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Pentagon chief unveils budget-cut proposals for "repositioning" priorities

English.news.cn   2014-02-25 14:35:06

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined his priorities for 2015 defense budget cut on Monday, including further reduction of the army's size as the nation is ending its longest war in Afghanistan.

"DEFINING" BUDGET

The Pentagon chief unveiled his proposals as the administration of President Barack Obama is preparing to pull out most U.S. troops from Afghanistan following an almost 13-year war.

"As we end our combat mission in Afghanistan, this will be the first budget to fully reflect the transition DOD (the Department of Defense) is making after 13 years of war, the longest conflict in our nation's history," Hagel said at a Pentagon press conference.

The proposals are part of the 2015 budget plan that Obama will submit to Congress next week.

Hagel, who took office a year ago, called the budget a "defining" one and for the first time in 13 years "not a war-footing budget."

Among his proposals, Hagel announced his plans to further reduce the size of U.S. army to between 440,000 to 450,000 active-duty soldiers, which would mark the U.S. army's smallest force in post-World War II era.

The call for a smaller military represents the need to turn from a decade of costly ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in face of the federal government's budget realities.

The latest Gallup poll released last week showed the public opinion about the war in Afghanistan is now more negative than positive.

When Gallup first brought up the issue with a poll in November 2001, fewer than 10 percent of Americans thought the decision to send U.S. troops to Afghanistan was a mistake.

"Clearly, in the turbulent atmosphere and general 'rally effect' environment that followed 9/11 (attacks), Americans were overwhelmingly supportive of the decision to send the U.S. military to Afghanistan," wrote Frank Newport, Gallup's Editor-in-Chief.

Gallup's polls found that Americans' perceptions that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake rose as the war continued, although there were some ups and downs over the years.

HIGHER PRIORITIES

Hagel's proposals also include retiring the U.S. Air Force's entire fleet of the "40-year-old single-purpose" A-10 airplanes designed for Cold War operations, retiring the 50-year-old U-2 spy planes in favor of the unmanned Global Hawk system, and seeking another round of domestic base realignment and closure.

The series of "difficult choices" were made to save costs and help the Pentagon to re-invest in higher priorities, the Pentagon chief noted in his remarks.

"We chose further reductions in troop strength and force structure in every military service -- active and reserve-- in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority and to protect critical capabilities like special operations forces and cyber resources," said Hagel.

He said the recommendations favor "a smaller and more capable force, putting a premium on rapidly deployable, self-sustaining platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries."

Instead, Hagel said 900 additional marines would be assigned to enhance embassy security around the world and special operations forces would be added to 69,700 from 66,000 for counterterrorism and crisis response under his proposals.

"We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable and in some instances more threatening to the United States," Hagel said.

"They're also well-suited to the strategy's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, to sustaining security commitments in the Middle East and Europe, and our engagement in other regions," he added.

However, some of his proposals are expected to meet opposition in Congress.

Editor: Yang Yi
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