NY Times – President Obama outlined a broad new military strategy for the United States on Thursday, one that refocuses the armed forces on threats in Asia and the Pacific region, continues a strong presence in the Middle East but makes clear that American ground forces will no longer be large enough to conduct prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US is dropping the “able to fight and win two wars at the same time” doctrine.
The military be able to carry out two sustained ground wars at one time, as was required under past national military strategies.
Instead, the military would be required to fight and win one war, spoil the military aspirations of another adversary in a different region of the world, and all the while be able to conduct humanitarian relief operations and other contingencies, like continuing counterterrorism missions and enforcing a no-fly zone.
Mr. Panetta has concluded that the Army has to shrink even below current targets, dropping to 490,000 soldiers over the next decade, but that the United States should not cut any of its 11 aircraft carriers, according to Pentagon officials and military analysts briefed on the secretary’s budget proposals.
The new military strategy is driven by at least $450 billion in Pentagon budget cuts over the next decade. An additional $500 billion in cuts could be ordered if Congress follows through on plans for deeper reductions.
As part of the new reality, Mr. Panetta is expected to propose cuts in coming weeks to next-generation weapons, including delays in purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, one of the most expensive weapons programs in history.
It looks pretty easy to cut back $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
It remains to be seen whether the Pentagon will face an 8 percent cut in planned spending over 10 years — about $488 billion out of some $6 trillion — that Panetta has already planned for, or if it will be hit with an additional $500 billion in across-the-board cuts triggered by the failure of the congressional super committee to reach a deficit-reduction deal. Either way, the military will have to do more with less.
The $6 trillion in planned defense spending over the next ten years does not include the cost of operations in Afghanistan and other places.