Any time there’s talk of military budget cuts, there is sure to be strong reaction in the military town of San Diego.
On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a proposal to cut the defense spending budget. The proposal would shrink the U.S. Army to roughly 440,000 soldiers, compared to the peak of 570,000 after the 9/11 attacks. That would be the smallest number of soldiers since before World War II.
There would also be cuts in housing allowances and health care benefits for military families. The proposal also includes $1 billion in subsidy cuts to commissaries.
“One of the big things is we get a food allowance that kind of ties into our pay,” sailor John Scanlon said. “If they’re going to raise the prices at the commissaries, then they’re going to have to start giving us more money for food.”
However, Executive Director of the San Diego Military Advisory Council Larry Blumberg says the proposal could actually be good news for the Navy and Marine Corps in San Diego County.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Blumberg said. “He (Hagel) talked about increased money for cyber, unmanned air systems, UAVs. Northrup Grumman, General Atomics, they're right there. They build those things, so there will be some offsets, but I think in the overall scheme of things, San Diego is in good shape.”
“We would not want to see sequestration return. I don't think anybody does, especially since it represents across the board cuts, which is an issue that affects all of us,” said defense contractor Dwayne Junker.
The biggest local hit would be limiting the Navy’s littoral combat ship fleet, which has been the target of controversy because of cost and performance.
The proposal has a long way to go. It still has to get through Congress, which could be a hard sell in an election year.