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Local News

February 25, 2014

Area vets cringe at military overhaul plan

Area federal legislators and military veterans interviewed Monday were largely opposed to a plan by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to cut the military budget.

Under the Hagel proposal, which Congress could change, the active-duty Army would shrink from its current 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000. That would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.

Hagel said the military must adjust to the reality of smaller budgets, even as the United States faces a “more-volatile, more-unpredictable world that requires a more-nimble military.”

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who retired from the Army in 2010, said: “I am concerned about the way the administration is proceeding.” Gibson said he has long called for a strategic review that would lead to change in the way the country uses its military. Instead, the plan is keeping the same strategy of acting as the world’s policeman, he said, while cutting the resources.

“We can be safer for less money, but it requires that we lead with our strength,” including ideas and diplomacy. Any budget cuts should protect the “investment in human capital” and reduce expenditures in the “military-industrial complex,” he said.

James Rahm, a spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in an email that without having seen the details, “Sen. Gillibrand has concerns over initial reports regarding cuts to programs such as health care and housing for our military personnel. She will be looking at these proposals closely and will be focused on ensuring that Congress honors the commitments we have already made to our service members, veterans, retirees and their families.”

Two members of Delhi American Legion also expressed their disapproval. Delaware County Sheriff Tom Mills said he and his two brothers all served in the military during the Vietnam War era. He said he would like to see the details of what’s being proposed, but it requires caution, he said, because without a good strong military, problems around the world can grow.

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