Chuck Hagel: U.S. Defense Secretary Discusses Pentagon Budget CutsBy: Val Powell - February 25, 2014
United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has outlined the Pentagon’s priorities based on 2015’s defense budget. He recommends downsizing the Army to a smaller size in order to meet the budget and balance postwar defense requirements.
At present, the Army has about 522,000 soldiers on active-duty. This number is slated to shrink down to 490,000 in 2015. Hagel also suggested lowering the number to around 440,000.
With the targeted figure, the Army will be at its lowest number since after World War II. The lowest number post-World War II was recorded at 480,000 in 2001. Army chief of staff General Ray Odierno says that the ideal number is at about 450,000. He says the number poses a high risk, but it would be sufficient.
This decision is the result of Hagel’s talks with the Defense Department, and together they have decided that the country needs advanced military instead of having a larger force that is less modern. The proposed budget cut will involve reducing benefits, pay increases, and housing allowances, which is sure to stir controversy when is it brought before Congress next week.
Joint Chief Chairman General Martin Dempsey states that he believes Congress should retain the existing military benefits that the soldiers signed up for. Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, also stated that cutting budgets for benefits would make it harder to draw and keep military personnel.
According to Army leaders, they have long been expecting the Army’s size to decrease since the country is preparing to end combat in Afghanistan by this year.
Defense analysts say that Pentagon budget priorities stated by Hagel would help the Army move in the right direction on several issues, such as removing wasteful spending and reforming military compensation. However, lawmakers who are running for mid-term elections to Congress might find it difficult to support the idea.
Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, says that Hagel’s proposal was done with the country’s defense strategy and the service of soldiers in mind, and the chiefs are willing to push through with tough decisions.
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