After 13 years at war and a budget that peaked at $750 billion in 2011, the U.S. military has entered a period of drawdown. This is a good thing.
In 2015, America will spend roughly $520 billion on defense, not counting the money used to fund continuing operations in Afghanistan. Make no mistake: This does not represent a "retreat" from the world, and it will not make our homeland less safe. U.S. service members will still stand ready to deploy to any corner of the globe in defense of our nation and allies. Even with these cuts, the U.S. military will remain larger and more powerful than that of the next 10 countries combined.
Yet our national defense faces a steep financial challenge. As we look forward to a period of peace, we will need fewer soldiers on the active payroll. We will also need fewer tanks, jets and warships — and fewer of the jobs that go with making them.
These cuts are being felt everywhere. In Florida, they are set to prematurely retire 1,000 Guardsmen and threaten the work of many thousands of defense contractors.
But this remains the best of many bad options. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel explained, "There are difficult decisions ahead. This is the reality we're living with."
For more than a decade, the United States has remained on a war footing, doing whatever necessary to support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our nation should not have done any differently. Yet now, with the end of combat operations almost at hand, we must adjust to a new reality.