I’m glad to be just an observer and not Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He has to be concerned with the nation’s financial stress and he has to slash budgets to keep us in line. In spite of growing threats around the world, he has to make some tough calls and reduce our armed forces.
It would seem that he is doing this with presidential approval because President Obama tells us we are tired of war, we don’t need to get involved in any more conflicts. All well and good, but international conflicts may find us in the Pacific with China and North Korea and in Ukraine with Russia. Conflict in the Persian Gulf may find us involved with Iran. In Syria and the Middle East and elsewhere conflicts may arise in more than one area at a time. Suppose Secretary Hagel’s reduction in forces leaves us unable to respond. Will our status as a world power decline or disappear? Reductions in force may place us at risk and our national security will be affected. Secretary Hagel claims we no longer need a large force, technological tools will help us win any new conflict. Will Congress stand by for this reduction or will members arise and insist we stay strong and prepared to meet any future aggression?
Is it wise to abandon all the infrastructure taxpayers built in Afghanistan and remove all troops leaving hard-won victories to the enemy? Already Congress is questioning what proposed military cuts will do to weapons programs, benefits, and the economy from base closings.
All these discharged, retiring soldiers will need jobs. Where are they to find them? Will not all these changes weaken national security? Secretary Hagel proposes to reduce troops from 570,000 to 440,000. Thousands in the United States are already unemployed and will be joined by discharged veterans.
Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken out saying it is his opinion proposed military cuts are not in America’s best interests. Less involvement in the world will diminish our influence. Maybe we really cannot afford any longer to be the world’s policeman. We look about and see signs that Russia, China and others are using their strength to achieve their objectives. With a reduction in our own military forces, how will we respond?
Returning veterans from foreign assignments are already beginning to wonder if their sacrifices were made in vain. They are concerned about reductions in benefits, housing, health care. They also cannot figure out Secretary Hagel’s belief that “reduction in forces will reshape our defense enterprise to be better prepared, positioned and equipped to secure America’s interest in years ahead.” Do we really have that much of a technological edge over our adversaries? Secretary Hagel seeks a leaner force using more drones, fewer manned aircraft, fewer military bases, fewer troops, fewer combat vehicles, less benefits to professional soldiers. Wonder how Congress, the economy and other nations will react to all of these proposed changes.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.