The Obama administration is proposing the biggest cuts to the military in generations, citing an end to the war in Afghanistan and the impact of sequestration, but critics allege the president and Pentagon officials are engaging in a deliberate and dangerous hollowing out of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney also said the cuts will further erode already poor military readiness and signal the world that the U.S. will be in no position to defend national security threats on the scale it has in years past.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans for a $522 billion budget, which is still exponentially higher than than the defense budget for any other nation. But the plan also calls for bringing troop levels to the lowest level since before World War II.
The plan would bring Army troops down to between 440,000 and 450,000.
It also calls for the elimination of longstanding programs such as A-10 Warthogs and U-2 surveillance planes, although plans are in place to replace them with different aircraft, including unmanned vehicles.
The Navy will keep buying two destroyers and two attack submarines per year while shelving 11 cruisers for modernization.
But the shuffling of weaponry and shrinking of personnel in response to changing needs and budget demands are not impressing McInerney. He is also furious that the plan calls for service members paying more for housing, seeing fewer benefits and losing a billion dollars in spending on military commissaries.
“There’s no question that this administration has us on a path of unilateral disarmament,” McInerney said. “[Let’s] not confuse ourselves. He’s got us on a path of disarmament. What surprised me even more is that he is making such deep personnel cuts in the services as far as the commissaries, pay, these type of things that are going to have a very negative impact on our morale.”
The Obama administration asserts that with troops already out of Iraq and those in Afghanistan coming home this year, ground troop numbers are safe to recede a bit. Officials also point out that sequestration is still in effect, and half of those cuts must come from the military.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney:
McInerney said Congress deserves some of the blame for that, but the lion's share belongs with Obama.
"This was the administration's plan all along," he said. "They're the ones that came up with sequestration. Everybody on the Hill thought people are reasonable and won't let this happen. The fact is, it was (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid's intent to let it happen. It was clear the Democratic Party was not going to negotiate with the Republicans. So they drove it into sequestration, and they are very happy about sequestration. That's why the Defense budget is taking the bulk of the cuts."
The Obama administration further asserts that troop numbers are safe to drop to levels not seen since before World War II. The administration reasons that high-technology weapons can handle virtually any threat, and a major ground campaign is unlikely to be needed again. McInerney said the threats facing the U.S. right now should make it clear that's a bad idea.
"The fact is, this administration still does not have a strategy for how to defeat radical Islam," he said. "They don't even talk about it. They took us out of Iraq, and what do we find? We find now that the Iraqis are buying weapons from the Iranians. That is a very disturbing thing. We fundamentally turned Iraq over to the Iranian sphere of influence. I'm afraid we're going to do the same thing in Afghanistan, and still no strategy for defeating radical Islam.
"They are going to let Iran, in the next two or three years, become a nuclear power. I'm very disturbed with depleting not only our Army but also our Air Force and Navy and the Marine Corps. As I've said, we are fundamentally, unilaterally disarming," he said.
McInerney's comments ring close to concerns over manpower and readiness voiced Monday by retired U.S. Army Gen Jack Keane on the Fox News Channel.
"The fact of the matter is, today, the Army has very few units that are ready to fight today. And that's the truth of it," Keane said.
McInerney said that analysis is spot on, and much deeper cuts would only make things worse.
"The Army couldn't put a division in the field and fight as a division. All they can do is fight as platoons and maybe at the company level. They haven't done the battalion or brigade level, let alone division and corps level attacks. So their readiness is very low," he said.
So how are friend and foe alike viewing the combination of America's diminished readiness and significant budget cuts in the near future?
"I think they're going to read it as this administration is not going to be a superpower or a global leader, and they are going to start taking advantage of us," McInerney said. "There are a lot of things that are going to be happening over the next two or three years that none of us will have foreseen. We're going to have to react to them, otherwise it's going to be a very negative world that we live in."