Restructuring The Department Of Defense: Fiscal Responsibility & Strategy, Too?

By Dr. Samuel Stanton

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II
Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II the target of retirement.
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA –-( Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered the 2015 Department of Defense budget.

Hagel’s budget proposes cuts to the number of personnel on active duty in the Army as well as the elimination of certain weapons systems.

Unfortunately, criticisms of the proposal have been directed more at the current administration than at the overriding issues of U.S. security and fiscal reality.

As soon as Hegel’s proposal was made public, complaints began rolling in. The objections seem to center around two of the proposals: cutting the Army to about 440,000 active duty personnel and cutting aging weapons systems. The cuts would bring the active duty Army numbers close to pre-WWII levels. Here, it is important to note that the Air Force was part of the Army until 1947, which means that the number 440,000 is actually almost twice as large as the ground force of the Army in 1940. Also notable is that Hegel’s proposed cut represents only 125,000 active duty personnel from a total force structure (active, reserve, guard) of over 1 million. In comparison to the Army’s numbers today versus 1940, the Marine Corps remains about 10 times larger than it was in 1940.

The second chief complaint is the proposal to retire the entire fleet of the A-10 aircraft. Certainly, the A-10 is impressive to watch as it is respected for its ability to take out tanks. The A-10 entered service in the early 1970s and has not been produced for years. In fact, the Air Force tried to give the A-10 to the Army about 20 years ago. The Army refused to take it unless the Air Force threw in the cost for upkeep on this high-maintenance Cold War relic.

The A-10 exists today because it gives visibly rewarding performances in air shows, not because it is a necessity for close-air support of ground troops.

I respectfully disagree with the criticisms being launched at the proposed cuts to the DoD budget. Cutting troops and antiquated weapons systems does not represent a threat to the United States on two grounds: fiscal responsibility and grand strategy.

In defending the proposed cuts it is important to talk reality, fiscal reality. The DoD, through regular budgetary spending and contingency spending, spent over $610 billion in 2013. This represented about 17 percent of the U.S. government’s total spending. Estimates are that personnel costs (pay, benefits, retirement, uniforms, food, and housing) account for nearly 70 percent of the cost of military spending in the U.S. Logically, if the goal is to reduce military spending, the reduction of military personnel is a great place to start. Fiscal responsibility means we cut everything except absolute necessity and required debt payments.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at our own families:

Can we be more fiscally responsible in our own budgets? Sure, I bet most of us can. In our house we certainly don’t quit feeding the kids, but do I have to feed them by trips to the steakhouse, fast food, or expensive take out? Or can I go to the store and buy groceries to make a cheaper meal at home? This idea is the same within the DoD. The same required services from government can be provided without spending more money in many areas, and particularly in the area of national defense.

When it is time to think about tough cuts and fiscal responsibility, we should ask: Why does the military exist in our society? Arguably, based on the ideas of the Founding Fathers, the military exists to help provide common defense and promote general welfare. The country’s first major military expenditure was on naval forces—necessary to protect and promote commerce and useful for the protection against possible force. As modernization of government systems and economic life progressed in the 1800s and early 1900s, militaries began to take on the additional role of protecting favorable balances of power for governments competing to be the most prevailing in the world.

By fortune, and proper use of force (both economic and military), the U.S. emerged from WWII as one of the major powers in the world lasting through the Cold War and into the late 1990s. During this time, the balance of power was most advantageous to the U.S. The question then becomes about strategy. What strategy should have been chosen at that point in time for survival and maintenance of this advantageous balance of power? How should have the U.S. prepared to face future challenges to the balance of power? These questions should have been answered as the new century dawned, but they were not. Instead of choosing a strategy, the U.S. chose to use force to solve the situations it faced, which in turn had adverse effects on the security and power of the nation.

Today, it is quite possible that reduction of the force structure (less on active duty) and removal of weapons systems (retiring the fleet of A-10s) will make us look at these questions realistically in terms of what can be accomplished with a force and strategy that is shaped in part by being fiscally responsible.

Fiscally responsible force. I like the sound of that.

— Dr. Samuel S. Stanton, Jr. is an associate professor of political science at Grove City College and a contributor to The Center for Vision & Values.

© 2013 by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The views & opinions expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.

  • 7 thoughts on “Restructuring The Department Of Defense: Fiscal Responsibility & Strategy, Too?

    1. Like Jefferson and many of the Founders, I fear a large standing army who could one day be misused by our feckless politicians. A large standing army invites overseas adventurism. I vote for a much smaller army and marine corp. Obviously we need some rapid reaction forces (many marine amphibious assault groups, army ranger and airborne army units) plus a few traditional infantry and armored regiments just in case, but the US can be defended by our navy and air force. And once we prefect hypersonic strike weapons (prompt global strike program) we can start reducing the number of carrier battle groups too. We must make smart defense cuts before the liberals can repeat the disarmament mistake of the 1920-30’s.

    2. The Department of Defense is chartered Petroleum Corporation, global murder and mayhem in the name of the people of the United States.

      “The aggressor always pretends to be peace-loving because he would like to achieve his conquests without bloodshed . . . Therefore, aggression must be presented as a defensive reaction by the aggressor nation”.
      Karl von Clausewitz, War, Politics, and Power.

      This news article has a fatal flaw, it equates the U.S., with the Department of Defense. The DoD is not a part of the U.S. Government, this entity is a chartered corporation.
      The Federal Register, entry reproduced below confirms the Department of Defense is chartered.
      [Federal Register Volume 75, Number 21 (Tuesday, February 2, 2010)]
      [Pages I-VII]
      From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office []
      Defense Department
      See Navy Department
      *Charter Modification:
      Federal Advisory Committee; Advisory Panel on Department of Defense
      Capabilities for Support of Civil Authorities after Certain
      Incidents, 5287
      Charter Renewal:
      Federal Advisory Committee; Western Hemisphere Institute for
      Security Cooperation Board of Visitors, 5287-5288

      The Rockefeller Committee prompted the creation of the Department of Defense, not Congress.

      The Department of Defense was created by President Eisenhower who issued an executive order, Reorganization Plan No. 6,to provide a quick fix” that avoided the need for legislation. Implemented in April 1953, the reorganization eliminated the Munitions Board and the Research and Development Board, transferring their functions to the Secretary of Defense. It also created six additional assistant secretaries of defense and a general counsel, and empowered the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to manage the Joint Staff (the JCS bureaucracy). The Reorganization Plan was prompted by the Rockefeller Committee.
      The plan is reproduced below, with the statute listed as 67 Stat. 638

      Munitions Board, together with office of Chairman, abolished by section 2 of Reorg. Plan No. 6 of 1953, eff. June 30, 1953, 18 F.R. 3743, 67 Stat. 638, set out in the Appendix to *Title 5, Government Organization and Employees. All functions vested in Munitions Board transferred to Secretary of Defense by section 1(a) of Reorg. Plan No. 6 of 1953
      *(note) Title 5 Government Organizations and Employees is not Federal Government Employees
      67 Stat. 638 SEC. 5. ABOLITION OF FUNCTIONS
      (c) Any functions which were vested in the Army and Navy Munitions Board or which are vested in the Munitions Board with respect to serving as agent through which the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Interior jointly act, under section 2(a) of the Strategic and Critical Materials Stock Piling Act, as amended [former section 98a of Title 50], are hereby abolished.
      THE REAL ENTITY KNOWN AS THE D.o.D, the former Munitions Board is the chartered COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION, a division of the Export/import Bank, also the source law for ObamaCare.
      Title 50 United States Code

      (c) The functions vested in the Munitions Board by section 4(h) of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter
      Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 714b(h)), and by section 204(e) of the Federal Property and Administrative Services
      Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 485(e)). Are delegated to the Secretary of Defense.

      *(note) section 714 of Title 15 lists the reorganization of the Department of Interior section 715 is the jurisdiction and subject matter for section 714. Listed below is the actual Legislation, updated.

      [As Amended Through P.L. 110–246, Effective May 22, 2008]
      AN ACT
      To provide a Federal Charter for the Commodity Credit Corporation.
      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
      United States of America in Congress assembled, [15 U.S.C. 714
      Note] That this Act may be cited as the Commodity Credit Corporation
      Charter Act. SEC. 2. [15 U.S.C. 714] CREATION AND PURPOSES.
      …..The determination of the quantities and qualities of such materials which are desirable for stockpiling and the determination of which materials are strategic and critical shall be made in the manner prescribed by section 3 of the Strategic and Critical Materials Stock Piling Act (50 U.S.C. 98 et seq.).
      NOTE: Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 485(e))., is leased property by the Corporation, it’s not Federal property, managed by the General Service Administration, GSA, see the GSA scandal in recent news.
      Title 15 USC 714-714
      Section 715. Purpose of 15 USCS 715 et seq.
      Construction of petroleum pipe lines. Act July 30, 1941, ch 333, 55 Stat. 610; June 30, 1942, ch 180, 57 Stat. 270; June 8, 1945, ch 177, 59 Stat. 233; July 25, 1947, ch 327, § 1, 61 Stat. 449, related to the construction of pipe lines for the transportation and/or distribution of petroleum or petroleum products moving in interstate commerce, or the extension or completion of any such pipe lines already wholly or partly constructed, that might be necessary for national-defense purposes. see also “a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs”(online)

    3. What a tragedy it would be to remove the A-10. The air force never wanted it and wanted the next “tank killer” to be a “fast mover”, and as I recall the Army wanted it when the airforce wanted to get rid of it, many years ago but the airforce hates the idea that the Army would actually have a fixed wing capability. The A-10 is a tank killer extraordinaire, and we have nothing to compare. When we look at the Russian Bear, we see thousands of tanks and other mechanized weapons, and I wonder if any of the “brass” has even considered anything other than money. Tell the wife of the dogeater to stay home and the A-10 could be financed I imagine.

    4. This partially factually accurate article is written well, but there I diverge. Shaking my head in disagreement about the cut to veterans benefits, and the removal of the A-10 from the combat tool package. If you have ever needed Close Air Support on the battlefield, you are a lover of the A-10. The Air Force does not want any aircraft that do not move at super sonic speed. No other aircraft can provide the immediate on target CAS of the A-10. Secondly, asking soldiers to go fight two unfunded wars that have driven up the deficit. Now, as the wars come to a close, the DOD believes that cuts can be cut to veteran benefits. So, the American people want veterans to fight the wars then pay for the wars after our bodies are broken.

    5. Once you start the exaggerated lie, it is hard to pay much attention to your arguments – which have some merit. The ‘Army Air Corp’ in 1940 was very tiny, not half of the Army. Plus, in 1940, our progressive government didn’t have our military involved in bases in Korea, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, England, et cetera. You can make great arguments to leave many of these places, the only downside is it limits what response we can muster if there is a need. Like if you can’t do laser-guided munitions because you cannot get planes to where the problem is – well you can ignore the problem or contemplate how many megatons of yield you are willing to use. As you take away the tools, the options get much more blunt. I know we were starting with the Army, but if it is no longer able to be ‘boots on the ground’ then you have to go to other means – it is all interlocked. Thanks for the insight as to the awareness and competence of instructors at Grove City College.

    6. While any cuts in military spending are welcome the real change has to come from an abandoning of the empire building we started during the Progressive Era. The military structure we have is there only because of the desire (not need) to project power abroad. Developing private provider & militia based defence & law enforcement systems would not only make for a more peaceful world but would secure liberty at home.

    7. Dr. Stanton I’d like to respond to some of your points, unofficially, as a military officer and combat veteran.

      First your points are well received, even if I don’t agree. On principle, I’m outraged that the DoD budget is considered discretionary while the numerous entitlement programs, that far exceed federal authorities granted by the constitution, are not. So when the military budget is targeted I always ask what entitlement programs are being cut. Our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines provide a critical service to the nation. Most of those on government subsidies provide no value added to the nation or their communities, except that they tend to vote to protect their entitlements, and by default the political elite, which is their real value to those in power.

      As for the size of the service, I’d readily admit that the DoD has in many respects become a bloated bureaucracy. Unfortunately that bureaucracy is dominated by civilians (government) who are not subject to the same level of potential reductions. They are being downsized, or so I’m told, but not as aggressively as the uniformed force. In order to cut the DoD personnel cost, I’d offer that we start with the civilians where the herd can most afford to be culled.

      Back to the size/structure of the military. A smaller force would be fine, if we had a national foreign policy that was founded on something more than the threat of force. Our political leaders are absolutely incapable of leveraging other sources of political power and default to steel and fire or fold all together. In the 90’s, when we were cut from 24, to 18, to 12 and ultimately to 10 divisions, our operational tempo increased exponentially with deployments to the Balkans, then subsequently to the middle-east where I’ve spent the bulk of my career. So cut the military, but have a plan to leverage some other source of national power because we’re tapped.

      As for the A-10, it’s proven technology. Having leveraged close air support in combat, I can tell you from personal experience that the A-10 is the most effective CAS platform available to the Soldier on the ground. Now admittedly it’s a toss up between the AH-64 Apache, and the A-10. The AC-130 is another great platform. The F-16 on the other hand, and by extrapolation the F35 or JSF, fly too fast, too high, and are too expensive to get into the ground fight.

      So while your analysis has merit, it has to be placed in context with the realities in which we live. The world doesn’t change just because we think happy thoughts. Our nation is losing influence on the international stage, do we really think that’s going to reduce the demand for its military services?

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