Slatest PM: The New American Way of War

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 24 2014 4:36 PM

Slatest PM: The New American Way of War

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US troops of 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment get together to listen to their squad leaders (L and R) in a short briefing before leaving their compound at dawn on April 22, 2008 for a joint mission with Iraqi troops in an area south of Baghdad

File photo by Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Smallest Since Before WWII: Associated Press:  "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday proposed shrinking the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, closing military bases and making other military-wide savings as part of a broad reshaping after more than a decade of war. Hagel outlined his vision in a speech at the Pentagon, a week before President Barack Obama is to submit his 2015 budget plan to Congress. Hagel said that U.S. forces must adjust to the reality of smaller budgets, even as he asserted that the United States faces a more volatile, more unpredictable world that requires a more nimble military. ... Under the Hagel plan, which Congress could change, the active-duty Army would shrink from its current 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000. That would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II."

A New Way of War: New York Times: "The new American way of war will be underscored in Mr. Hagel’s budget, which protects money for Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. And in an indication of the priority given to overseas military presence that does not require a land force, the proposal will — at least for one year — maintain the current number of aircraft carriers at 11. ... That would be the smallest United States Army since 1940. For years, and especially during the Cold War, the Pentagon argued that it needed a military large enough to fight two wars simultaneously — say, in Europe and Asia. In more recent budget and strategy documents, the military has been ordered to be prepared to decisively win one conflict while holding off an adversary’s aspirations in a second until sufficient forces could be mobilized and redeployed to win there."

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The Political Reality: Politico: "The proposal amounts to a roll of the dice in a midterm election year, when defense advocates in both parties and in both the House And Senate will be loath to close bases, idle factories or open themselves to accusations they cut pay or benefits for troops and their families. Moreover, Congress has already rejected many of the requests the Pentagon plans to make. ... Republicans especially may want to delay any serious defense reforms until after November’s election, which they believe offers them the chance to seize control of the full Congress. ... If Congress doesn’t like it, Hagel said, it should try sequestration. If lawmakers permit the automatic spending restrictions to fall back into place as they would in 2016 under current law, the Air Force would also lose all of its KC-10 Extender tankers, its Block 40-model Global Hawk drones and slow purchases of its F-35A. The Navy would lose more ships – including an aircraft carrier — and delay its F-35C. And so on."

It's Monday, February 24th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees, and the whole team at @Slatest.

Ukraine Update: Reuters: "Ukraine appealed for urgent international aid on Monday after the fall of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovich cast doubt on a bailout deal with Moscow, saying it needed $35 billion over the next two years. With acting President Oleksander Turchinov warning that Ukraine was close to default and "heading into the abyss", the United States and European Union said they were looking at how to help Kiev. Both, however, indicated that any comprehensive package was likely to take shape only after elections in May and in coordination with the International Monetary Fund, which is likely to demand painful economic reforms. Ukraine has been caught in a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia and the EU. With Yanukovich now a fugitive, its chances of receiving the remaining $12 billion of a $15-billion bailout package agreed with Moscow in December, after Kiev spurned an EU trade deal, seem to have receded."

SCOTUS Eyes Climate: Associated Press: "The Supreme Court appeared divided on Monday over the sole Obama administration program already in place to limit power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming. The justices took on a small, complicated piece of the politically charged issue of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in an extended argument that included references to Dunkin' Donuts stores, football games and light bulbs. The examples were meant to illustrate the vast potential reach of the program, in its critics' view, or its limited nature, as the administration argued. The presence of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in the courtroom underscored the political stakes in President Barack Obama's high-profile effort to deal with global warming - a policy Obama is pursuing after failing to persuade Congress to enact climate change legislation. McConnell is facing a tough re-election fight in which he refers often to the administration's assault on the coal industry in Kentucky and elsewhere."

Obama Looks For Help: NBC News: "President Barack Obama pleaded with governors on Monday to help advance his 'year of action' on the state level. Speaking to the nation's governors from both parties, who gathered in Washington throughout the weekend for a series of meetings, Obama said he was interested in partnering with them to advance priorities that might stall in Congress during an election year. 'The point is, even when there's little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priorities, at the state level, you guys are governed by practical considerations,' Obama said. 'That means that there's less room for posturing and politics and more room for getting stuff done.' The president highlighted some areas on which he could work with governors, and lauded some for acting already to raise the minimum wage, address climate change or expand Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act."

Arizona's Anti-Gay Bill: The Hill: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday he hoped the Arizona governor will veto a bill that would allow business owners to cite their religious beliefs in refusing service to gay people. McCain in a tweet called on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto the bill, which passed both houses of the legislature last week. ... Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sent out a nearly identical tweet over the weekend. Brewer will have five days after she receives the bill to decide if she will sign, veto or take no action. The bill is expected to hit her desk on Monday. Brewer vetoed similar legislation last year, but The Associated Press notes she did so at a time when she was refusing to sign all bills in an effort to push the state legislature to sign on to Medicaid expansion under the new healthcare law. ... The bill would allow businesses, churches and individuals to cite their religious beliefs as a defense against discrimination claims brought by the government or another individual."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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