The Obama administration started unveiling its 2015 defense budget on Monday and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is up in arms, insisting the cuts are too deep and are leaving America unprepared for military action.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the media on Monday to highlight the 2015 budget which eliminates the A10 aircraft, a staple of the American military since the 1970s, and would reduce the Army to 440,000-450,000 soldiers, its lowest level since before World War II. Hagels proposal, which has the backing of the Joint Chiefs, meets the $496 billion defense cap included in the budget crafted by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and signed by President Barack Obama.
"This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military's unique and indispensable role in the security of this country and in today's volatile world," Hagel said on Monday. "There are difficult decisions ahead."
Hagel stressed that as America scales back involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nations defense budget needs have changed considerably.
"For the first time in 13 years we will be presenting a budget to the Congress of the United States that's not a war-footing budget," Hagel said on Monday.
Hagel also warned that, while no one in the armed services would get a pay cut, pay raises would be less common in the future.
Total pay and benefits increased 40 percent faster than the private sector between 2001 and 2012 and, while that was the right thing to do at the time, we cant continue at that rate over the long term, Hagel said.
We recognize that no one serving our nation in uniform is overpaid for what they do for our country, Hagel continued. But if we continue on the current course without making these modest adjustments now, the choices will only grow more difficult and painful down the road. We will inevitably have to either cut into compensation even more deeply and abruptly, or we will have to deprive our men and women of the training and equipment they need to succeed in battle. Either way, we would be breaking faith with our people and the president and I will not allow that to happen.
Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a possible Republican presidential contender in 2016, weighed in on the 2015 defense budget on Monday afternoon. Despite having been a Republican senator from Nebraska, Hagel did not win Rubios vote when he was up for confirmation in early 2013. During the confirmation process, Rubio was fiercely critical of Hagel.
Every day, we are reminded that the world remains as dangerous as ever and that we need a modern military to protect the American people and U.S. interests abroad, Rubio said on Monday. It is vital that we maintain a strong U.S. military that serves as a capable deterrent, ensures freedom of the seas, and provides security for ourselves and our allies. We also need a military that is able to project force globally when crises emerge, sometimes at a moments notice.
I am concerned that the budget announced today will put all of these goals at risk, Rubio continued. Reducing the size of the Army to its lowest levels in 70 years does not accurately reflect the current security environment, in which the administrations own officials have noted the threats facing our country are more diffused than ever. Cutting key Air Force and naval capabilities just as we are trying to increase our presence in the Pacific does not make strategic sense. I am concerned that we are on a path to repeat the mistakes weve made during past attempts to cash in on expected peace dividends that never materialized -- mistakes that caused our allies to question Americas staying power and encouraged our enemies to test us.
We should always look for efficiencies in our military budget and ensure that any wasteful spending is cut or directed to vital programs, Rubio said in conclusion. But, the fact of the matter is that this administration has been cutting defense since it came into office and doing little to address our real fiscal challenges. Ultimately, we need to make sure that the real drivers of our debt are addressed. We need to save Medicare and Social Security to not only ensure future seniors can retire with dignity and a safety net, but also to make sure that we dont sacrifice our security in order to deal with our debt. President Obamas upcoming budget reflects his indifference to doing anything about a growing $17.3 trillion debt, as well as his nae and misguided perception of just how dangerous the world is.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.