As the two-front conflict in the Global War on Terror comes to a close, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced plans to cut military spending through a reduction in personnel. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposes to slash the active-duty Army force from its current size of 520,000 personnel down to 440,000, a decrease of more than 15 percent. According to Hagel: "An Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy."
In light of the United States' debt crisis, a military drawdown seems appropriate, since the wars are coming to a close and America is ready to prepare for peace. However, many service members and their families, including some at Fort Carson, will be faced with the hardships of relocating from military bases and applying their skills to the civilian workforce.
It's no secret that our volunteer military has faced many hardships during the last 13 years of war. Many service members from the Mountain Post and elsewhere have served multiple, lengthy deployments to remote and hostile locations. Deployments have prevented many service members from celebrating important wedding anniversaries and witnessing the births of their children.
Now that the wars are ending, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that military personnel and their families are properly taken care of, especially those who have built their lives around wartime operations. Unprecedented restrictions on reenlistments are forcing many senior enlisted and officer personnel into early retirements, which reduces the size of pension entitlements.
One of the ways that the government can honor our service members and limit the effects of the drawdown is by keeping as many jobs within the military as possible, instead of outsourcing military jobs to private contractors and civilian agencies.
Since the start of the Global War on Terror, the CIA has worked with the Department of Defense to systematically dismantle terrorist networks, yet the CIA has supplanted the Department of Defense in certain military combat roles. In Jordan, for example, the CIA is training Syrian rebels, not the military's Green Berets, and in Pakistan, the CIA is now entirely in control of the U.S. drone program. The CIA's control over these operations poses a threat to the soldiers who already perform these duties in the military.
Now, the CIA is a government agency, much like the Department of Defense. If the CIA is assigned control over a military position, then that job still remains within the government, right? Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. The CIA has used security contractors from various private security firms to conduct lethal drone strikes.
Among the security firms used by the CIA is Academi, formerly known as Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater. (In case you have forgotten, Blackwater employees were responsible for the 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in a public square in Baghdad.) So by shifting the responsibility of drone attacks from the Department of Defense to the CIA, the government has outsourced military positions to a company with a spotty history, at the expense of soldiers who have served their country with honor and integrity.
The CIA has grown in size and power since the start of the Global War on Terror. With more leverage in Washington, the CIA could influence policymakers to increase its scope of operations and usurp other military positions, maybe with manned aircraft or in direct combat. The CIA's additional influence and funding already poses a threat to drone operators and Green Berets, so why should it stop there?
Drone operators and Green Berets may only account for a small fraction of service members, but a trend has been established for the CIA to supersede military authority in traditional defense roles. This precedent poses a threat to dedicated military men and women who have put their family responsibilities on hold and have risked their lives, time and time again.
The government should exercise a policy of preserving as many military jobs as possible, as a reward for fighting a lengthy and arduous war in unforgiving desert heat, in undulating mountainous terrain, miles away from home. After all, it really is the least that can be done.
Matthew Doyle, an Army veteran currently enrolled at Columbia University, was stationed at Fort Carson from 2004 to 2011. He deployed three times to Iraq with the Fourth Infantry Division.