With unrest taking place in countries across the globe, reducing the U.S. military to its smallest size since before World War II, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
proposed Monday, is a bad move, says former Republican Michigan congressman Pete Hoekstra.
"I don't think Congress is going to let it go through. You go through the long list of things that are out there . . . it's Venezuela, it is Ukraine, it is the Middle East, it's Africa. I don't know how they are going to justify it," Hoekstra told Newsmax TV's John Bachman on "America's Forum."
"But you've got to remember, the bottom line push here is what the president's going to be looking for. He's going to be believing that Republicans are going to push back on defense spending, that they're going to want more of it, and then what he's hoping is that they'll negotiate with him. He'll say, OK, I'll give you more defense spending, but you've got to give me more spending for my domestic programs. So that's what the president is doing."
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Asked if military cuts make sense in view of the fact that the United States has been winding down two wars, Hoekstra, who represented Michigan's Second Congressional District from 1993 to 2011, responded: "You could make that argument. It rings, I'll tell you, if you've been in Iraq, and you've been in Afghanistan, and I've been in both of those places multiple times, what you're getting back coming as you're winding down those wars, you've just worn out a lot of hardware, and you've worn out a lot of men. So equipment and manpower, they're worn down."
At the same time, though, Hoekstra said, "Now the reduction in manpower, I'm very concerned about that. The troops that we've got are tired and now reducing the number both in equipment and on the cost of our personnel making these kinds of cuts means that we're going to have really a hollowed out military by the time this president leaves office — if, if, and that's a big if — if his policies are actually implemented."
Hagel said his proposed plan is designed to turn the military's attention toward emerging cyberthreats from China and increasing challenges from al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Africa.
But Hoekstra, who served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, argued the cuts could undermine the U.S. ability to respond in those situations.
"The real question becomes what is our capability going to be if we see a threat, and we have no credible defense to that threat," he said.
It is bad to send that particular signal, Hoekstra concluded. "It is the wrong time for the message because what you have right now, you do have the conflict in Ukraine, and Russia has a clear, defined strategy. They want to re-exert their influence. So they're going to push us in Ukraine, they're going to push their vision in the Middle East, they're pushing it in Syria," he said.
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