Let Us Make Our Whole Defense Effort More Intelligent | Wall Street Journal

Michele A. Flournoy’s contention that previous defense drawdowns created a “‘hollow force’—too much force structure with too little investment in people, readiness, and modernization”—is not correct (“The Right Way to Cut Pentagon Spending,” op-ed, Feb. 5). During the post-Vietnam drawdown, which in real terms never saw the budget fall below its prewar level, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird cut military personnel to 2.2 million from 2.7 million before the war, and a peak of 3.4 million during the war. In addition, the number of air squadrons was cut from 203 to 110, Navy ships from 932 to 495 and Army divisions from 19 to 16. Similarly, after the Cold War, the size of the active force was reduced from 2.2 million to 1.4 million. The fact that these cuts did not create a hollow force was demonstrated not only by statements from Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, but also by the performance of the military in driving Saddam Hussein from power in a few weeks.

Moreover, while some of Ms. Flournoy’s recommendations for cutting the budget make sense, in total they will not be enough to get the first $487 billion in reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, let alone any future reductions. To get those savings, the Pentagon should take a page out of the Nixon-Laird playbook; they eliminated one threat by reaching out to China, changed our strategy with the Nixon doctrine (no more land wars in Asia) and the Air-Land Battle plan to deal with the Soviets in Europe, cut missile defense and nuclear weapons by concluding nuclear arms agreements with the U.S.S.R. and held down the cost of new weapons by instituting a high-low mix in tactical aircraft.

If he is confirmed, Sen. Chuck Hagel would do well to follow the Nixon-Laird blueprint.

Lawrence Korb

Alexandria, Va.

Mr. Korb was assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.
via Let Us Make Our Whole Defense Effort More Intelligent | Wall Street Journal.