U.S. President Barack Obama has unveiled the outline of a new defense plan reflecting billions of dollars in budget cuts and what he described as a “moment of transition” after a decade of war.
The president outlined the strategic review Thursday at the Pentagon. Joining him were Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Obama said the new strategy will include focusing on Asia and the Middle East.
“As I made clear in Australia, we’ll be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region. We’re going to continue investing in our critical partnerships and alliances, including NATO, which has demonstrated time and again – most recently in Libya – that it’s a force multiplier. We’re going to stay vigilant, especially in the Middle East,” said Obama.
The plan shifts slightly from the Pentagon’s decades-old strategy of being prepared to fight two major regional land wars at once. But Panetta said the U.S. will maintain the ability to confront multiple enemies.
“Our strategy review concluded that the United States must have the capability to fight several conflicts at the same time. We are not confronting obviously the threats of the past, we are confronting the threats of the 21st century, and that demands greater flexibility to shift and deploy forces to be able to fight and defeat any enemy anywhere,” said Panetta.
The president said the military will be leaner, but added the world must know the United States will maintain its military superiority. He said the country is moving forward from “a position of strength,” following the war in Iraq and amid the transition away from combat in Afghanistan.
Panetta said troop numbers would be cut, and said exact numbers would be revealed when the budget is announced. He also discussed the need to review military pensions and health care spending for troops and their families, but vowed that basic benefits will be protected.
With reduced resources, the Defense Department says it will no longer be big enough to conduct large, “prolonged stability operations” in troubled nations.
Even as the military undergoes reductions, Panetta said the U.S. will protect, and in some cases increase, its investments in areas such as special operations and cyberspace capabilities.
Panetta said the U.S. posture in Europe must evolve and adapt.
Former U.S. defense official Frank Gaffney told VOA the new strategy has many problems. He said both the strategy and the budget could keep the U.S. from being able to simultaneously deal with any potential conflicts, including with China and Iran.
“It may not be up to us how many wars we have to fight. Enemies who perceive us [as] unable to deal with more than one problem at a time may decide to collaborate and work in a simultaneous fashion that will simply over tax us. And worse, the perception that we are so weak as to be unable to deal with that sort of danger invites it,” said Gaffney.