Since the Civil War, the US military builds up during times of war in part because the military is usually reduced immediately following the war. The US military today consists of fewer units than the number that participated during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Sec Def wants to reduce it further.
President Obama ran on a campaign of promising to bring the troops home. Instead of bringing all of the troops home, the President ceased combat operations in Iraq and increased the number of troops to Afghanistan. Almost immediately hostilities began to flare up in Iraq. Worse, Gen Patreaus replaced Gen McChrystal (for making unflattering remarks about the Vice President), the new commander of forces in Afghanistan quickly pronounced it would take 20 years to bring the situation to conclusion. Another NATO general said it would take 30 years to bring the situation to conclusion. This on top of nearly 10 years of military operations.
One can't help but notice US military operations are not bringing matters to a conclusion while at same time Sec Def Gates is reducing the number of new weapon systems coming on board and there is talk of additional base closures. Additional base closures means corresponding reductions in personnel. No wonder North Korea feels it can start taking shots (literally) at South Korea with impunity. No wonder Russian Prime Minister Medvedev felt he could visit the highly contested Kurile Islands with impunity. To make matters worse, our own homeland security measures have set Americans against these policies which may result adversely effect the airline industry.
The superpower reputation of the US is being questioned and the results are what we are seeing in the news. I fear this may just be the beginning.