The wages of austerity are coming due for America’s military. On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a major downsizing of the U.S. Army. He wants to retire the A-10 Warthog fleet of ground-support aircraft and the venerable U-2 manned spy planes. And he’s cutting the operations of the Navy’s cruiser fleet in half.
So far, Hagel has been silent about reductions in nuclear forces, promising to preserve all three legs of the so-called triad – missiles, bombers and submarines – while making “important investments to preserve a safe, secure, reliable and effective nuclear force.” But reductions in nuclear forces are coming: It’s not a question of whether, but when – and how deep.
The United States still has more than 5,000 nuclear weapons, all supported by a complex of bases, production facilities and nuclear laboratories likely to cost American taxpayers in excess of $20 billion per year this decade. But nuclear weapons seem anachronistic in the post-Cold War world. They have less military utility than conventional forces, their numbers are far larger than conceivable war plans and their replacement costs are extremely high.
To read the full op-ed, click here.
This op-ed appeared in Politico on February 25, 2014.
Photo by Ted Lipien via Flickr