The new military budget for FY2017 promises only more cuts, and a reduction in the size of the Army, all the way down to 460,000 troops. In 2011, the Army size was 570,000. Once capable of fighting two major battles in separate theaters and one minor battle in a third theater, the current US military would be hard pressed to fight one major battle anywhere in the world.

This comes at a time when China and Russia are greatly expanding their military in size and equipment. For this reason, the Army is considering re-purposing old equipment to do new things. As, for instance, Maj. Gen. John Rossi, head of the Army Fires Center at Fort Sill, proposing that artillery be supplied with "smart" munitions capable of being fired at incoming missiles. But this band-aid approach to the gaping wounds left by a stalled budget size, and what some see as rampant waste in the use of funds, will not be enough to offset the emerging dangers coming from China and Russia.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter painted the following picture at remarks in DC on February 2, 2016, when the new budget was unveiled:

Let me describe the strategic thinking that drove our budget decisions.  First of all, it's evident that America is still, today, the world's foremost leader, partner and underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe -- as we have been since the end of World War II.

And as we fulfill this enduring role, it's also evident that we're entering a new strategic era.  Context is important here.  A few years ago, following over a decade when we were focused, of necessity, on large scale counter insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, DOD began embarking on a major strategy shift to sustain our lead in full spectrum war fighting.

While the basic elements of our resulting defense strategy remain valid, it has also been abundantly clear to me over the last year that the world has not stood still since then – the emergence of ISIL and the resurgence of Russia being just a couple of the examples.

This is reflective of a broader strategic transition underway, not unlike those we've seen in history following the end of other major wars.

Today's security environment is dramatically different than the one we've been engaged in for the last 25 years and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting.

I've talked with President Obama about this a great deal over the last year and as a result, we have five, in our minds, evolving challenges that have driven the focus of the Defense Department's planning and budgeting this year.

Two of these challenges reflect a return to great power of competition.  First is in Europe, where we're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression, and we haven't had to worry about this for 25 years; while I wish it were otherwise, now we do.  Second is in the Asia-Pacific, where China is rising and where we're continuing and will continue our rebalance, so-called, to maintain the stability in the region that we have underwritten for 70 years and that's allowed so many nations to rise and prosper and win.  That's been our presence.

Third challenge is North Korea – a hardy perennial – a threat to both us and to our allies, and that's why our forces on the Korean Peninsula remain ready every single day, today, tomorrow, to, as we call it, fight tonight.

Iran is the fourth challenge, because while the nuclear deal was a good deal and doesn't limit us in the Defense Department in any way – none of its provisions affect us or limit us – we still have to counter Iran's malign influence against our friends and allies in the region, especially Israel.

And challenge number five is our ongoing fight to defeat terrorism and especially ISIL, most immediately in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and also, where it is metastasizing in Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere.  All the time, we protect -- all the while, we're protecting our homeland and our people.

While ISIL must and will be defeated now, in the longer perspective we must also take into account in our budget that as destructive power of greater and greater magnitude falls into the hands of smaller and smaller and more aberrant groups of people, countering terrorists will likely be a continuing part of the future responsibilities of defense and national security leaders far into the future as I can see.

DOD must and will address all five of those challenges as part of its mission to defend our people and defend our country.  Doing so requires some new thinking on our part, new posture in some regions and also new and enhanced capabilities.  For example, as we confront these five challenges, we'll now have to deal with them across all domains, not just the usual air, land and sea, but also particularly in the areas of cyber, space and electronic warfare, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths, but also lead to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit.

Considering the decrease in the size of the military, despite the fact the budget is not decreasing. In fact, the fall in manpower and the decrease in military assets cannot be blamed merely on the defense budget. See the DOD graphic on the budget over the years:

us defense budget

While thew current budget is down from its high of $691 Billion in FY2010, it is UP significantly from where it was in FY2003 when the US was engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan.The US Navy as at its smallest in modern times and can only deploy 4 carriers in a given 30 day period, down from a high of 11, which was mandated by Congress and which mandate, though still on the books, is being ignored. The Air Force will also be losing aircraft, including over 400 in the US and 47 overseas, in a phased, multi-year draw-down.

So the major question remains- where has all this money gone considering that under the current Administration military spending has far exceeded that of the previous Administration will the size of that military, in both manpower and firepower, has shrunk?


Skip to toolbar