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The US Military Is Getting Smaller

March 9, 2014

US Carrier Battle Group

With the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2015 having been published, a broad spectrum of US-based media outlets highlighted the smaller amount given to the Pentagon.

As a result of 2013’s controversial “sequestration”–an antiseptic term for downsizing specific branches–both personnel and equipment, as well as future projects will be shed.

In reality, however, the changes are superficial. The US maintains the largest military budget on Earth even when China officially increased theirs by a meager 12%.

Totaling $575 billion, most of it is for the Department of Defense, who are taking the lion’s share: $496 billion. The peripheral amount of $79 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), representing foreign adventures in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Overall military spending, when the State Department, overseas aid, and other unscrutinized expenses are added, could reach more than $700 billion. This is the lowest since the height of the Iraq War, between 2006-2007. An interesting factoid is US military spending often reflects the amount of the federal deficit.

The Pentagon expressed considerable displeasure at the budget, citing across the board cuts as detrimental to its mission. Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, a veteran of Iraq, emphasized how US ground forces need to shed thousands of personnel and not acquire new equipment.

Their arguments suggested a lower readiness to fight overseas rather than a genuine weakening of the US military. For example, despite the new budget, the US military keeps all its bases and may acquire new ones.

As a result of the budget, the US Army is expected to maintain just 450,000 personnel until 2020, or roughly the same size as the South Korean Army. The Marines are doing the same, reducing their numbers to 175,000. Ageing helicopters used by either branch and the National Guard are scheduled for obsolescence.

The Air Force have sacrificed the entire A-10 Thunderbolt fleet and are anticipating the F-35A to replace their attack aircraft. A new long range bomber is in the works and UAVs like the Global Hawk are replacing older models like the U-2 spy plane.

The least affected branch are the navy. Although the number of littoral warships to be built lessened, from 32 rather than the planned 52, the US Navy is continuing to reinforce East and Southeast Asia.

The US Navy’s preparation for long-range skirmishes with China along coastal areas, the so-called Air-Sea battle, calls for unmanned bombers and submarines along with sophisticated artillery.

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