by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The United States will slash its military budget to lows not seen since the country's entry into World War II, vindicating the view that Washington has been spending too much on defense.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed days ago to cut the size of the army, which stood at around 566,000 soldiers in 2011, to between 440,000 and 450,000 troops in the next five years.
The move is in line with the sentiments of a war-weary nation, with poll after poll showing that Americans want their country out of the conflict in Afghanistan -- the country's longest-ever war -- and are hesitant to enter similar conflicts.
A Gallup poll released Thursday found that 37 percent of Americans said the nation spends too much on the military, 28 percent said Washington spends too little, and the rest said the spending is about right.
The belief that the United States spends too much on the military peaked in 1969 during the Vietnam War, as well as in 1990 after the major military buildup under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
In the final year of the George W. Bush administration, as U.S. military expenditures increased for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gallup found that 44 percent of the U.S. public believed that the spending was too high.
U.S. spending on defense as a percentage of the GDP has varied substantially in the 70 years since the huge military outlays of World War II.
It increased during the Korean War, stayed relatively high during the Cold War and Vietnam War, fell during the Clinton years, rose significantly during the last decade, and has now begun to fall again, according to Gallup.
While some fretted that the proposed cuts would leave Washington unprepared for future military conflicts, others said the country would maintain its role as the world's largest and most powerful military power.
Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, wrote earlier this week on the organization's website that while the U.S. Army will be smaller, "the force retains enormous capabilities across a range of contingencies."
In recent years, the United States has moved away from its long-standing strategic goal of being ready to fight two simultaneous wars on separate fronts, with some critics saying the objective reflected outmoded, Cold War-era thinking.
Others said it was complex.
"The whole idea of two versus one versus three is never a simple thing," Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow with Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
"I don't expect us to fight any big ground wars. So having the capability to fight one big one, and then do two smaller stabilization or peacekeeping missions as part of multinational coalitions ... I think that's a reasonable standard, and it allows for a fair amount of uncertainty and unpredictability," he said.