Not a very specific proposal, just broad strokes. I think we all realize that any serious attempt to get federal spending under control will cost the DoD real dollars. The question becomes, what to cut, what to keep?
And the most likely candidate for cuts is ground forces. They are expensive, in the worst possible way. They are by definition manpower intensive, and that manpower has very long term costs associated with it, such as medical care and retirement benefits.
Further, there is little domestic political support for further deployments. While support for the current wars is surprisingly strong after a decade of war, that doesn’t mean it will last forever. And it would take a rather extraordinary threat to provide support for a new deployment.
That’s where risk comes in. With fewer deployments, the argument for large ground forces is weakened. But weaker ground forces available, the temptation for other powers to engage in operations that might cause us to deploy grows. And then, our smaller forces would face greater challenges on the battlefield.
I think most people realize that our initial force for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was too small. It was just barely large enough to destroy the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard decisively, but far too small to be an occupying force (and frankly, the Army didn’t really expect to occupy Iraq for 10 years).
Part of the reason the initial force was so small was logistical. There are only so many troops you can support through Kuwait in a short period of buildup. Another part was geopolitical. Turkey declined to allow the Army to simultaneously attack Iraq from the north from Turkey. But part of the size of the force package was also that we just didn’t have as many troops available as we had 12 years earlier in Desert Storm.
My ideal army (and Marine Corps) would be about twice as big as it is now, with about half as many missions. But that’s a fantasy.
The real question is, how small an Army can we have, and not take unacceptable risks on future battlefields?