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How justified are the proposed cuts to defense spending?

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 5:03 p.m. MDT

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey follows Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a news conference at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where Hagel recommended shrinking the Army to its smallest size since the buildup to U.S. involvement in World War II in an effort to balance postwar defense needs with budget realities. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey follows Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a news conference at the Pentagon, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, where Hagel recommended shrinking the Army to its smallest size since the buildup to U.S. involvement in World War II in an effort to balance postwar defense needs with budget realities. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On the heels of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's proposal to cut defense spending, commentators have begun to weigh in on the proper place for the military in the national budget.

According to the Associated Press, Hagel’s proposed cuts would shrink the military to a size not seen since before World War II, and to some, such a reduction is concerning.

“The budget is an announcement of American retreat,” The National Review said Tuesday in an editorial. “That is doubly true when combined with the Obama administration’s generally weak diplomatic posture.”

While The National Review believes Hagel lacks sufficient justification for the proposal and that American allies are “not capable of filling the gap we are opening,” The New Republic believes it’s important to note that “Hagel, a Republican, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on the cuts,” which suggests a bipartisan understanding by those closest to the decision that the time for the reduction is right.

“In fact, military leaders have been saying for months that they need to rein in military personnel costs,” The New Republic’s Danny Vinik continues, “which is exactly what Hagel intends to do.”

One major voice to emerge against the cuts, however, is retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who lamented to MSNBC’s Chris Jansing that the rationale seems to be driven by the budget and not national security concerns.

“You can’t create a fire department after the fire starts. We’re mothballing Navy ships, we’re standing down all the A-10 ground attack Air Force planes,” he told Jansing, “we’re slashing the size of the Army.”

Other concerns besides national security have risen after the announcement as well.

Brietbart’s Joel B. Pollak, for example, believes the cuts will worsen economic inequality. “By slashing tens of thousands of military positions, the Obama administration will not only be cutting jobs but also cutting off opportunities for promotion,” Pollak wrote Tuesday.

“For a president who purports to care about economic inequality, drastic cuts to the military — as opposed to do-nothing federal departments — is both hypocrisy and disgrace.”

However, The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss is worried that the cuts may not be deep enough.

“The cuts, though substantial, ought to be seen as only a down payment on the level of defense spending reductions that are needed,” Dreyfuss argues, adding that the cuts still leave room for liberals to complain.

“Major weapons systems that might have been cut were sustained, the U.S. special forces units are being increased substantially from already high levels and Hagel announced that the U.S. Navy would maintain all 11 of its aircraft carriers.

“Indeed, the military-industrial complex was so thrilled about continuing Pentagon support for big-budget, high-tech weapons systems that, according to the Wall Street Journal, stock prices for major defense contractors rose after the announcement.”

Dreyfuss also notes that the proposal has to make it through "Congress and its Iron Triangle, including hawkish members of the House and Senate, defense lobbyists and the military itself" before it can even be implemented.

JJ Feinauer is a Web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @jjfeinauer.

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