February 24th, 2014
01:34 PM ET

Get real, Hagel tells nation in proposing military cuts

By Tom Cohen

Get real, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told America on Monday in proposing a scaled back, modern military that would cut the Army to its pre-World War II size, retire the A-10 "Warthog" attack jet and reduce some benefits for fighting forces.

"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 in unveiling the Defense Department spending plan for 2015 and beyond.

"There are difficult decisions ahead," he added. "That is the reality we're living with."

Downsizing due to modernization and budget constraints began under Hagel's predecessor, Robert Gates, and the proposal outlined on Monday described a new phase in the transition.

"Not a war-footing budget"

"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 in response to reporters' questions. "That's a defining budget because it starts to reset and reshape."

Under it, the former senator from Nebraska said the military would become a smaller, more tactical force capable of fighting on one war front and maintaining effective defenses for a second while shifting to more specialized capabilities.

"Our analysis showed that this force would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater - as it must be - while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary," he said.

The proposal endorsed Monday by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who appeared with Hagel at the Pentagon news conference, is certain to face strong opposition in Congress - especially with midterm elections coming up in November.

Hagel's budget will be formally proposed next week and legislators from states or districts with major military bases or a heavy presence of contractors are expected to rail against it.

In recent years, Republican hawks have battled military force reductions under President Barack Obama's attempts to reduce defense spending as part of overall deficit reduction.

Conservative Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible GOP presidential contender in 2016, questioned the planned cuts in forces at a time of varying threats and a U.S. shift in emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region, saying it "does not make strategic sense."

"It's going to be a far slimmer military," noted CNN Military Analyst and retired Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks, predicting a rough reception in Washington. "This is the toughest part - the political part."

Retired NATO commander: It's necessary

Retired Army Gen. George Joulwan, a former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, said he thought the changes were necessary.

"Whether it's smart or not is yet to be seen. But I think it's necessary to do, given the constraints that we face fiscally within the United States," he told CNN.

For now, the Pentagon budget for the rest of this fiscal year and for 2015 is about $500 billion for each, as set by a congressional compromise in December.

Hagel acknowledged the changes he proposed mean assuming more risk, but said the military would be better situated to respond to the evolving security challenges facing the country.

The recommendations in the budget plan for 2015 and ensuing years "favor a smaller and more capable force - putting a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries," Hagel said.

He added that the proposal includes "important investments to preserve a safe, secure, reliable, and effective nuclear force."

All military forces, both active and reserve, would be cut under the budget plan.

It calls for reducing the Army to a level of 440,000 to 450,000 troops, which would be the lowest total in more than 70 years. At its height, the Army had 570,000 troops after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and currently has about 520,000.

According to Hagel, the budget proposal protects funding for cyberwarfare and special operations, and preserves money for the controversial and costly F-35 fighter jet.

Warthogs retired?

His plan would retire the A-10, which Hagel called a 40-year-old, single-purpose aircraft designed for Cold War operations, at a cost savings of $3.5 billion over five years.

Separately, Hagel said 900 additional Marines would be assigned to bolster security at embassies around the world under his proposal.

Diplomatic security has received close scrutiny since a terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Also, Hagel said the plan envisions increasing special operations forces from 66,000 today to 69,700 in the future to better meet tactical needs of a modern military requiring counterterrorism and crisis response.

Other provisions would reduce some benefits for military personnel, resulting in them having to shoulder more of their housing and medical costs. Reducing the federal subsidy to commissaries would mean smaller discounts for groceries on U.S. bases.

Through his remarks, Hagel warned that if Congress fails to eliminate planned across-the-board spending cuts beyond 2016, the military reductions would be on a greater scale and significant enough to compromise U.S. national security.

Some of those forced cuts, known as sequestration, were eased for this year and next under the budget deal worked out by Congress in December.

CNN's Halimah Abdullah and CNNMoney's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

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soundoff (1,803 Responses)
  1. Angela

    An ineegliltnt answer – no BS – which makes a pleasant change

    May 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • Jeff Palmer Jr

      push me down, tetris man peace treaty. Papiroflexia; you can not shape me. Recycle green shaded currency; tied to a pole. True colors show. Paint my words Picasso, this message will not reach your praise. My hands will make the change. Unfold me, blueprint as they see me fit? It is not that our leaders are not doing their job. It is the virtuous electricity foundation; SEE underneath. In line the people our doing their job, to man; this is perfection. Salt was once considered rations. We killed for this, deceiving nations. Bittersweet, war unites us all to fear. Now order is in place, lets see what a child creates. Draw me a picture of a leader. White over black; retrace. Gray matter reading between the brains lie. Confused heart sails; dry skies. Breathe in humane, artificial cry. Soon will run dry; rock bottom. Tear U.S. Apart, they will collect and rebuild the same work of Art

      To this post male will always assume strength was given to them and women nurture of heart, tow things Men have to much pride to realize two heads are better than one and second....


      take that you egotistical , male sophists Sage rant General who keeps his badge seen a gun as his right hand man, intimidation of insures of what his unconscious know is wrong,

      October 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  2. Kandice Lottig

    It is about time we started to change our ways when thinking of our elite military forces. These thirteen years of war have really taken a toll on not only the budget but the standards the military represents as well. Back when this all kicked off the flood gates opened allowing almost anyone to join and in a time of a troubled economy a job in the military seemed so secure and promising. However the truth is that this line of work is not meet for just anyone it takes a lot of determination and self-control. This massive force calls for a much bigger budget, but if the soldier is not devoted why should the military devote to them? Main focus is that allowing the military to be cut will ensure that only the best of the best remain therefore making all the branches more elite and not wasting a cent of the hard earned paycheck. It’s all about making the cut where it makes the most sense for everyone not just a particular group. With a smaller force and smarter decisions on the training and equipment that actually has the best results rather than just checking the block would without a doubt bring a higher rate of success to the table. As a final note, service members give back more than plenty for everything they do and taking from their benefits should not even be considered.

    April 29, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  3. Noshel

    Hagel is right, we have this dinosaur military , only using its so-call smartest weapons on wedding parties and killing women and children, and continue to believe that real terrorist wear dress. lol

    March 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Reply
    • Sissy

      Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the msagese home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read. I'll certainly be back.

      May 4, 2014 at 5:24 am | Reply
    • Raider

      Mr. Noshel Thanks for your insightful and erudite interest in National Defense.

      March 26, 2014 at 11:55 am | Reply
  4. odin029

    The American people want a military that seems to the rest of the world like it can be in all places at all times(even if it really can't). The cutbacks just show one more area where the rest of the world is going to get close or perhaps pass us by one day. Perception is a powerful thing, and we're cutting back while China and Russia aren't.

    March 22, 2014 at 10:26 am | Reply
  5. firefighter108

    With Russia up to their old tricks, seems like a perfect time to cut back our defense???????

    March 22, 2014 at 2:42 am | Reply
  6. Phelix Unger

    This is the new reality, because of the nature of the new beast in the world. Terrorism will be dealt with much more on a local scale, maximizing the combat special forces to the full capability of personnel and equipment. There was no reference to dismantling the naval capabilities, which is still the largest navy and amphibious fighting force on the planet. It is better to optimize your miltary and get rid of redunant and costly overspending that is currently taking place just to make a congressman or woman, as well as senators who try and manipulate the voting public. The people at the top of the military understand this much more then poiticians who will cut of their nose to spite their faces.


    March 20, 2014 at 1:35 am | Reply
    • GrammarPolice

      Silly! Only God can make a congressman or congresswoman.

      March 22, 2014 at 8:24 am | Reply
  7. Guest

    Conflict heating up yet again, what a wonderful time to undermine the trust the military has in its government to provide the benefits and pay they promised. I sure hope nothing terrible happens while we're all heading for the exit for jobs that pay commensurate to our skills and experience and the job's requirements.

    Minimum wage's buying power gets eroded over time by inflation and that's not cool, but when the Pentagon does the same thing with pay raises below increases in the cost of living, that's completely fine.

    US companies use federal welfare programs to subsidize their low wages and that's an outrage, but US troops redeemed $104 million in food stamps at commissaries last year and it's completely fine to increase their grocery bills by 20%.

    March 6, 2014 at 9:24 am | Reply
  8. Peace

    It's a crying shame but time to get moving on the Key Stone Pipe Line ! Remember those gas pump lines during Carter we all sat in ? Can it happen again ?

    March 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Reply
    • Ron

      Tell a lie long enough people will believe it. It was Nixon who failed to provide leadership in the mid-East in the early seventies. OPEC was in charge 1973 and decided to embargo oil to punish the US for sending arms to Israel. Carter just happen to be in office when the Arabs who were P.O.'s at the Shah of Iran for not joining OPEC lead a take over of that country. We were getting a hell of a lot oil from the Shah but that just stopped over night. Fear drove the price of oil out of sight on speculation. That was the second crisis for consumers and the one the Republicans like to drag out when its time to trash Carter for all that had happen since 1973.

      March 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Reply
    • Tereza

      So excited I found this article as it made things much qureick!

      May 4, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  9. Peace

    I think there are dumb cuts and smart cuts but right now not interested in any cuts ! "Glasnost and Perestroika" as it relates to Ukraine and Putin ! Houston now sings ...."Oh say can you see....." National Anthem. One billion to Ukraine in a loan guarantee from US ? Really and with Putin's military pretty much in charge. Explain how that deal is going to work out for US tax payer and the Ukraine people as we support their energy from Russia.

    March 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  10. GetErDone

    Hagel is secretly working for the Republicans. Military cuts at mid-term elections guarantees a sweep of the House and the Senate. Thanks Hagel!

    March 2, 2014 at 10:16 am | Reply
  11. stuffums

    Spare the A-10, but close ALL military bases in Europe and quite a few others abroad. Europeans despise US bases on their soil, it fosters anti-Americanism, they're expensive, and most importantly countries like Germany can defend themselves on their own, they don't need US babysitting.

    It's a win-win-win for the US and Europe

    March 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  12. SFC

    Crazy if any civilian thinks mil is getting rich off BAH. Anything rentable around mil bases is overpriced... just like housing. In case, civilians are unfamiliar, army military housing is disgusting. Over run by pests, black mold, houses sliding off foundations; ceilings falling in, electrical "issues"; permanently wet carpet accompaning wet breaking furniture; constant doc visits b/c your family is living and breathing in former tenants dirt, animals, and always present mold; your house "looks" like a typical block out of the "hood". Commissaries are a joke.
    I want Hagel to come live in an elisted's typical three bedroom house at Ft Polk and then hear how he still wants us to live on post.

    February 26, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  13. Thrill

    What are we thinking!?! Why do the men and women that protect us and keep us free get punished because our government leaders are STUPID!!! the pay cuts should come from Congress and the president (no more 100s of million dollar trips to Africa) they cant even do their job, the government shut down because of them. if the Solders failed at their jobs like our "leaders" we would all be dead! God Bless America and please help us all!

    February 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  14. tygre

    The new reliance on technology vs. numbers of troops or materiel might be reasonable if you believed that millions of lines of code in everything from satellites to vehicles could never be compromised.
    One virus that takes out the banking system could render US DOD useless.

    February 26, 2014 at 1:19 am | Reply
  15. Steven craft

    Thank you KSM it is clear Michael has no clue what he is talking about. If I made that much I would be rich. It is because I manage my budget and limit my spending as a responsible adult I am able to buy a house and afford a mortgage. Just so you know also those numbers are not just for housing but they cover other expenses like utilities and insurance. I made 39000 last year so any of you who think I get payed well to work 15 plus hours a day with no overtime you are a fool. I like the benefits but I love serving with my brothers and sisters way more.

    February 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Reply
    • fair share

      When factoring pay for the military, factor in pay and benefits, TAX free most of it, including spouse, most pay no tax. Where is the pay derived from...taxes.

      Either increase taxes or decrease spending...you can't keep growing deficits or we won't have a country to defend,

      February 25, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Reply
      • Guest

        I'm military, and I definitely do pay taxes. You have no idea what you're talking about.

        And even if no military member paid a penny in tax, it would be a grain of sand on the beach of money that our government wastes.

        We're not overpaid for what we're asked to do, not even close. I accept far less than I could earn in the civilian sector largely because it's a very steady, stable job. These cuts attack my trust in that stability and leave me with no choice but to prepare myself to exit as soon as possible. I'd rather stay but at this point, I do not trust the Pentagon to make good on the deal we've made. These cuts will drive mid-career enlisted and officers away from the ranks in droves and that will cripple the military for far longer than getting rid of some hardware we probably don't need.

        February 26, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
      • Bernie

        Military personnel do pay taxes just like you and I. THEY DO NOT PAY TAXES WHEN SERVING IN A COMBAT ZONE. As for their his/her spouse who may be working at local store while they are away. They are not tax exempt, they pay their taxes just like any other employee of that store.

        February 26, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  16. George patton

    Does anyone here seriously think that Chuck Hagel will get his way over these badly needed cuts in military spending? As great of an idea as it is, the majority in Congress won't go along as they're paid not to. The M.I.C. will never stand for it and will pay any amount of money to block it!!!

    February 25, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  17. ralph

    This smells like what Jimmy Carter was trying to do but failed when he was defeated after his first term, everyone knew Carter was weak and that is why Afghanistan was invaded in 79 and look at the mess that started. If the dems have their way China will own the pacific.

    February 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      China owning the Pacific, ralph? Hardly! The right-wingers in Washington would rather eat cow manure than give up the Pacific, Europe or the Middle East!!! Get real ralph, please.

      February 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  18. NorCalMojo

    I would oppose the cuts if we had leadership with the guts to use a military. Right now our politicians are more worried about world opinion than defense. So we're losing wars and fighting battles for other nations.

    It's time for cuts.

    February 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  19. JC

    Let's see

    The average compensation pkg for Military personnel = $99,000. I don't have a problem with since they literally put their lives on the line.

    The average Fed Govt worker as an average comp package of $114,500....

    While the people making the Decisions have an average comp package of about $286,000 – these are the flipping politicians...

    While the Average Private sector workers' (ie: the average Taxpayer) comp package is about $87,800.

    John Q Public is about ballpark with GI Joe and GI Jane, meanwhile The Politicians and their paper pushers make a LOT more than us the tax payers, yet we Public Sector and the Military are the ones that are said to be making too much.

    Can anyone else tell me what is wrong with this picture?

    February 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      roger that, spot on

      February 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  20. Marissa

    The only two options that I am aware of to reduce the deficit are 1) Increase Taxes or 2) Decrease spending. Do I agree that the defense spending should be cut? Not necessarily. But cuts have to happen because no one will be happy with tax increases. We've dug ourselves into such a huge hole, I'm not sure there is a good solution at this point.

    February 25, 2014 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  21. Chris Asking Questions

    Why are our military members, our military retirees, our veterans, and their family members being punished because President Obama, elected officials, political appointees, and General/Admiral lap dogs can't figure out how to manage a budget?

    February 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • doug the slug

      They aren't being punished any more than people are being punished when they are laid off from a business that is losing money hand over fist. Waging war is not supposed to be a primary employer. America can't afford the military it maintains, and spends more than the next 13 countries combined on defense. Most of those countries are allies and none are considered enemies. This nation can't afford to maintain its roads, bridges, schools, has millions on food stamps, and heck it even struggles at times to service its own debt. Why should that money be flushed on maintaining an army that has no purpose? We look a little silly flexing our military muscle, when every other country knows what a shambles our economy is in, largely because we insist on flexing our military muscle. Republicans and Tea Partiers want all this money shaved from bloated government and yet nothing shaved from what is likely the single greatest contributor to our nation debt. The reality is that we can't possibly get our economy or fiscal house in order without drastically reducing military spending. Any fiscal conservative understands this.

      February 25, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Reply
      • mike

        Read the whole story... Cutting the number of troops down isn't going to save money because they plan on spending more money on more advanced toys like drones, etc. There will actually be an increase in spending. The economic impact this will have goes way beyond 100,000 people losing their jobs. The Bases that are shut down will impact communities and people in the private sector will lose jobs because of this. This is a president that knows how to destroy jobs cause he definitely can't create any.

        February 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
    • BRB

      Generally, military families are well supported with $$$, education, housing, allowances, training, health care, etc. Just because they can't manage their money, it is not my problem.

      February 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Reply
      • MURF

        It's not your problem but it's someone else's. Military families of deployed servicemembers sometimes lose their loved ones mentally, physically, or don't see them on and off for years due to multiple deployments. What's wrong with compensating those and the families of those that have sacrificed more than you ever will?

        February 26, 2014 at 2:42 am |
  22. Bernie

    This is dangerous ground. Can some defense progams be cut, sure. But to reduce troop levels is really dangerous ground. We did this prior to WWII and look how many lives we threw away in the pacific to buy us time time to rebuild our forces. We did the same thing prior to the Korean War and were damn near driven out of there. Remember, the Pusan Perimeter? In Iraq, and presently Afghanistan we are using Reserve and National Guard units to supplement active duty personnel. Say they cut down manpower levels to pre WWII. Then let's say for example, North Korea decides to invade the South. We will not have enough manpower to deal with it, which means the Draft will have to be re-instated immediately. Because, regardless of how many planes, ships, and tanks we have, you still have to put a large amount of troops on the ground. So Washington had better be careful on what they do, because it could have on adverse effect on alot of people if they get it wrong.

    February 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Jbailey

      You do know there is a ten year call back, so even if we are invaded we still have the people on stand by if needed?

      February 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  23. Michael smith

    The first thing to cut are these pseudo welfare handouts in the mil called " housing" allowances.

    $21 billion wasted each year

    Tax free

    Upwards of $3,000 for single volunteers who could and should be living on their ships and bases

    From $3,000-$6,000-$9,000, YES $9,000 a month TAX FREE to two volunteers who opt to get married


    February 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Reply
    • Michael smith

      Google "basic allowance for housing 2014" and see these handout tables for yourself, remember that these two married volunteer couples get TWO. Repeat TWI OF TGESE TAX FREE monthly handouts for their ONE FAMILY UNIT!

      Soon will come cries and whines from those riding this $21 billion per year and growing tax free gravy train.

      February 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
      • Michael smith

        The second mike smith poster is a poser. Look at the pattern to the left of this coward's user name. Ignore him. He's a paid tool of the MiC.

        February 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
      • Michael smith

        My name was hacked by a Pakistani troll. Please disregard this ridiculous troll rant.

        February 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
    • KSM


      Look at the military BAH rates. Very few people get $3000+. Here are a few examples of actual rates:

      Brig. Gen (O-7) in Colorado Springs gets $2217
      Sgt. First Class (E-7) in Colorado Springs gets $1599

      Brig. Gen (O-7) in Washington D.C. gets $3162
      Sgt. First Class (E-7) in Washington D.C. gets $2565

      Brig. Gen (O-7) at Ft. Bragg gets $1908
      Sgt. First Class (E-7) at Ft. Bragg gets $1512

      Brig. Gen (O-7) at Ft. Hood gets $1923
      Sgt. First Class (E-7) at Ft. Hood gets $1395

      And, a dual military couple only earns ONE housing allowance. Most installations have gone to privatized housing, so you still have to pay. They charge you whatever your BAH rates is.

      February 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Reply
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