USA — Strategy Calls for Military to Handle Full Range of Contingencies

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 — The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary will be lean­er in the years ahead, but it will remain lethal and with­out a match in the world, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said at the Pen­ta­gon today.

Oba­ma, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed the new defense strate­gic guid­ance dur­ing a news con­fer­ence.

“The world must know the Unit­ed States is going to main­tain our mil­i­tary supe­ri­or­i­ty with armed forces that are agile, flex­i­ble and ready for the full range of con­tin­gen­cies and threats,” the pres­i­dent said.

He pledged to keep faith with ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies as offi­cials use the strat­e­gy guid­ance to shape the Defense Department’s bud­get for the years ahead. The depart­ment will pare $487 bil­lion from its bud­get over the next 10 years.

“We’re also going to keep faith with those who serve by mak­ing sure our troops have the equip­ment and capa­bil­i­ties they need to suc­ceed and by pri­or­i­tiz­ing efforts that focus on wound­ed war­riors, men­tal health and the well-being of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies,” the pres­i­dent said.

The gov­ern­ment also will keep the inter­ests of America’s newest vet­er­ans in mind, Oba­ma said, and he vowed to “keep work­ing to give our vet­er­ans the care, ben­e­fits and job oppor­tu­ni­ties they deserve and earned.”

After 10 years of war, now is the time to build a new mil­i­tary to con­front the chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tu­ry, Oba­ma said. The Iraq mis­sion is over, and 91,000 Amer­i­can troops are in Afghanistan work­ing to turn over secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty there to Afghan forces. Still, Panet­ta said, the world will con­tin­ue to be dan­ger­ous.

“The Unit­ed States still faces com­plex and grow­ing array of secu­ri­ty chal­lenges across the globe,” he said. “Unlike past draw­downs, when often­times the threats that the coun­try was fac­ing went away, the fact is that there remain a num­ber of chal­lenges that we have to con­front — chal­lenges that call for reshap­ing of America’s defense pri­or­i­ties.”

Panet­ta said the threats include vio­lent extrem­ism, pro­lif­er­a­tion of lethal weapons and mate­ri­als and the desta­bi­liz­ing behav­ior of nations such as Iran and North Korea. The strate­gic cal­cu­lus has shift­ed with the rise of new pow­ers in Asia and the dra­mat­ic changes in the Mid­dle East, Cen­tral Asia and North Africa, he not­ed.

All this is occur­ring against the back­drop of bud­get pres­sures. The sec­re­tary reit­er­at­ed his belief that Amer­i­cans do not need to choose between nation­al secu­ri­ty and fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty. Still, DOD will “play its part in help­ing the nation put our fis­cal house in order,” he said.

The strat­e­gy hon­ors four over-arch­ing prin­ci­ples, Panet­ta said: America’s mil­i­tary must remain pre-emi­nent. The strat­e­gy must avoid hol­low­ing out the force, must achieve bal­anced sav­ings, must pre­serve the qual­i­ty of the all-vol­un­teer force and must not break faith with men and women in uni­form or their fam­i­lies.

Giv­en those prin­ci­ples, Panet­ta said, the U.S. mil­i­tary will remain capa­ble across the spec­trum.

From a geo­graph­ic per­spec­tive, he said, while the Asia-Pacif­ic region will be a new focus for the U.S. mil­i­tary, Amer­i­ca will con­tin­ue to work in the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia to ensure sta­bil­i­ty and eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty.

“In Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa, else­where in the world, we will use inno­v­a­tive meth­ods to sus­tain U.S. pres­ence, main­tain­ing key mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions and pur­su­ing new secu­ri­ty part­ner­ships as need­ed,” the sec­re­tary said.

The mil­i­tary will look to devel­op low-cost and small-foot­print approach­es to achiev­ing secu­ri­ty objec­tives, he explained. For ser­vice mem­bers, he added, this means rota­tion­al deploy­ments and mil­i­tary exer­cis­es to main­tain U.S. pres­ence.

But, Panet­ta added, a mil­i­tary must be able to con­front and defeat any aggres­sor and respond to the chang­ing nature of war­fare.

“Our strat­e­gy review con­clud­ed that the Unit­ed States must have the capa­bil­i­ty to fight sev­er­al con­flicts at the same time,” Panet­ta said. “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.

“How we defeat the ene­my may very well vary across con­flicts,” he con­tin­ued. “But make no mis­take, we will have the capa­bil­i­ty to con­front and defeat more than one adver­sary at a time.”

Dempsey said all defense lead­ers worked on the new guid­ance, which he called “a sound strat­e­gy” that ensures the Unit­ed States remains the pre-emi­nent mil­i­tary in the world while pre­serv­ing the tal­ent of the all-vol­un­teer force.

The strat­e­gy takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war, Dempsey said. “It acknowl­edges the imper­a­tive of a glob­al, net­worked and full-spec­trum joint force,” he added.

The gen­er­al empha­sized that the mil­i­tary would be adopt­ing much of the strat­e­gy even in the absence of fis­cal con­straints.

“Even if we did­n’t have few­er resources, we would expect to change,” he said. “As a con­se­quence, it calls for inno­va­tion, for new ways of oper­at­ing and part­ner­ing. It rebal­ances our focus by region and mis­sion.”

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

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