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Press Release - Former U.S. Generals & Admirals: Defense Cuts Likely to Harm America’s National Security

As the U.S. contemplates the most significant reductions to the defense budget in the post-World War II era, JINSA asked a cross section of its military advisors to analyze the proposed cuts and comment on their specifics.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility to put on the backs of our military men and women drastic cuts in military modernization and investment,” says JINSA Visiting Fellow Peter Huessy in an introductory essay.

The analysis includes former officers from all five branches of the U.S. armed forces and examines the impact proposed budget cuts will have on America’s war fighting capabilities.


Major General Daniel A. Hahn (ret.) believes the budget cuts “will have a big but manageable impact on the army.” One of his chief concerns is the likelihood of cuts to aviation modernization programs such as helicopters, which have proven vital during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Regardless of what happens, the Army plans to prevent a hollow force through balancing personnel, training and maintenance, and equipment funding,” says Hahn.

General James T. Hill (ret.) worries that the strategy to meet the budget shortfall will damage “what is absolutely critical to our national defense – the ability to attract and retain the very best of our countrymen.”

“We have the greatest military the world has ever known not simply because of our technology and material resources but because of our people - our courageous, adaptable, committed and selfless people,” he says.

“I do not remember a time when so many of the benefits of being a soldier were under attack,” says Lieutenant General Thomas Griffin Jr. (ret.). “The soldiers are not stupid. They know what is happening and will demonstrate their dissatisfaction by leaving. The ones we want to keep are the ones that will leave first.”

As it stands, the Army is facing a $500 billion reduction and the possibility of the sequestration of another $500 billion.

That scenario would be “devastating for the army and national security of the country,” General Louis Wagner (ret.) says in the JINSA report.

“Instability in the Middle east, the Arab Spring activities, the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, the threat of a nuclear capable North Korea and the instability of our neighbors in Central and South America are strong indicators that the world is not going to be peaceful in the foreseeable future,’ he says. “The capability to execute robust full spectrum land operations remains absolutely essential if the United States is to remain a preeminent world power."


Rear Admiral Terence E. McKnight (ret.) believes American naval power “will be stretched to the limits and major mission areas and overseas commitments will have to be eliminated.”

“The navy will no longer be able to project power in such regions as the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or possibly the Middle East,” he warns.

According to Vice Admiral Robert T. Conway (ret.), the Navy faces a “readiness downward spiral.”

“Major acquisitions programs will be pressurized in an already tight budget and be forced to move to the right,” he predicts. “This will result in increased costs in the out-years and, in turn, squeeze the life out of other required programs that directly affect sailors and their families.”


Two former Air Force officers, Lieutenant General Charles May (ret.) and Major General Robert E. Eaglet (ret.), are concerned about the budget cutting process.

“Coherence is lacking, preventing a thorough and in-depth analysis of the impact (of the cuts),” says May.
“The fighter force will be the most severely affected because of the reduction in the F-35 inventory and the lack of funds to properly maintain and modernize a current force structure that is unprecedentedly old, averaging more than 40 years of service.”

Eaglet calls the present approach to defense cuts “an unwarranted gamble with our nation’s future.”

“Our national security is too important to constrain it to whatever might be achievable within some arbitrary reduced budget target,” he says.


In the JINSA report, Major General Larry Taylor (ret.) cautions that the “danger of massive cuts in defense spending will not be so much in the lack of expensive, high-tech weapons systems, but rather in the more subtle shortages of spare parts for maintenance and ammunition for training.”

“Naturally, those forces that are “first-to-fight” will be first-to-equip and supply, and follow-on forces will get, at best, the hand-me-downs. At worst, the Reserve gets next-to-nothing.”


In what many consider a traditionally underfunded agency, the U.S. Coast Guard is likely to face significant cuts in the new budgetary environment. Rear Admiral William Merlin (ret.) and Rear Admiral James Olson (ret.) believe the USCG will be unable to replace the old and aging fleet of Coast Guard Cutters. Olson warns that the agency’s seagoing operational capability will result in “significant reductions in services to the public.”

Click here to read the full report

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