Firing the opening salvo in a bloody budget battle, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is set to recommend drastic cuts of billions of dollars that would take U.S military forces to levels not seen since before World War II.
The cuts in military spending, forces and weapons programs address the stark reality of growing budget pressures at home and point to improbability that the United States will ever again engage in a large ground war.
The plan, to be unveiled Monday afternoon, is likely to face stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will battle for every troop, weapons program and dollar.
The proposal calls for the Army to be cut to about 450,000 troops, down from a peak of 570,000 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Troop levels were already slated to drop to 480,000 — but now even more are on the chopping block.
Hagel also wants to eliminate the fleet of A-10 "tank killer" aircraft, designed in the 1970s to go after targets on the ground. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whose husband was an A-10 pilot, has already vowed to fight plans to retire the plane.
Also slated for retirement is the U-2 spy plane, the stalwart of Cold War reconnaissance. The military is turning to new methods of surveillance, like the Global Hawk.