The Obama administration's 2013 defense budget outline is an attempt to accept current fiscal realities while avoiding the age-old mistake of planning to fight the last war.
The president is right to prepare to defend American interests with a greater reliance on unmanned drones and special forces such as Navy SEAL Team Six, which in the past year has been responsible for high-profile successes such as taking out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and freeing an American hostage from Somali pirates.
Military plans for a floating command post, perfect for directing such special forces operations in Iran, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere, seem to underscore the importance of combating this type of threat.
The president's plan will undoubtedly be refined in the coming months, but the approach of ramping up high-tech, fast-response military efforts while scaling back on conventional approaches is a strategy that has made sense since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Beyond that, this budget plan smartly reflects historical precedence. The nation has always decreased military spending as wars end. Past cuts have gone far deeper than the Obama proposal.9 comments on this story
While there are understandable fears of a "hollow" force, the president's plan protects a greater percentage of troops than past drawdowns. The cuts appear to be particularly smart in the low number of non-commissioned officers expected to be affected. Non-commissioned officers, from naval chief petty officers to Marine gunnery sergeants, are essential to training new forces. History has shown that keeping a strong non-commissioned officer group is essential if the need arises to quickly rebuild a larger standing military.
As the Iraq effort is over and Afghanistan begins to wind down this year, decreasing military spending was predictable and appropriate, given the ongoing budget strains.
A leaner military with high-tech capabilities means force can be projected at lower cost. The hope must be that Congress can avoid purely partisan fighting on this necessary action and keep in mind what is needed for national defense.