Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s proposed defense cuts, which would slash the Pentagon budget and shrink the U.S. Army to World War II levels, are a reminder that the only area of government that President Barack Obama seems to have no trouble slashing is the military–despite persistent national security threats, ongoing conflicts abroad, and the consequences for the military families and communities that depend on defense.
The latest cuts, however, also pose uncomfortable questions for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats’ promise that Hagel’s unique history as an enlisted soldier would give him unique sensitivity to the needs of the troops seems to have been an oversell, to say the least. He is about to cut tens of thousands of enlisted soldiers from an Army still at war, and will make it more difficult for those who stay to earn promotions.
In addition, Republicans’ promise that last December’s budget deal, which reversed parts of the “sequester,” was necessary to preserve defense spending now looks like a cruel joke. Obama and Hagel were going to slash defense spending anyway–as Obama has done since the beginning of his profligate administration. That means the Democrats were able to undo the sequester at no political cost. How do GOP leaders explain that?