Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposed new budget would slash military personnel, cut back on some hardware and trim benefits for those who remain on the payroll. The announcement comes directly on the heels of President Obama's generous domestic budget proposal, which in turn followed closely on a congressional agreement to hike the debt ceiling by another $1 trillion.
"President Obama’s forthcoming budget request will seek tens of billions of dollars in fresh spending for domestic priorities while abandoning a compromise proposal to tame the national debt in part by trimming Social Security benefits," the Washington Post reported.
"With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections," the Post reported.
"The end of austerity" arrived just two weeks after Congress voted to once again raise the debt ceiling, this time to $17.2 trillion, after having raised the debt to $16.7 trillion less than a year ago.
“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans."
The proposed defense budget cuts are far reaching, but they sharply cut back the size of the armed forces and the benefits of those who remain. Part of this cutting back, Hagel argued, involves refocusing resources to face the most likely threats. Troop levels would fall from 520,000 to as low as 440,000. Also on the chopping block are an aircraft carrier and the A-10 anti-tank jet.
The proposed troop levels would dial the U.S. back to pre-World War II levels. "Officials who saw an early draft of the announcement acknowledge that budget cuts will impose greater risk on the armed forces if they are again ordered to carry out two large-scale military actions at the same time: Success would take longer, they say, and there would be a larger number of casualties. Officials also say that a smaller military could invite adventurism by adversaries," the New York Times reported.
CNBC produced a graph showing that U.S. military spending dwarfs the world's, with the U.S. spending more than the next 10 largest defense budgets combined.