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Opinion | Today's soldiers more lethal than ever before: A fair reason to lower the defense budget

By Steven Beynon
On March 7, 2014

People have criticized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement of drawing military personnel down to pre-WWII numbers.

I understand the mentality of wanting the biggest stick on the playground, but what a lot of critics don't understand is that the military's strength isn't simply based on the raw number of troops with rifles.

Before WWII, we didn't have any drones; now we have hundreds. We now have 20 aircraft carriers while no other country has more than four. We also have an air force now which we didn't have before.

The United States has also developed the Special Operations community. These warriors are bi-lingual, nuclear technicians, divers, expert shooters and can discreetly respond anywhere in the world in hours.

If the government made these cuts, we would be the third largest military in the world just behind India and China. I don't believe this is a problem unless we're going to fight them both at the same time with bayonets and without the support of Europe.

We should be rethinking the military for the modern day.

Our current defense spending is at $682 billion, that's more than the next 12 countries behind us combined. Most of which are also allies like Japan and the United Kingdom.

Today's military focuses on smaller and more capable teams.

Take me for example. I have been in combat in Afghanistan and I am far more lethal than an entire platoon of pre-WWII soldiers. I can use precise weapons to eliminate threats up to half a mile away, see in the dark, use lightweight missile systems, coordinate accurate bomb strikes and body armor allows me to walk away clean from a gunshot that would've killed any soldier before the 80s.

Today's military is about fighting smarter, not harder. Also avoiding fights altogether is a nice concept, too.

We currently have 3,000 new tanks sitting in a parking lot that the military specifically said they didn't want but Congress forced the contracts for construction.

In Afghanistan, we had giant nets wrapped around our vehicles called "RPG Nets." The idea is that these nets would take the hit of rockets, making them detonate off of the vehicle's surface.

According to military contractors I spoke with, these nets cost $30K. RPG Nets break easily, too. We broke five of them in non-combat related accidents. They impair the driver's vision and usually just rip off eventually. It's a needless danger.

After seeing the aftermath of my vehicle being attacked, the net didn't do much. To be fair, I'm also not dead. Yet I'm not convinced the silly net saved my life. Instead it was likely the three inches of armor my truck was equipped with.

Overseas, soldiers have to retake a driving test for the assault vehicles. The instructors are always civilians. When I inquired about the salary of one of them, he said the first $80,000 was tax-free for his six months in Afghanistan. The average soldier in combat makes about $30,000 per year.

The side that typically argues against cutting defense spending is also the side that screams about handouts. The defense budget is ultimately welfare, it is a handout, its overzealous government support at its best. Better yet, let's use that dirty word socialism.

To people saying that we just "don't know" when we'll need thousands of tanks, jet pilots, and soldiers to jump out of planes, note that the military is really good at rapidly increasing its force in a time of war.

Peacetime has always seen the decrease in force. Just lower the spending. Maybe China will invade the shores of California because we have 19 aircraft carriers as opposed to 20? I'm confident the American people will swarm recruitment offices in mass.

Our National Guard alone is equipped with more tanks, attack helicopters, special forces, and infantry than most other nation's entire military.

The United States has only had 21 years of peacetime and is ranked fourth in how many countries it has fought in compared to other military powers through history.

I didn't need fleets of submarines and space lasers to fight the Taliban.


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