Congress skeptical about plan to shrink military
Washington: The Obama administration`s push for a smaller, nimbler military must now face the scrutiny of a Congress that has spent years battling the Pentagon`s vision for a new security strategy.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is proposing to shrink the Army to its smallest size in three-quarters of a century, hoping to reshape the military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when the Pentagon is roped in by fiscal constraints set by Congress.
The plan unveiled yesterday is already raising red flags among leading Republicans and Democrats.
"What we`re trying to do is solve our financial problems on the backs of our military, and that can`t be done," said Republican Rep Howard "Buck" McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee chairman.
"There`s going to be a huge challenge," Democratic Sen Carl Levin, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, conceded.
Having backtracked just this month on cutting veterans benefits by less than 1 per cent, lawmakers appear in little mood to weigh difficult, if necessary, decisions on defense reductions, especially as the nation gears up for midterm elections in November.
They have resisted cutting tanks and aircraft the military doesn`t even want, or accepting base closings that would be poison in their home districts. They have consistently advocated bigger pay increases for service members than the government has requested.
And although Congress has agreed on an overall figure for the military budget in 2015, at just under USD 500 billion, there are still major decisions to be made on how that money should be spent.
"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," Hagel said yesterday at the Pentagon.
President Barack Obama will submit his budget to Congress next week.
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