Former Congressman speaks on future of military

Strength of U.S. military shouldn’t be based on size, he says

By Tyler Hemstreet on November 3, 2011

The U.S. military is likely due for some downsizing.

That's how one former member of the U.S. House of Representatives sees it.

Joe Sestak, a former House member who represented Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district from 2007 until 2011, spoke to small business owners and local civic leaders during a special forum held at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber last week.

His conversations with the gathered group included topics of the future of the military and how it relates to local economies.

Sestak, who served in the Navy for more than 30 years and is a Naval Academy graduate, is a former three-star admiral and was the highest-ranking military official ever elected to the U.S. Congress.

Recently, he said, the size of the military has been based on how it can respond to two conflicts: Iraq and South Korea.

"The size was justified by those two scenarios," he said. "One of those conflicts is over. How do you justify (the size of force) we have today? That's going to have to be answered."

Sestak also thinks the measuring stick for the strength of the U.S. military should no longer be based on how many troops and warfighting equipment are in the ranks.

"The real metric is capability," the former House member said.

While he admits troop cuts to the fighting force will affect morale within the ranks, Sestak said it's something that has to be done for the sake of the defense budget.

"Quality of life (issues) are very important for troops," he said. "There are proposals that are going to affect those areas."

Bolstering the military's cyberwarfare force is something Sestak can really get behind.

"(That) is a growing, burgeoning area," he said. "We will have an effective military if we go down this route."

Photo caption: Former congressman Joe Sestak, center, speaks to local small business owners and civic leaders during a special forum held at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber last week. George Cargill with Triwest Healthcare Alliance is to his left and Sen. Derek Kilmer is on the right.