The unfolding debate over military force reductions is reminiscent of presidential candidate Mitt Romney's complaint during the 2012 campaign that the Navy has fewer ships than in the past.

Ultimately, the issue isn't the size of the fleet but its capability. There is no doubt that the U.S. Navy is the most capable in the world because technology is a force multiplier.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's call for a substantially smaller Army of about 450,000 soldiers should be viewed in the same light as the United States withdraws combat troops from Afghanistan, following its withdrawal from Iraq.

The Army now has about 520,000 troops. Mr. Hagel, like his predecessor Robert Gates, would shift the emphasis to the types of engagements that now are likely. The budget he proposed, for example, eliminates funding for A-10 "Warthog" attack aircraft used primarily against armored forces, and increases by several thousand the number of special operations troops engaged in anti-terrorism activity.

"Our analysis showed that this force would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater - as it must be - while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater against an adversary," Mr. Hagel said.

That analysis shocked and awed many members of Congress, who went about the business of defending military spending in their districts rather than defending the nation as economically as possible.

So Mr. Hagel's proposal likely is to be bombarded in Congress. His proposed budget, including the force reduction, is about $500 billion for the next fiscal year - more than the combined military spending of the next 25 nations combined, including Russia and China.

But Congress is likely to ignore the proposed cuts even as many members rail about deficit reduction and attack "entitlement" and safety-net spending. Call that what you will, but don't call it military intelligence.