A key member of the House Armed Services Committee says the Pentagon’s proposed defense cuts are too big, show no coherent national security strategy and will not pass the House of Representatives.
He also says the administration’s actions smack of political calculation.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced troop reductions to the lowest levels since the days before World War II. The Army will drop its troop levels to between 440,000-450,000. The U-2 surveillance planes and A-10 Warthogs would be scrapped under this plan and replaced in part by unmanned vehicles. Eleven Navy cruisers would also be put of the shelf for modernization.
Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman represents a district in one of the most military-centered states in the country and chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. He says the reductions are too much and don’t follow a coherent strategy.
“There are deep concerns about the nature of these reductions, the scope of these reductions and then doing this without clearly elaborating what our national strategy is,” said Wittman. “We’ve gone from a position of a national strategy of being able to fight and win a war on two fronts to going to a strategy of fighting a war on one front and holding serve on another front, to today where the current state of readiness is being in a spot where all we can do is to fight and win a war on one front.
“To take that position and further degrade that in these different ways I think is extraordinarily problematic,” said Wittman, who adds that assuming technology alone can replace human skill, judgment and ingenuity is a major mistake. He also says the Obama administration is making the very same mistake that other administrations pursued following major military conflicts.
“We’ve seen time after time after time, historically, where when we go into that mode in our reset after we come out of conflict, we have done one thing with 100 percent certainty in that we’ve always gotten reset wrong after coming out of conflict. If you look at post-World War II, post-Korea and post-Vietnam, we cannot repeat those mistakes of the past,” said Wittman.
Wittman is confident the cuts will never actually pass in the House of Representatives.
“I do not think so. I think there’s a vast amount of skepticism and constructive criticism on how we address this nation’s military needs going forward, I think this will have an almost impossible time getting through the House,” said Wittman.
Wittman also wants to see a detailed comparison on cost and functionality concerning the changes in weapons, particularly with respect to the U-2 and A-10s. He says unmanned aircraft may be preferable but they also need to be just as beneficial. He says the A-10s are even more critical since they provide close air support for ground forces. Wittman says any replacement system must be proven to protect American lives on the ground just as well or even better than the A-10s.
In reaction to the proposed cuts, many conservatives ripped President Obama as being naive for thinking the U.S. would not be in a land war again anytime soon. They also scolded Obama for allegedly not believing in a robust military Wittman says many of those concerns are spot on.
“If you look at what’s projected by the administration, you notice that the cuts are on the side of the military but they also propose expansion of spending in other areas of government. If this was a serious effort to really reduce spending then the spending reductions would take place elsewhere and they would also have a serious proposal about how to reduce spending in the autopilot spending programs,” said Wittman, referring to entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
“Instead, the proposals that were there last year are absent this year so there’s not even an effort to try to contain or manage spending within Medicare and Social Security. There’s also an increase in spending in other areas of the budget, which tells me that they’re looking at this from a political perspective. That is, ‘How do we go to areas where there may be political bases that need to be satisfied by increasing spending there, yet we’re going to do that on the backs of the men and women that serve this nation,” Wittman said.
The congressman says the military people he speaks with are open to spending cuts in the military, but that those cuts need to be structured in a way that doesn’t hurt or capability or demand far more in spending reductions from the military than from other parts of the budget.
“I believe they are spot on. They want to make sure that if we’re going to be reducing budgets that we reduce them top to bottom in every area of the budget. Remember, the military is the only place where we’ve had significant cuts in the law. All the other areas of the budget for the most part remained untouched. So, this just shows that this is more of a political exercise than it is truly a serious effort to look at the budget top to bottom and make those tough decisions about how we manage the finances of the nation,” said Wittman.
“It also shows there is not the kind of attention necessary to look at where we need to be with military readiness and making sure the forces are properly constructed for the challenges they’ll face in the future,” said Wittman.