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Obama unveils new strategy for smaller military

By Robert Burns

AP National Security Writer

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:06 a.m. HST, Jan 05, 2012


WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama vowed Thursday the United States will remain the world's pre-eminent military power even as the Pentagon scales back spending, shrinks the Army and Marine Corps and pulls back from Europe.

In a rare appearance at the Pentagon, Obama said the U.S. is "turning a page" after having killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, withdrawn troops from Iraq and begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. He outlined a vision for the future that would ensure an uncompromised U.S. military strength operating with less money.

"Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority," Obama said, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey at his side.

Obama said his administration would not repeat the mistakes made after World War II and Vietnam when defense reductions left the military ill-prepared.

"As commander in chief, I will not let that happen again," he said. "Not on my watch."

Both Panetta and Dempsey said they anticipate heavy criticism of their new strategy, which is meant to guide future defense budgets, including the 2013 spending plan that Obama will submit to Congress in February.

The criticism from Republicans came quickly.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services, issued a statement saying, "This is a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America." He called it a "retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy."

Dempsey praised the strategy and the work of crafting it, calling it inclusive and comprehensive.

"It's not perfect," the general said. "There will be people who think it goes too far. Others will say it doesn't go nearly far enough. That probably makes it about right. It gives us what we need."

Obama said the strategy overhaul is designed to contend with hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts and refocus the United States' national security priorities after a decade dominated by the post.-Sept. 11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The strategy, devised through a comprehensive review by civilian and military leaders, centered on the military the country needs after the "long wars of the last decade are over," Obama said.

Panetta said that smaller military budgets will mean some trade-offs and that the U.S. will take on "some level of additional but acceptable risk." But Panetta said that at this point in history, in a changing world, the Pentagon would have been forced to make a strategy shift anyway. He says the money crisis merely forced the government's hand.

The president announced that the military will be reshaped over time with an emphasis on countering terrorism, maintaining a nuclear deterrent, protecting the U.S. homeland, and "deterring and defeating aggression by any potential adversary."

Those are not new military missions, and Obama announced no new capabilities or defense initiatives. He described a U.S. force that will retain much of its recent focus, with the exception of fighting a large-scale, prolonged conflict like the newly ended Iraq mission or the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

"As we end today's wars and reshape our armed forces, we will ensure that our military is agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies," the president wrote in a preamble to the new strategy, entitled, "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense."

The strategy strongly suggests a reduced U.S. military presence in Europe, notwithstanding a continuing close relationship with NATO, and says Asia will be a bigger priority. It also emphasizes improving U.S. capabilities in the areas of cyberwarfare, missile defense, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Obama's decision to announce the strategy himself underscores the political dimension of Washington's debate over defense cuts. The administration says smaller Pentagon budgets are a must but will not come at the cost of sapping the strength of a military in transition, even as it gets smaller.

In a presidential election year, the strategy gives Obama a rhetorical tool to defend his Pentagon budget-cutting choices. Republican contenders for the White House already have criticized him on a wide range of national security issues, including missile defense, Iran and planned reductions in ground forces.

Obama also wants the new strategy to represent a pivotal point in his stewardship of defense policy, which has been burdened throughout his presidency by the wars he inherited and the drag these conflicts have placed on military resources.

The new strategy moves the U.S. further from its longstanding goal of being able to successfully fight two major regional wars — like the 1991 Gulf War to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait or a theoretical ground war in Korea — at the same time.

The document released Thursday made clear that while some current missions of the military will be curtailed, none will be scrapped entirely.

"Wholesale divestment of the capability to conduct any mission would be unwise, based on historical and projected uses of U.S. military forces and our inability to predict the future," the document said.

It said the U.S. will maintain a robust nuclear arsenal but hinted at reductions.

"It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy," the strategy said.

The administration and Congress already are slashing projected defense spending to reflect the closeout of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan. The massive $662 billion defense budget planned for next year is $27 billion less than Obama wanted and $43 billion less than Congress gave the Pentagon this year.

The Pentagon announced no specifics on the size of expected troop reductions; the Army and Marine Corps already are set to shrink beginning in 2015. The document said the Pentagon will have to find savings in pay and health care benefits for members of the military, but it offered no specifics.

Factors guiding the Obama administration's approach to reducing the defense budget are not limited to war-fighting strategy. They also include judgments about how to contain the growing cost of military pay and health and retirement benefits. The administration is expected to form a commission to study the issue of retirement benefits, possibly led by a prominent retired military officer.

The administration is in the final stages of deciding specific cuts in the 2013 budget, which Obama will submit to Congress next month. The strategy to be announced by Panetta and Dempsey is meant to accommodate about $489 billion in defense cuts over the coming 10 years, as called for in a budget deal with Congress last summer. An additional $500 billion in cuts may be required starting in January 2013.

A prominent theme of the Pentagon's new strategy is what Panetta has called a renewed commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The administration is not anticipating military conflict in Asia, but Panetta believes the U.S. got so bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 that it missed chances to improve its strategic position in other regions.

___

Ben Feller and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.






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Highinthesierras wrote:
Hang in there Barry, lots of push back on this one. Hawaii will be one of the places hurt, as our only major industries are tourism and government, especially military.
on January 5,2012 | 05:38AM
serious wrote:
I think a cut is needed, but it sure isn't going to help employment with thousands of service personnal trying to match those military salaries and benefits in the weak economy.
on January 5,2012 | 05:41AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
What else can you expect from a politician who has never served one day in the military, no less had a shot fired at him in anger. Soldiers do not declare war. Politicians do. The worst part is that more often than not, they do not listen to those who understand war. After every war, every brain dead politician takes a slash and burn policy, eliminating its most valuable asset, combat experienced officers, NCOs and troops, only to relearn everything at the cost of more lives. Here we are, the most powerful country in the world, and how many times have our troops had to face an enemy while outmanned and outgunned. We give away state of the art weapons, equipment and technology to questionable allies and sell our surplus at $1 per HUMMV, yet, show no compunction in putting promised pay and benefits on the chopping block. IT'S TIME TO ASK, WHOSE SIDE ARE OUR POLITICIANS ON. WHEN DO WE BEGIN TO TRY AND HANG THEM FOR TREASON.
on January 5,2012 | 05:45AM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 5,2012 | 10:10AM
NITRO08 wrote:
MONSENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on January 5,2012 | 02:46PM
Anonymous wrote:
CharlieGrunt, amen to you! You took the words right out of my mouth! This so-called "president" doesn't know a danged thing about REAL life, let alone running the most powerful country on the face of the earth, and all of a sudden, he's dictating military policy? This guy couldn't run the local elementary school's PTA, and we turned the keys of the kingdom over to this rank amateur? Unbelievable! One indicator of his incompetence (of which there are legion ever since he took the oath of office) was floating the idea of cutting military benefits and, in particular, military retirements RIGHT AS we are prosecuting a war in Afghanistan. How LOLO is that?! How do you think it feels to be the boots on the ground over there and this guy tells you just what he thinks of our sons' and daughters' efforts as they're ducking bullets? Good one, Barack! Let all the enemies of America now sharpen their swords and military strategy now that you've shown the world all the cards in your hand. What a bungling idiot this clueless wonder has turned out to be, bowing and apologizing to brutal dictators, looking out for his political survival while throwing the welfare of this country under the bus, and effectively GIVING away our country to the highest bidders, while ignoring and demonizing the very people who finance his socialist agenda. November, 2012 can NOT come fast enough for me!
on January 5,2012 | 01:04PM
NITRO08 wrote:
Our military is too big, what other country spends as much money as us none! Also what does being in the military has to do with being President? Nothing!!!!!!!
on January 5,2012 | 02:45PM
Carang_da_buggahz wrote:
Truly spoken like one who has never served his/her country in the military. You just wouldn't understand, and you never will.
on January 5,2012 | 04:00PM
fishwrider wrote:
Hmmm.....we'll be cutting the military's budget by "hundreds of billions of dollars" but will somehow be better for it? Is this guy for real?
on January 5,2012 | 05:54AM
Wazdat wrote:
CUT the bloated military budget, its about time.
on January 5,2012 | 06:08AM
ya_think wrote:
That is exactly what Obuma is doing so he can put more money in the budget for the DHS’ Federal Protective Service which is his version of the Gestapo, which he will use. He is on his way to being the first dictator of this country, if you think I'm crazy then you have not paying attention to what he is doing.
on January 5,2012 | 07:41AM
Waterman2 wrote:
Can't cut the bloated giveaways for nothing, but let's destroy the military and send all the personnel packing. Well I can only hope the job market will favor the true Americans and folks like Iran will seek peace. RIGHT!
on January 5,2012 | 06:15AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Maybe the President could start by closing a few hundred bases in other countries where we have maintained a military presence since before most Americans can remember-- Nippon, Deutschland, Italia, Hanguk (we call them Japan, Germany,Italy, South Korea) and dozens of other countries with hundreds of US bases. Bringing those troops back to US bases would boost the economy in American towns located near to the US bases.
on January 5,2012 | 06:25AM
lee1957 wrote:
Many of the overseas bases are funded by the host government. To duplicate those facilities elswhere would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
on January 5,2012 | 06:32AM
toomuchpilikia wrote:
We know all about this idiot's promises. The bottom line is that money not used for the military will go towards more entitlement programs. Absolutely nothing about spending down the debt! I guess he figures the next president will be responsible for the National debt. Well I guess for the next 60 years we can blame the debt on OBAMA!
on January 5,2012 | 06:40AM
LanaUlulani wrote:


This is all talk. Look at Hawai'i as an example. It is MORE militarized than ever before. With Obama as the Executive Branch Hawai'i still has DEPLETED URANIUM which is shown to cause cancers which cause death.

It's time for Obama to be FIRED. Obama who is the 1st Nobel Peace Prize winner to shoot TOMAHAWK MISSILES AT SOME INNOCENTS. Aue.


on January 5,2012 | 06:56AM
HD36 wrote:
Big talk for campaign, but a drop in the bucket of actual cuts.
on January 5,2012 | 07:47AM
iwanaknow wrote:
There will be a BIG pushback on these cuts. Watch the NIMBY all over the place.
on January 5,2012 | 07:38AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The fact that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and several top military brass lined up on the stage behind Obama DID NOT underscore Pentagon support for cuts as reported in the story. They lined up there becasue they were told by Obama to do so.
on January 5,2012 | 07:51AM
blackmurano wrote:
Not to be concerned. Barack Obama is a one term President. There will be a "Republican" President in the White House for the next four years. Anytime a Republican replaces a Democrat, they go the other way. When Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter who literally cut the military, Reagan said "we will rearm." During the Viet Niem war, the Democrat control Congress both Senate and the House, took away funding from the war which resulted in an embarrasing withdrawel and defeat at the hand of the communist forces. So if Mitt Romney is our next President, he did say he will build the military not cut it.
on January 5,2012 | 08:51AM
entrkn wrote:
Smart responsible governance by one of the best Presidents in American history...
on January 5,2012 | 10:19AM
chuck4664 wrote:
great idea, to much waste and to much people doing the same job, i know this, i was one of them.
on January 5,2012 | 03:45PM
butinski wrote:
Advise getting your applications in to WalMart or Mickey D's asap.
on January 5,2012 | 06:56PM
sumoroach wrote:
Lets cut the military, his only choise to spend more for votes. Lets cut spend every where: housing, irs, dedutions on taxes, food stamps, no extend of unemployment benefits only 26 weeks, etc... then stop spending in all departsment to 2001 levels. Must have everyone skin in the game.
on January 5,2012 | 07:40PM
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