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US War Machine Downsizing?

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Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to its smallest size since before the US entered World War Two.

Outlining his budget plan, the Pentagon chief proposed trimming the active-duty Army to 440,000-450,000 personnel, down from 520,000 currently.

Cold War-era Air Force fleets – the U-2 spy plane and the A-10 attack jet – will also be retired.

However, the plan requires approval from Congress, which could change it.

The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.

‘Difficult decisions ahead’

Mr Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: “This is a time for reality.

“This is a budget that recognises the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges.”

He added: “There are difficult decisions ahead. That is the reality we’re living with.”

The number of active-duty US Army members was already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.

Noting the current US Army strength, Mr Hagel added: “Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defence strategy.”

Mr Hagel said the administration would also recommend closing some domestic military bases in 2017, though such proposals have been rejected by Congress in recent years.

The Pentagon chief went on to unveil plans for changes to pay and benefits.

He recommended curbing housing allowances, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.

‘No retreat’

However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.

Reaction to the proposal was swift, with Republican members warning such cuts could hurt military readiness.

“The world is not getting to be a safer place. This is not the time for us to begin to retreat, and certainly not the time to cut our military,” Republican Representative Michael Turner told Bloomberg News.

Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, blamed US President Barack Obama’s administration for the predicament, saying cuts were only necessary because they had not been made elsewhere.

“It’s all being sacrificed… on the altar of entitlements,” he told Fox News. “This president cannot take on mandatory spending, so all we’ve done in the Congress – and this president – is basically cut discretionary spending.”

The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since 1940, when the US was mobilising for World War Two and employed 267,000 active-duty soldiers. The US entered that conflict in 1941 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By the end of World War Two, there were 8.2 million active-duty US Army members, according to figures provided on Monday by the Pentagon.

The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.

The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of 11 September 2001.

After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.

Graphic: Top 15 military spenders in 2013


33 Comments on "US War Machine Downsizing?"

  1. rollin on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 1:45 am 

    So basically we are going back to peacetime military levels of men. How about spending, is that coming down much?
    I can understand the U2 going, it’s not stealth and not fast.
    So what replaces the Warthog? There are still lots of armored vehicles out there.

  2. Nony on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 1:47 am 

    I think we should cut defense. The threat is not there any more.

  3. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 2:21 am 

    Damn, the A10’s buzz my farm all the time. It is like they use the silo for target practice. I often wonder about those kids and their big bad jets…

    Well, we are in a multipolar global world now. We are in a new normal economically. The new normal is a complex globally interconnected economic system with multiple interdependencies. I believe you will see the too big to fail countries hard pressed to go to war between each other for fear of the economic fallout. Most developed economies are in stagnation with plenty of social contraction. We have huge unfunded liabilities for pensions, healthcare, and social security. Large armies bring on the downfall of empires. Maybe the generals have been reading the history books at those academies.
    I read this today:

    “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

    It is time we downsize and focus on reality

  4. Dave Thompson on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 3:10 am 

    Getting rid of the people and replacing the system with robots.

  5. Northwest Resident on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 3:49 am 

    There isn’t enough oil and gas to fuel another big war. All those gas hogging war machines are headed for the scrap pile sooner or later. In the future we are headed for, light armored troops that are highly mobile and connected by superior communications and surveillance equipment is all that is needed to manage restive and rebellious populations. Somewhere high up on the Republican Party totem pole, there are people who know this, but the Republican Party can always be counted on to shed a few tears over defense spending, same as the Democratic Party will shed tears over social and/or entitlement cuts. But I truly believe it is just a good cop/bad cop game meant to condition the masses for the inevitable, and the messages being broadcast to the masses via all the back-and-forth arguing is “folks, we can’t afford to run things the way we used to anymore.”

  6. DC on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 4:26 am 

    Are the restive and rebellious populations that need suppressing angry because there lands are being pillaged by Us corporate strip-miners and their institutions subverted by Us and other western countries puppets? FYI, the Us already has lightly armed ‘troops’ with superior communications. They are called ‘death squads’ and Salafist mercenaries, aka ‘Al-Qaeda’ or whatever the inner party is calling them this week. And they have been active around the globe, from South+Central America to Asia and everywhere in between now, for decades.

    But dont worry, the uS death machine isnt about to go on a diet. The pro-war ‘democrats’ and ‘republicans’ wont let it happen. War is to vital to the economy to have anything happen to it. Besides, the Us is currently trying to provoke a war with Russia. Hardly a good time to send any of its trained thugs and killers to the soup line is it?

  7. chubasco on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 5:00 am 

    Another great obfuscation. Note, that if you let your fingers do the walking, he’s planning to keep the F-35, largest and most expensive military boondoggle ever. Just like QE – do the math and the motivations suddenly seem very different than the ones they’re selling…

  8. Makati1 on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 5:47 am 

    Bodies on the ground are not effective in 2014. They have hidden costs, like Veterans Benefits and life long medical costs for the wounded. A machine does not have those. And it does not cost a million dollars per year, each, to keep them in a foreign country.

    The real joke is that aircraft carriers are about obsolete as are tracked vehicles on the ground. But, I doubt that the chance of another world wide war is impossible. I see Russia getting tired of the Empire and taking direct military action at some point in the next few years. “When you have nothing to lose, you lose it…”

  9. GregT on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:34 am 


    The US spends over three times as much on warmongering as China and Russia combined, who together have a population of five times as many people? How can the American people afford this? I mean shouldn’t taxpayer’s dollars be spent on education, healthcare, social security, and the general wellbeing of society?

    Something smells seriously rotten in Washington DC.

  10. GregT on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:58 am 


    Defence budget? Defence against what? I don’t see any threats against the US. Even if there were, it would appear to me that the US is spending enough to be able to defend itself against the next 13 largest militaries in the world, even if they all attacked at the same time? WTF?

  11. Stilgar Wilcox on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 7:21 am 

    Remember the budget battle that ended with sequestration? Defense spending was slated to be reduced, but later the crying game started and it didn’t take long before Defense got back all their toy money.

    That giant Red Dot for the US is a credit to our corrupt system in which lobbying (greasing politicians palms with campaign funds) has replaced any sane consideration for what’s best for the country (like lower deficits).

    These imperialistic forays into foreign lands are not necessary. We don’t need to be so paranoid 600 billion annually is the price tag for a good night’s sleep. Who the heck is the enemy anyway?

    Romney wanted to increase the defense budget to 1 trillion a year!!! Sheer madness. Clinton got the budget down into the high 200’s and was accused of leaving the country defenseless.

    Remember the Ad Bush jr. ran against Kerry with the wolves, alluding to the idea Kerry would not defend the country? Polls showed at the time that ad was the difference in the election. Play to people’s lizard brain’s and get mommy’s to say “Oh, we need to guard our children! Boo Hoo!” and off we go to the races with bigger defense budgets.

  12. Arthur on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 11:02 am 

    The US spends over three times as much on warmongering as China and Russia combined, who together have a population of five times as many people? How can the American people afford this?

    Answer: you work, we print.

    Why waste billions on useless military hardware like obsolete carriers, when you can achieve regime change in a country for a meager 5 billion?

    Nevertheless, it is good news if Chuck ‘the lobby is powerful’ Hagel actually is able to implement his proposals. Republicans oppose the measures:

    First see, than believe.

  13. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 11:18 am 

    I am not commenting on the good or bad of US capability these observations are strictly objective. The US has perfected the art of war in both counterinsurgency and conventional war. The tools and tactics are there. In Afghanistan the Special Forces with communications, air mobility, remote firepower, drones, and specialty training allow them to drop in at will and apprehend the Taliban leadership that venture into Afghanistan. They even got Bin Laden (N/R I know the conspiracy theories) in a sovereign neighbor. The Taliban remains do to safe haven in Pakistan. The rest of the American military has shown the Taliban the folly of conventional style attacks. In Iraq it was plain how the highly mobile, air,land,sea integrated, and specialty forces, remote firepower, and logistics can quickly overpower an adversary. The important point to this is war fundamentals are known and perfected. What was also learned is you may eliminate the adversary army but a restive and hostile population remains then the real battle begins. The cost to that battle quickly escalate. Large urban areas are ungovernable except by the occupying forces in high value locations if an army, police, and security personnel dissipate Looting takes over in a power vacuum witness Baghdad. In Afghanistan we have learned that insurgencies can be defeated but not if the population becomes alienated with the plan. There cannot be a safe haven nearby. The cost in either case is enormous. No country anymore in this growth starved world can afford these conflicts not even the US. We are now seeing a multi power world with economically integrated too big to fail countries reaching consensus over conflict out of mutual self-interest. Remnants of the great game continue but they have limits. There is no country on earth that can go it alone without dire consequences to their economy and the complex integrated global economy. Our financial system is now so interconnected that the financial contagions from conflicts make these conflicts global economic killers. The one danger is the bluffing and blinking. Since the game is still on it is the “who will blink first” issue. We will see in the Ukraine if this situation holds or the world financial system is ruined by conflict. Libya, Sudan, and Syria are civil wars and are different. With large conventional campaigns off the table small mobile high impact surgical operations are in. Remote precision firepower with NSA style intelligence these operations are all inclusive of capabilities. Even Taliban have cell phones. My question is now, as the contraction down the energy gradient kicks into 2nd gear soon or a financial crisis unglues, what will become of this mobility and technology? We may see a return to a post precision and mobility troop capability. Yet, the same old situation of the hearts and minds of the locals has not and will not change.

  14. meld on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 11:31 am 

    What I can see happening is the slow shrinking of servicemen and the gradual growth into more efficient “tech” warfare. Of course what this means is as the system becomes more efficient it become increasingly more fragile and open to “old” tech.

    For instance we all know the big boys are tracking everything in real time over the web, spending billions on hubs and servers and I don’t know what. All that can be overcome by clever use of packet radio, Ham radio or simply using snail mail to organise.

  15. Makati1 on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 11:38 am 

    meld, the US war machine can be brought to it’s knees with an EMP attack over the US and taking out a few dozen satellites that guide the ships and planes. China and Russia both have those capabilities. Yes, it is getting interesting. Pass the popcorn.

  16. meld on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 12:47 pm 

    Makati1 – the whole world could be brought to it’s knees by a particularly big sun fart 😀

  17. Arthur on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 1:42 pm 

    The rest of the American military has shown the Taliban the folly of conventional style attacks.

    The Taliban has shown the Americans that hardware is of third rate importance and mentality/motivation decisive. Read Bill Lind about fourth generation warfare.

  18. Davey on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 2:02 pm 

    Agreed Arthur yet neither side can win. It is a no win situation. Even if the US withdraws which is likely the Taliban and government forces will consume what’s left. Taliban have proved a great fighting force but they are unable to govern anything but a local area or small region

  19. Arthur on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 2:57 pm 

    Davey, the conclusion should be: leave these people alone. Forget about the NWO, be an European American, go to the Boston Philharmonic, listen to Mozart, plant a vegetable garden, put solar panels on your roof, read Thoreau. Pick up speed skating and make sure the US is on top again during the Winter Games of 2018 in South-Korea. 😉

  20. Davey on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 3:11 pm 

    I am all for your idea Arthur !

  21. Northwest Resident on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 3:53 pm 

    DC — “Are the restive and rebellious populations that need suppressing angry because their lands are being pillaged by US corporate strip-miners and their institutions subverted by US and other western countries puppets?”

    Yes. That is why they are really pissed off — talking about countries in the ME where most of the remaining “good” oil is. I personally do not believe that those populations will be restive and angry for much longer because they will be dead or completely subdued sooner rather than later. Once we enter a global collapse scenario and TSHTF, I wouldn’t expect the internationally accepted “rules of engagement” to be honored to the same extent they have been in the past, if at all. In the world we’re heading toward, “troublemakers” and restive populations that hide insurgents within their midst may find that scorched earth policies are being implemented against them. In a world that is quickly devolving into dog-eat-dog, I don’t see any military units in the world restraining their use of force just for the sake of playing according to the rules of a previous civilization that has gone down the tubes. And that applies equally to the restive and rebellious populations right here in America and other countries — the civilian populations — which was the original intent of the point I was making.

  22. Stephen on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:03 pm 

    I think part of the reason is budget cuts due to the national debt crisis. Part of the reason may be that we had troops in places that are no longer needed today.

    Also, I predict that the EROEI of war combat to take over more oil fields in other countries when you factor in the amount of energy used in war is not very profitable.

  23. GregT on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:17 pm 


    If one takes into account the growing financial deficit, ‘profitability’ does not come to mind. The NWO, at the expense of everything, and everybody else, appears to be far more probable.

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

  24. Nony on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:18 pm 

    I used to be a big Cold Warrior, but it’s time to declare victory and (further) shrink the force. I actually think this is something the far right and far left can agree on. It’s the frigging centrists that are the problem.

  25. Northwest Resident on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 6:25 pm 

    Stephen — “I predict that the EROEI of war combat to take over more oil fields in other countries when you factor in the amount of energy used in war is not very profitable.”

    I agree. Past wars were all about gaining wealth/power through acquisition of vital resources by force. Today, there just isn’t much of anything left that is worth fighting over, especially considering that the amount of oil/fuel that would have to be expended just to fight a war over what amounts to table scraps. The future strategic interests of all militaries, especially the U.S. Military, I think, is to lock down what is already “owned”, control populations within and around areas of strategic interest, and just hunker down for what looks to be a long descent into an unknown and very dangerous future.

  26. GregT on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 7:27 pm 


    I would argue that the most ‘vital’ resource is human labor, and that the only thing that was ever truly fought over, was the control of human labor. All of the natural resources in the world do not amount to power, unless there are people to gain power over. The central banking cartels control the ‘people’ through the issuance of currency. Money = debt. Debt is a claim on future human labour, and debt is exactly what most sovereign nations are now mired in.

    “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744 -1812), Godfather of the Rothschild Banking Cartel of Europe

    There are a few nations left that have their own central banks, holdouts to the central banking cartels. These nations are now being systematical dismantled, and their central banks are being taken over. Take for example Libya. The central bank takeover occurred before the government was even completely overthrown.

    What is the biggest threat to national sovereignty in the world right now? What has the ability to bring down the entire global financial system? Debt. What is debt? Debt is money. Who issues the money? The central banking cartels. Who has the power?

    Whoever controls the money, controls the world. This is an age old plan, or conspiracy, if you like, and the end of oil is the last kick at the can.

    Expect another war. There are still nations left that are not being controlled. Powerful nations.

  27. Northwest Resident on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 10:44 pm 

    I never looked at it that way, GregT. You could be right. Another (big) war? Humans certainly aren’t the brightest light bulbs in the universe, and based on past history, any amount of stupidity and utter foolishness is not only possible, but probably more likely than not. (sigh…)

  28. Arthur on Wed, 26th Feb 2014 10:08 am 

    Greg sums it up perfectly:

    you work, we print.

    There are a few nations left that have their own central banks

    ‘A few countries’, that could be too pessimistic.

    Pro-NWO: Victoria Nuland, Wallstreet, the City, Rothschildt, Fed, media, NGO’s

    Against-NWO: Russia, China, Iran, fundamentalist Sunny Islam, European nationalists, US Constitutionalists (Alex Jones, Ron Paul, PCR, libertarians, Snowden, Ventura types), 9/11-truthers, historic revisionists.

    The absolute game changer will be the internet, bypassing the media brain-washing machine. And Peak-oil, which will cause a sharp decrease in general mobility, including that of the military.

    I know who will get f***** in the end, sorry about that Victoria.

  29. Stephen on Wed, 26th Feb 2014 12:04 pm 

    I also predict that Peak-NWO, Peak “Police State”, and “Peak Bullets” may be not that far away.

    After all, to make bullets and guns, requires energy, metal, etc. If the energy supply runs low, it is possible that we will use that remaining energy for peaceful purposes and not war.

    As for expanding surveillance, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, as that takes more energy and the public’s watch on it due to the Edward Snowden leaks. NSA admits there is a risk of such a leak happening again. In fact there are proposals now to reduce or discontinue the NSA wiretapping of all the phone records.

  30. Arthur on Wed, 26th Feb 2014 12:46 pm 

    NSA admits there is a risk of such a leak happening again.

    All it takes is one single courageous FBI agent and Snowden 2.0 wannabee, who posts one of the hastily FBI confiscated ca. 60 surveillance cam videos on the opposite of the 9/11 Pentagon fassade on youtube, revealing what many suspected, namely that no plane hit the Pentagon on that day, to overturn the entire political class.

    Washington = Kiev. The American Spring.

    Expect European and Russian fighter jets escorting a plane from Moscow, bringing Snowden back as the next Klitschko/Walesa. Alex Jones will do as well.

  31. Arthur on Wed, 26th Feb 2014 12:53 pm 

    Videos like this one, but not clear enough:

  32. GregT on Thu, 27th Feb 2014 12:44 am 


    There are enough bullets and guns on this planet already, to last for a very, very, long time. Many generations worth.

    As for continuing to expand surveillance, what exactly do you think that central intelligence does? It is the nature of the business.

  33. GregT on Thu, 27th Feb 2014 12:57 am 

    Well Arthur,

    At least we agree on the motive, the outcome, I’m not so sure. I hope you’re right though, obviously. The sooner all of this gets exposed, the better.

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