The sweeping changes to the US military announced recently by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are the most public recognition yet of the painful financial legacy left by Iraq and Afghanistan. The wartime culture of “endless money” as his predecessor Robert Gates dubbed it, with its endless “emergency” funding from Congress, is finally over.
Hagel proposes to cut the size of the armed forces, overhaul the military retirement system, mothball expensive traditional weapons such as the A-10 attack aircraft, and shutter some military installations around the world. Instead, the Pentagon plans to expand “special operations” forces and invest in higher-tech weaponry. All this is part of a strategy to stabilize the military budget, which has expanded by over $1.4 trillion since 2001.