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Rapid Downsizing Looms at Pentagon

Former Senator Chuck Hagel, shown on Monday with President Obama, would have to deal with looming spending cuts at the Pentagon if selected to become the next U.S. Defense secretary (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). Former Senator Chuck Hagel, shown on Monday with President Obama, would have to deal with looming spending cuts at the Pentagon if selected to become the next U.S. Defense secretary (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster).

U.S. Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel would face pressing calls to reduce Pentagon spending upon taking office, and the demands -- expected to persist under the Obama administration -- appear set to alter the goals and composition of the nation's military, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The country's yearly defense spending has slowly started to fall after reaching a height of $690 billion three years ago, but a drop in combat costs and the elimination of planned budget boosts have accounted for a bulk of the reductions to date. Pentagon funding stands at $616 billion in the current budget cycle.

“Whatever that budget decline looks like will set the context for whatever else Hagel wants to do as Defense secretary,” said Gordon Adams, a Clinton White House spending planner now with American University. “We know the cuts are coming. This is a drawdown.”

The Defense Department has not axed many significant armament initiatives over the past four years, and personnel reductions now under way would only set back Army and Marine Corps staff counts to their 2007 numbers.

Hagel has offered little detail on what spending he could target for cuts if he is confirmed to lead the Pentagon, but the former Republican senator backed a 2012 assessment seeking the elimination of four-fifths of the nation's atomic arsenal. The Global Zero analysis suggested the potential reduction could reduce anticipated expenses by $100 billion in one decade.

Representative Michael Turner (R-Ohio) characterized Hage's stance on nuclear arms cuts as "at odds with mainstream thinking and the President's stated choices," Foreign Policy reported. "This includes drastic and possibly unilateral reductions in U.S. nuclear forces, eliminating the ICBM leg of our nuclear deterrent and canceling our other nuclear modernization programs."  the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee chairman said by e-mail.

The Obama administration pledged in the U.S.-Russian New START treaty to by 2018 cut the nation's arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. There have been reports of consideration of further reductions, but the White House has not put forward any formal plan.

"Like President Obama, [Chuck Hagel] clearly supports a balanced and energetic U.S. leadership role in reducing the role, number and spread of nuclear weapons, and his record in the Senate shows that his views on the subject are quite mainstream," according to Arms Control Association head Daryl Kimball.

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