Dick Cheney Sees 'Enormous Long-Term Damage' in Obama's Military Cuts

By Susan Jones | February 25, 2014 | 6:22am EST

Former Vice President Dick Cheney at the funeral service for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at St. Paul's Cathedral, in London on April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Olivia Harris, Pool, File)

(CNSNews.com) - The military reductions announced Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are "just devastating," former Vice President Dick Cheney told Sean Hannity on Monday.

"Absolutely dangerous," Cheney said. "You know, I've obviously not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military. They act as though it's like highway spending and you can turn it on and off.

"The fact of the matter is, he's having a huge impact on the ability of future presidents to deal with future crises that are bound to arise. I've told you, Sean, about the story about right after Desert Storm, when I was secretary of defense, after we won, the first thing I did was call former President Reagan out in California and thanked him for everything he'd done back in the '80s to build that magnificent force we had for Desert Storm.

"I can guarantee there's never going to be a call from a future secretary of defense to Barack Obama to thank him for what he's done to the military. Just devastating."

In outlining his plan for a "balanced force" on Monday, Hagel said he had to make "difficult choices," including additional reductions in troop strength in every military service, active and Reserve.

Hagel admitted that a "smaller force strains our ability to simultaneously respond to multiple major contingencies." But he said the military "will still be able to defeat any aggressor."

Hagel said he plans to focus on "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."

Cheney called that comment "strange."

"That would lead me to think I need to strengthen my military capabilities, not cut it," he said. "I think it's a reflection of the basic fundamental belief of this president that -- he always wanted to cut the military. And he said when he went to Cairo on that famous apology tour back in '09, he believed -- he apologized for our over-reaction to the events of 9/11. And today, he's fixing it in a way, in effect, where it's going to be almost impossible for future presidents to deal with that kind of situation."

Cheney said Obama would "rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops."

Hagel's plan would take the Army from its current 520,000 active-duty soldiers to a range of 440,000-450,000, since the U.S. is "no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations."

"While this smaller capacity entails some additional risk," Hagel said, such a force "would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater...while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary."

-- U.S. Marines, now numbering around 190,000, will draw down to 182,000 -- or to 175,000 if sequestration-level cuts are reimposed in 2016 and beyond. "Under any scenario, we will devote about 900 more Marines to provide enhanced embassy security around the world," Hagel said.

-- Special Operations forces will grow to 69,700 personnel from around 66,000 now.

--The Air Force will reduce the number of tactical air squadrons, and retire the entire A-10 fleet. That will allow a $1-billion investment in "next-generation" jet engine technology. "This new funding will also help ensure a robust industrial base, a very strong and important industrial base, itself a national strategic asset," Hagel said.

-- The Army National Guard and Reserves will also draw down -- the Army National Guard from the current 355,000 to 335,000; the Reserves from 205,000 soldiers to 195,000. But if sequestration returns in 2016, the Army National Guard would continue drawing down further, to 315,000. Army Reserves would draw down to 185,000.

--  Military compensation: Hagel called for "fair and responsible adjustments" (reductions) to overall military compensation and benefits.

Cheney said the administration's plan reflects the notion "that somehow, a strong America, well equipped, with a strong military, is a danger to international peace and stability. And just exactly the opposite's true. I think if history teaches any lesson, its' that the world's a safer, more stable place when the United States is strong and is prepared to use that strength when necessary.

"The way I read this, they're basically making the decision in the Obama administration that they no longer want to be dominant on the seas, in the skies and in space, and their budget reflects that -- radical cuts, in terms of force structure and size, the -- this notion that we no longer want to have a force that's capable of any sustained occupation of a foreign territory is -- you know, that's a basic fundamental decision that drives -- supposedly justifies this.

"But lots of times, you don't get to make that choice. Circumstances will make that choice for you."

President Obama will submit the budget to Congress next week.

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