The Pentagon outlined a plan today for slowing the growth of military spending, including cutting the size of the Army and Marine Corps, retiring older planes, and trimming war costs. It drew quick criticism from Republicans, signaling the difficulty of scaling back defense budgets in an election year. The changes Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described at a news conference are numerous but hardly dramatic. They aim to save money by delaying some big-ticket weapons like a next-generation nuclear-armed submarine, but the basic shape and structure of the military remains the same.
The Army would shrink from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000 within five years, and the Marines would drop by 20,000, to 182,000. Those are considerable declines, but both services will still be slightly larger than on 9/11, before they began a decade of war. Panetta said the administration will ask Congress for $525 billion to run the Pentagon in 2013—$6 billion less than the current budget. War costs, which are not considered part of the base budget, would decline from $115 billion to $88 billion, reflecting the completion of the US withdrawal from Iraq. (Read more Leon Panetta stories.)