quality or price. You also have the choice to not purchase a helmet at all.
Then, if you find yourself in an accident you cannot go back and change your mind on your helmet choice. You are left with the decision you made. This theory is relevant to the recent cuts because once we are slimmer we can’t get go back. We are left on the battlefield with the helmets and manpower we supply our troops.
As I contemplate the implications of this strategy I can’t help but recall John Stewart Mill’s utilitarianism principle, “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Is this new military strategy the best for all of us? In terms of budget cuts it’s the best idea so far.
But I can’t help but think about the men and women willing to serve in our military and make it their career. These new cuts are preventing that security. But maybe for our nation this is what’s best for the time being.
I’m obviously torn.