Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy offered a take on US military policy that is almost unheard of among officials addressing the strain of overseas deployments on the Army: he’s suggesting that the US needs to do less.
McCarthy confirmed that he’s repeatedly pushed that question internally, questioning whether the US really needs to have “thousands of personnel deployed in over 140 countries,” and whether the army “have to do everything that we are doing in the world.”
These are questions not often asked at an official level, and pretty much never addressed by officials, who are instead constantly emphasizing that the sheer number of operations proves the already massive US military needs to keep growing and getting more funds.
But the military added 28,000 soldiers this year, and is on track for another 17,000 next year. The growth of the military continues apace, but the strain is still palpable. While McCarthy says theoretically the military “can do anything,” he believes there need to be many more questions asked about “how relevant” many of these operations even are to US national security.
His efforts to raise that question at the National Security Council level probably isn’t going to sit well with other military officials, who see permanent overseas military operations as a ticket to budget growth, and are only too willing to play up each and every war as a top priority.
President Trump’s interest in being seen as pro-military, and his cabinet’s large number of former generals, are also likely to support the status quo. Still, McCarthy is ensuring that the important questions are being asked, and that is in and of itself a welcome change.