A soldier deployed in Afghanistan asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel if rank-and-file soldiers need a special lobbyist to ensure that they get “the best gear” under President Obama’s proposed military budget, a question that Hagel said “framed [the issue] pretty well.”
“In February of this year you said this is a time for reality, this is a budget that recognizes the magnitude of the reality of our recent challenges,” the soldier reminded Hagel during an event at Bagram Air Force Base. “My question is, since every program, every base, every facet of the budget has a lobbyist or a member of Congress or special interest group protecting it, what can service members do to ensure we don’t regress to the point of going to war with the army you have, under-trained, under-protected, with only elite units having the best gear?”
Hagel promised that they would get the necessary equipment. “I don’t want you to worry about that,” he replied. “That’s my job. That’s the president’s job.”
“One of the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief and the secretary of defense and the civilian leadership of our military is to protect our military, is to assure our military, that they will have what you need to stay ready, agile, capable, have the qualitative edge always on equipment, and every dimension of war,” he also said.
Obama’s budget signals a reliance on special-forces operations to combat terrorism as the bulk of the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan.
“The military’s elite special-operations forces, which burgeoned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were at the forefront of the U.S.fight against al-Qaida, will increase from their current level of roughly 66,000 service members to 69,700,” Defense One noted when the budget was unveiled in February. “This is one key example of how the military, even in more austere times, is trying to protect, as Hagel put it, ‘capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future.’”
The U.S. Army as a whole, though, “would shrink to its lowest force size since before World War II.”