U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s announcement Monday of a new military budget that includes an even smaller Army than was already planned came as no surprise.
But what did make me do a double-take was the comparison that the proposed shrinking to as low as 440,000 troops will be the smallest Army we’ve had since before World War II.
The last time the Army had fewer soldiers was in 1940, when it had 267,000 active-duty troops. However, that number quickly grew to 1.46 million as the country prepared to fight in Europe and the Pacific.
We beefed up to save the world from Hitler’s Germany and a brutal Japanese Empire. Then came Korea, Vietnam and the 40-year-old Cold War, which required the U.S. to keep a large army as a show of force against an even a larger Soviet threat.
But the world is a different place now. Most foreign countries and organizations would rather do business with Americans than kill Americans.
Sure, there are isolated groups and countries that want to harm America.
On 9/11 we all saw what a group can do with devious planning and the will to carry it out. However, waging war on terrorists can’t be done properly with an infantry brigade or armored battalion. It’s done with sophisticated surveillance tactics and perhaps even changing the mindset in parts of the world where it’s hard to do so.
As glorious as it may seem to ride at the head of 5,000 M1 tanks barreling over a prairie toward the enemy, those days are over. At least for now.
Other portions of Hagel’s plan — which include smaller pay raises, higher copays and a new round of base closings — won’t come easily.
People in the military and their dependents deserve those things, but our country’s habit of overspending needs to be reined in.
All aspects of the government, including military, will face tough but needed cuts. The road will be bumpy.
As far as base closings go, Fort Hood stands to do OK. Thanks to Army leadership, local leaders and organizations like the Central Texas-Fort Hood Association of United State Army, Fort Hood has remained one the most — if not the top — sophisticated posts in the world. With state-of-the-art training facilities, proven training grounds and a slew of modern construction in recent years, closing or shrinking Fort Hood would be a poor decision for any lawmaker.
JACOB BROOKS, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.