In light of growing economic concerns, President Obama unveiled his plan for defense spending cuts in a rare appearance at the Pentagon. The President placed an emphasis on downsizing the manpower of conventional forces in favor of utilizing fewer and better-trained ground troops in future conflicts. In conjunction with this press conference, the Department of Defense released a guideline outlining the new priorities of the United States military in accordance with Obama’s budgetary proposal.
The President’s plan has ignited debate amongst voters, pundits, and politicians as to whether the cuts are necessary, too great in size and scope, or too small. Considering the security issues America currently faces, there are a number of concerns raised by the details of this plan.
Obama has earmarked $489 billion in defense budget cuts over the next decade. That’s in addition to $600 billion in potential cuts from a failure of Congress to agree deficit reduction after the August 2011 debt ceiling deal. The defense industry has been an integral part of the United States since the end of World War II, turning private contractors into profitable job providers. However, this defense plan is expected to cause many defense companies to tighten their belts. In an anticipatory move regarding the looming cuts in the defense budget, Boeing has already planned to close an aircraft facility in Wichita, Kansas. This will result in the loss of 2,100 existing jobs as well as 7,500 potential jobs in creation by a defense contract for aerial tanker production. The plan will also reduce the number of soldiers in the Army and Marine Corps 10-15 percent over the next 10 years, and by approximately 47,000 troops over the next five years. Even with government assistance in job placement, these brave veterans will be fighting for decent employment opportunities in a dwindling job market.
“It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their roll in U.S. national security strategy,” stated Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in his guideline. The use of nuclear weapons is rightfully avoided as long as possible. However, it may be counterintuitive for our military, which Obama described as being “ready for the full the range of contingencies,” to reduce our stockpile. This reduction would come at an inopportune time, as Russia has recently made an odd demand for a legal guarantee that NATO would never use its European missile shield to protect Europe or the United States from Russian nuclear weapons. The Russian Federation still maintains a larger nuclear stockpile than the United States.
A reduction in nuclear weapons seems concurrent with the President’s intent to “get rid of outdated Cold War systems.” Ironically, the Department of Defense guidelines place an emphasis on a “rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” which by appearance, is akin to Cold War containment strategies, as Obama seems determined to counteract China’s influence in the East. Meanwhile, China outmaneuvers the U.S. economically and diplomatically, without shifting its troops around the world.
According to Panetta’s document, the outlined missions of the U.S. armed forces include conducting disaster relief operations, providing a stabilizing presence, and operating effectively in cyberspace and space. These seem like lofty goals in a budgetary cut proposal to be initiated by an administration that has difficulty accomplishing anything without spending exorbitant amounts of money. Just five months ago, Panetta referred to these defense budget cuts as a “doomsday mechanism” that would endanger national security.
Despite these concerns, it must be recognized that the superiority of the United States Armed Forces will always lie in the courage and caliber of our brave men and women in uniform and not in a budget proposal.