Panetta: Military Will Be Smaller, More Agile, Deployable

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 12, 2012 — To accom­plish the new mis­sion sets for the 21st cen­tu­ry, the Unit­ed States needs a small­er, quick­er, more agile mil­i­tary, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon Panet­ta said today.

That is the basis behind the recent­ly released strat­e­gy review that will set the stage for the fis­cal 2013 Defense Depart­ment bud­get request.

“Our bud­get is, basi­cal­ly, designed to rein­force the new mis­sions we are talk­ing about and that agile, deploy­able and ready force that has to move quick­ly,” Panet­ta said dur­ing an inter­view on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas.

Force struc­ture will come down in the years to come, the sec­re­tary said, but the mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to be able to engage in the full range of con­flicts even with spend­ing $487 bil­lion less over the next 10 years. The Army will get small­er, but the reduc­tion will be slow and bal­anced as rec­om­mend­ed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, Panet­ta said.

The way the force will be used will change under the strat­e­gy, the sec­re­tary said. While there will remain forces in Asia and the Mid­dle East – two areas of par­tic­u­lar focus for the Unit­ed States – oth­er areas will not be uncov­ered. Rota­tion­al forces – the way Army Spe­cial Forces cur­rent­ly deploy – will expand to con­ven­tion­al forces. The rota­tion­al deploy­ments mean the mil­i­tary “will be in a posi­tion to cov­er not only the area that will be a pri­ma­ry focus … but we will be able to cov­er the world,” he said.

The new air-sea bat­tle doc­trine will allow the mil­i­tary to han­dle more than one con­flict at a time. “The exam­ple I’ve used is if we are in a land war in Korea and Iran does some­thing in the Strait of Hor­muz – to go after that and to deal with that threat is large­ly going to be the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Air Force and Navy,” Panet­ta said. “Same if we are in Afghanistan and some­thing breaks out in the Tai­wan Straits or the South Chi­na Sea, … con­fronting that would large­ly be a naval and air capa­bil­i­ty.”

The sec­re­tary is adamant that the bud­get will not be reduced on the backs of ser­vice mem­bers. He spec­i­fied there will be no changes to mil­i­tary retire­ment for those serv­ing today.

“We are going to design the require­ments for any com­mis­sion that looks at retire­ment,” he said. “One of the require­ments is that those already serv­ing are ful­ly grand­fa­thered.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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