Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

For a leaner, smarter military

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta began to fill in the blanks this week about what military and foreign policy spending might look like in an era of less spending. The sweeping $487 billion in proposed budget cuts are the result of last summer's bitter deficit debate, which called for arbitrary spending cuts at the Pentagon and throughout the federal budget. Obama — noting the wind-down of two wars — appropriately cited President Dwight Eisenhower's postwar call for balance of resources among the federal government's programs. But this specific proposal, forced by fiscal politics, needs to also make sense for national security. America's military needs to become leaner, but it also must be smarter. The appropriate question now is whether these specific cuts serve that purpose.

The cuts, about 8 percent of the Pentagon's base budget to be implemented over the next 10 years, have received rare bipartisan support. Most notably, Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton's Office of Management and Budget director, has proposed reducing ground forces from the Army and Marines, currently at 772,000, by as much as 35 percent to 505,400, saving $387 billion. Also under consideration is the elimination or reduced production of the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which could realize savings between $6 billion and $48 billion. Other budget cuts would come from a reduction in Europe of 50,000 troops; adjustments to the Pentagon's retirement program; and phasing out aging Cold War-era weapons systems while increasing the reliance on air and sea power.

These are big numbers. And they could go higher if an additional $500 billion in cuts, expected to start in 2013, are imposed by Congress. They are sure to be controversial in local communities dependent on military installations or defense contractors. America's military establishment, while the guardian of the nation's security, is also a powerful domestic lobby. But with the war in Iraq at an end and the eventual withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the nation can no longer justify nor sustain such a large and costly military presence around the world.

By virtue of the proposed cuts, the United States would be moved to abandon its long-standing two-war at once doctrine. In a realistic acknowledgement of where future security exigencies may arise, Panetta sensibly would reduce the U.S. military footprint in Europe, while increasing the air and naval presence in the often dangerous neighborhoods of the Middle East and the Pacific.

The probability of returning to the days of great armies amassing on vast battlefields is remote. The challenge now is to be nimble enough to battle terrorist groups and rogue nation- states. Congress, even as it forces new austerity, must remain mindful that the cuts not jeopardize U.S. interests. The most daunting challenge is to ensure the United States will still deploy the world's foremost combat-ready military power.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17