WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2012 — As the United States implements new strategic guidance that increases its focus on Asia and the Pacific, it also needs to pursue “smart defense initiatives” as it continues to honor its NATO commitments, a senior defense official said today.
Budget constraints will demand new efficiencies and new approaches to collective defense, Julianne Smith, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy, told reporters at the Foreign Press Center here.
Smith joined Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip Gordon in explaining how the new strategic guidance will impact defense in the European theater.
“The trans-Atlantic relationship remains an essential source of stability in an unpredictable world,” Gordon said, with Europe remaining the United States’ principal partner in promoting global and economic security.
“And so the strategy outlined last week reaffirms our commitment to European security,” he said, and continued commitment to the so-called Article 5 responsibility to aid any NATO ally in the event of an attack.
Gordon underscored the need to continue enhancing U.S. cooperation and interoperability with European partners to maintain this commitment and address global challenges.
He cited the recent military cooperation in Libya and current operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Balkans and Horn of Africa, as well as diplomatic cooperation on issues ranging from non-proliferation and missile defense.
Smith said the strategic guidance comes at a “pivotal moment” for the United States. “We have just ended our mission in Iraq, we are transitioning through our mission in Afghanistan and obviously we face unprecedented challenges here at home,” she said.
Looking to the future, she said rebalancing of force structure toward Asia and the Pacific will require the United States to adapt its posture in Europe to reflect the evolving strategic landscape.
Pending cuts will put “added pressure on all of us collectively to come up with some innovative pooling, sharing [and] multilateral procurement,” she said, as well as innovative approaches to “doing more with less.”
The NATO Summit that President Barack Obama will host this May in Chicago is expected to address these and other challenges, with a focus on capabilities and partnerships and the transition in Afghanistan.
Gordon said the new strategy guidance reaffirms many of the objectives the alliance already is pursing while emphasizing two core messages. It reinforces that the United States is “absolutely committed to maintaining the capabilities we need for Article 5,” he said. Meanwhile, he said it demonstrates that “we’re absolutely committed, not just to maintaining, but to enhancing our ability to partner with Europeans on global security missions.”
Smith clarified that while the new guidance will alter, but not eliminate, the so-called “two-war construct” — the United States’ ability to engage in two conflicts simultaneously.
“We will not be sizing our forces for two overlapping large-scale ground-intensive combat operations,” she said. “Instead, if we find ourselves engaged in a major combat operation in one theater, we will focus on spoiling the objectives of an aggressor elsewhere.”
This, she explained, will enable the United States to reduce the size of the force while also taking advantage of new concepts of operations in fields such as space, cyber, special operations and precision strikes.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)