In a New York Times article published Sunday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was (self) characterized as a man who is simultaneously under immense pressure to implement and resist Pentagon budget cuts--a condition that Panetta says he's finding a middle ground.
But Center for American Progress fellow Larry Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense (manpower, reserve affairs, installations, and logistics) from 1981 to 1985, is not particularly impressed by Panetta’s cuts.
Since we are unlikely to use nuclear weapons, our arsenal can be slashed from the current level of 5,000 to 311, as recommended by some Air Force strategists. Since we are withdrawing troops from the Middle East and are unlikely to need large armies there anytime soon, the size of our ground forces can be cut back by 100,000 to pre-9/11 levels. Since the cold war ended 20 years ago, the 80,000 troops still in Europe can be reduced to 20,000. Since the military increasingly relies on unmanned planes and precision guided munitions, the number of carriers and Air Force fighters can be reduced by 25 percent.
Finally, health care premiums for working-age military retirees can be doubled without breaking faith. In 1995, premiums were set at $460 a year for a family and never raised until a $60 increase this year.