RE “THE hardest cut: reining in Pentagon spending (Page A1, Aug. 27): Critics who would measure soon-to-be Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s success by how many Pentagon programs he cuts are ignoring the deep cuts already made in defense, as well as the emerging threats we need to be prepared for.
In 2009, Robert Gates, then defense secretary, cut about $300 billion in critical military programs such as the unparalleled F-22 fighter jet and Future Combat Systems, a top Army modernization program. More recently, Gates cut an additional $178 billion for deficit reduction while warning of dire consequences to our nation’s safety if deeper cuts were made.
Ignoring Gates’s warning, the recent debt deal threatens nearly $1 trillion more in defense cuts. But as a share of the federal budget, defense spending has shrunk by more than half in the last 40 years, while entitlement spending has more than doubled. Looking to defense to solve the deficit problem ignores the plain facts and misses the mark.
Hopes for a so-called peace dividend should be tempered by the historical lessons learned after our nation believed we could reduce defense spending following the Cold War. Instead, we experienced the worst attack on American soil in our history on Sept. 11, 2001. With nuclear powers as unstable and menacing as the regimes in North Korea and Iran, we need to stay ready.
Gary R. Trexler
The writer is a retired lieutenant general in the Air Force.