PENTAGON: The United States will police the globe, respond to disasters and shape the international environment much as it has –though our sharpest focus will be on China and the western Pacific — but it will do all that with a significantly smaller land force than it currently has.
That was the essential message offered today by President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey as they unveiled the administration’s new military strategy. Obama had ordered the review which led to the new strategy when he announced the more than $450 billion cuts to the defense budget.
The administration, knowing that the world would be watching for signs of retrenchment or long-term weakness, sent the clearest message it could. “Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority,” President Obama said.
For those who may have forgotten, this strategy is the culmination of what the president called a roles and mission analysis when he called for the roughly $450 billion in defense cuts over the next decade.
“The signals here are clear. America is extricating itself from land wars in Asia and reducing its role in Europe. The new focus is on deterring Iran and China, relying mainly on air and naval power,” Loren Thompson, defense consultant and analyst at the Lexington Institute, said.
Panetta and Dempsey admitted the US would have to accept “additional but acceptable” risk as the military shrinks.
The initial reaction from Capitol Hill Republicans, was, not surprisingly, negative. “This is a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America. The President has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense. This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs. In order to justify massive cuts to our military, he has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests, and defy our opponents,” said Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee.
At the core of the strategic discussion at the White House and Pentagon has been the infamous two Major Regional Contingency (MRC) strategy that has warped U.S. military budgets since the early 1990s.
While the administration did not formally renounce it, Gen. Dempsey and others have made it pretty clear it is no longer guiding U.S. policy.
“We’re keeping but not really keeping the two-war force planning construct. It is a ‘paradigm residual of the Cold War’ per General Dempsey. But he was quick to say the U.S. military can and will always be able to conduct more than one operation at a time,” Mackenzie Eaglen, former Hill staffer and now a defense analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said in an email. “Pentagon leaders are trying to thread a needle saying this is not about whether we’ll fight two adversaries at once, but how we’ll fight them.”
the administration’s “force planning construct is too muddled and nuanced to be helpful
to the services, just like the 2010 QDR that abandoned the 2-wars but then just replaced it with the “kitchen sink” construct (do everything, everywhere, across-the-spectrum, all the time). Keep reading →