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March 6, 2014

In Our Opinion: It's time to trim U.S. military budget

Given the current unpleasantness in the Ukraine, it might seem counterintuitive for the United States to consider cutting back on its military spending.

But, if anything, America’s limited options when it comes to responding to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea prove the point of those wanting to trim the Pentagon’s budget.

Those people, it should be noted, include Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The United States will have “a smaller and more capable force, putting a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries,” Hagel said Feb. 24.

Some Republicans have been criticizing President Barack Obama’s plans to trim military spending in the wake of the end of major U.S. involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. They insist that this is still a very dangerous world.

In that respect, they are correct. It is a very dangerous world, but bloated spending on more troops, more planes and more tanks isn’t going to make it any less dangerous.

If we had a million more troops, a million more tanks and a million more planes, we still would not be risking all-out war with Russia for what it is doing in the Ukraine. We would be seeking a diplomatic solution with threats of political and fiscal consequences.

Just like we are doing now.

The Pentagon, in its “Overseas Cost Summary,” says it spends about $22.1 billion each year around the world, but that didn’t count the $118 billion that is considered “off the books” in Afghanistan and other trouble spots. Outside estimates of overall military costs are as high as $2 trillion.

Given the country’s massive budget deficit, it is beyond unrealistic to fund a military on the old theme of being capable of fighting two major wars at the same time. Those who worry about the rising might of China or Russia or North Korea haven’t been paying attention.

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