Wrong signal to the world

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is proposing to cut the size of the military to its smallest numbers in 74 years.

Frankly, The Associated Press story on Hagel’s Monday announcement was very confusing.

The secretary prefaced his proposals by saying:

“We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States.”

The active duty Army would lose between 70,000 and 80,000 soldiers, bringing it down to a size of 440,000 to 450,000. Hagel also proposes cutting the size of the Army National Guard.

The Air Force would lose its A-10 aircraft. Wikipedia says the A-10 is the only Air Force aircraft designed solely for close support of ground troops. It was “built to attack tanks, armored vehicles and other ground targets.” Also known as the “Thunderbolt” or the “Warthog,” it is also used for forward air control to direct other aircraft to targets.

The U-2 spy plane would be retired too.

Clearly, Hagel envisions reliance on new technologies to defend the country. But fewer available troops means that the U.S. would be unable to project power in a world where regional conflicts pop up overnight. It would embolden tinhorn dictators and terrorist groups alike.

The most troubling aspect is the reductions would signal a return to the unreadiness of pre-World War II America. Yes, we have a nuclear arsenal now, but does anybody really want that to be our first line of defense?

If the world “is growing more volatile” and “more threatening” to our country, is this the time to signal a weakening of military resolve? The debate in Congress when this is formally presented should focus on that one central question.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.