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Michael O’Hanlon discusses his new book on cutting the defense budget

Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence while Cutting the Defense BudgetWashington, D.C., June 14, 2013 – Dr. Michael O’Hanlon visited IWP to present his recommendations on how the United States can sustain its forward presence abroad despite its recent budget cuts.  Over the course of his career spanning over two decades, O’Hanlon has maintained a strategic approach different from his current position that the U.S. Armed Forces downsize in his latest book, Healing the Wounded Giant: Maintaining Military Preeminence While Cutting the Defense Budget. He explains how the current situation differs from his past strategies in that the U.S. debt situation poses the major security risk.

Sequestration is currently in effect.  It has resulted in more than $85 billion in cuts.  This drastic measure, intended to reduce the country’s budget deficit, has left us in uncertainty.  No single party is to blame.  Both Democrats and Republicans are looking for ways to reduce spending.  Both are looking at the Defense Department as well.  In such a climate where a concrete ceiling on military spending is starting to emerge, Dr. O’Hanlon argued, the question the Armed Forces must resolve is how to have a strong enough force to defend the U.S. and its interests abroad while whittling down its numbers.

Michael O’Hanlon discusses his new book on cutting the defense budgetDr. O’Hanlon’s proposed solution can be described by two numbers.  He calls it the “one-plus-two paradigm.”  He argues that the U.S. needs to structure its military such that, at any given moment, it can fight one major regional war at a time, as well as two protracted missions.  But, in order to do this, we must develop an attitude of being more prudent regarding how the U.S. involves itself in conflicts.  In other words, we must shape a strategy to get us out of a conflict before we even consider deploying troops.  That way, we work to be less involved in protracted conflicts. 

Part of the reason why the U.S. will only need the capacity to fight one regional war and two protracted conflicts at a time is because efforts in the future will have to be multilateral, said Dr. O’Hanlon.  In today’s world, the U.S. has to learn how to play the multilateral mission game.  With emerging world powers well on their way to becoming formidable players on the world stage, the U.S. must make sure its actions are legitimate before it acts.  It will need to have its friends providing support.

Dr. O’Hanlon envisions the future being one where the U.S. will not have behemoth foes like the Nazis in World War II.  He posits that a force of about 450,000 active soldiers and 160,000 marines ought to be sufficient to execute the one-plus-two paradigm.  This gives the U.S. enough major forces for one regional war–like Korea–and two smaller crisis deployments.  

– Winston Reid
IWP Intern