By Daily Kos Staff
The good news:
[Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel is also expected to propose cutting the size of the Army from 490,000 active-duty members to between 440,000 and 450,000, down from a post 9/11 peak of 570,000.
Conservatives are acting like it’s the death of the military, which of course it isn’t. But there are bigger problems with what has been leaked thus far, and it has nothing to do with cutting the size of the Army (other than it could be cut even deeper).
The problem with Hagel’s apparent proposal is this:
The recommendations would limit [military] pay raises across the board to 1 percent, and they would freeze pay entirely for generals and admirals for one year.
In addition to reduced housing allowances, the recommendations would slash the subsidies for commissaries that provide groceries to veterans, service members, and their families at reduced cost.
Well, so much for cutting the Pentagon budget. Cutting troop pay is as wrong and immoral as doing so for other government workers, and likely even more given the inherent dangers of the job (even in peacetime). Cutting benefits for veterans—those who actually served honorably in combat or dedicated their lives serving their nation—is even more so.
So not only is proposing benefits and pay cuts wrong on policy, it’s wrong on the politics. You’d have to be a suicidal moron to vote for any such cuts, it doesn’t matter what district or state you represent. By including such cuts in the proposal, Hagel has guaranteed that the cuts—already controversial to begin with—are dead on arrival.
If the Pentagon needs to cut, and if personnel costs are too high, then further shrink the size of the standing military. Cut wasteful weapons programs designed for wars that no longer exist, against non-existent foes, like the F-35 or the nation’s 11 aircraft carriers. Drones are cheap, and they’re the future of warfare in any case (for better or for worse). Close unnecessary bases. SLASH THE HELL out of the Pentagon’s civilian workforce, which now stands at 760,000. That’s not a typo. And it doesn’t even include Pentagon contractors.
In fact, those civilians are the lowest-hanging fruit for Pentagon cuts. The troops? America loves them. The high-cost weapons systems? The military-industrial complex (and the elected officials they’ve bought) love them. Military bases? Local communities cling to them fiercely. The same Republicans who claim that government never created a job will vote to keep those bases open to protect local jobs. Aircraft carriers? They endure for little reason whatsoever.
But civilian employees and contractors? They have no natural constituency. So cut the size of the active duty armed forces, cut the size of the civilian workforce, and definitely try to close bases and shut unnecessary weapons systems down.
But the last thing you do if you are serious about cutting the defense budget is force our troops to bear the burden of those cuts. It’s obnoxious, wrong-headed, idiotic, and a political dead-ender guaranteed to keep the Pentagon budget as bloated as ever.