In discussing the Department of Defense’s upcoming budget request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated “our approach was to use this as an opportunity to maintain the strongest military in the world, to not hollow out the force.” In reality, America’s enemies will quickly determine that the United States will not be able to cover its responsibilities worldwide.
The Secretary’s projections, which account for only preexisting Obama Administration cuts, include a reduction of Army ground forces from 562,000 to 490,000 troops—despite the fact that U.S. military readiness is already in a troubled state.
The President may proclaim confidence in America’s status as a global power, as he did in his recent State of the Union address. However, as his Administration systematically reduces the size and scope of the military, this claim becomes increasingly dubious. The U.S. fosters international relationships, provides security assurances to countries around the world, and helps ensure the free flow of goods and information globally through its forward-deployed military presence. America cannot afford to return to the force levels it had under Clinton when the Army scrambled to perform missions like Kosovo and Bosnia, let alone have the ability to maintain significant ground operations.
U.S. forces are constantly maintaining America’s security around the globe. However, those forces are currently overburdened due to under-funded budgets that haven’t kept up with expanding and shifting demands. In the recently released Defense Strategic Guidance, the Pentagon has already begun reevaluating its requirements and how to meet them based on shrinking budgets. This guidance should be based on perceived threats to national security, not fiscal issues.
The primary constitutional role of the government is to provide for the common defense. The military accounts for less than a fifth of federal spending but has represented more than half of deficit-reduction efforts, while domestic spending has exploded. The Defense Department’s effort to address this issue is commendable; nevertheless, more needs to be done to ensure a viable national security force.