The plan that the U.S. Defense Department has published will allow the Pentagon to save about half a trillion dollars and will reduce the country's armed forces by 100,000 people. The Pentagon claims the plan will not diminish the U.S. army's capabilities but this seems to be an effort to put a good face on the matter.
On Monday let’s start living within our means, or How to issue the need for virtue
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta presented the plan on restructuring the armed forces and cutting related expenses, which is entitled “Defense Budget Priorities and Choices.”
The preface to the document is full of eloquent verbiage designed to reassure the public and Congress. Emphasizing the need to cuts expenses and withdraw hardware from the armed forces, the Pentagon is trying to prove that these changes, in particular better control and new technology, will only make its military potential more effective, flexible, modern and dynamic.
The experts that drafted the document along with Panetta share this opinion. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “Capability is more important than size,” and that this “is a military that can win any conflict, anywhere.”
Assessing the plan in general, it's worth outlining certain details. First, this is obviously not the final document in the Pentagon’s strategy. This is not just a plan for urgent cuts in spending – certain points make it clear that the U.S. armed forces await restructuring.
Second, the document’s rhetoric and its real content are reminiscent of the principle of “issuing the need for virtue.” One can talk endlessly about innovation technology and “flexible dynamism” but it is hard to dispute the fact that all these reductions and delays in the implementation of programs have become a reality only because of the extreme shortage of funds during the financial crisis.
If Washington had even the slightest opportunity not to touch its armed forces (which have been rushing all over the world in the last decade) it would have done so and would even have allocated additional funding towards its defense programs – just as it has done so well since the late 1930s in order to stimulate the economy.
Cut the troops to run faster
Saying nice words about the preservation and expansion of the “projection of force” (the expeditionary potential of the armed forces), the Pentagon lashed out against its military transport aviation. It set the task of reducing the difference in types of aircraft in order to make their service simpler and less expensive.
As a result, almost a hundred C-5A Galaxy and old C-130 Hercules will be withdrawn. At the same time the U.S. Air Force has decided against any further purchases of the new C-27J Spartans, originally needed for “general considerations” and now declined, allegedly due to the lack of proper runways in Afghanistan. Now the Pentagon is confident that the few difficulties that remain can be overcome with upgraded C-130s.
The Navy is also subject to cuts, but these are not so profound. The withdrawal of seven cruisers is the most blatant reduction but it is worth remembering that it is impossible or inexpedient to adapt these ships to the deployment of missile interceptors.
At the same time the Pentagon emphasized that it must keep 11 aircraft carriers by all means. The document explains that the Navy’s role has substantially increased, with the United States renouncing its large-scale ground presence in key regions (the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region).
It seems the United States is prepared to stake its bet on deterring its potential enemies with mobile attack units deployed around aircraft carrier groups and supplemented by the expeditionary Marine Corps.
The Pentagon is planning to decrease the strength of its armed forces – the army will cut at least eight combat brigades and 80,000 troops. In addition the Marine Corps will reduce another 20,000 troops.
The document makes a point that this decision does not boil down to army cuts. It is a return to the past, to the position of 2001 before the start of the “war on terrorism” and the ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which the army and the Marines had to obtain 125,000 troops. Apart from the need to reduce costs, the decision was made in view of the troop pullout from Iraq and gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Afghan campaign.
Cheap imperialist policy
The most instructive story with military budget implications revolves around air reconnaissance drones. The Air Force planned to purchase RG-4 Global Hawk block 30 series, because it would pay less for the production and service of these drones than the legendary U-2 spy aircraft.
However, the expenses for the program were growing and gradually became equal. And it now transpired that if these drones were purchased in late 2011 as planned, their service would cost more than that of the antiquated U-2 reconnaissance aircraft the older brother of which was downed by the Soviets over the Ural Mountains in May 1960.
There are many stories like this in the history of the U.S. military-industrial complex. It is easy to see that prices and costs are a major concern not only for Moscow’s Znamenka but also for the Pentagon on the Potomac River.
The term “cheap imperialist policy” comes from the period between the two world wars. It was usually applied to the deep cuts in the British navy following the 1922 Washington conference. The British Empire had to achieve the same goal – that is, to make sure that the sun never sets over it – by much smaller forces and funds.
In effect, we can apply this term to what is happening with the Pentagon’s policy in similar conditions (and amid the global financial crisis – the worst since the Great Depression, which only further underscores this similarity). For the British Empire this policy resulted in an unsuccessful war and the ultimate loss of global leadership.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.