• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Obama’s New Defense Strategy: Less of the Same

    The President traveled across the river to the Pentagon today to preview a new defense strategy to chase down falling defense budgets.

    Obama was quick to declare that the “tide of war” is receding for the United States and our military. But what he left out is that it is not always up to us when we engage in conflict or respond to terrorism here at home or prevent hostilities from getting worse in key oil shipping lanes, for example. Just because Washington announces truth does not mean that it is so.

    The President went on to say, rightly, that America cannot afford to be unprepared for the future. But cutting America’s active duty ground forces to pre-9/11 levels achieves exactly that. The Army shed much of its counterinsurgency capabilities after the Vietnam War in the determination that those types of conflicts were a thing of the past. Iraq and Afghanistan proved otherwise. Keeping the modestly sized ground forces of today offer the flexibility to respond to unforeseen challenges in a way a smaller force simply cannot.

    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke of how this defense drawdown is different than the past when threats went away. In reality, the threats did not ever go away; rather, they changed or evolved—or policymakers simply chose to ignore them in the hopes of cashing in a peace dividend.

    Panetta spoke of ongoing challenges the military must face, including the proliferation of lethal weapons and materials, destabilizing behavior of enemies, the rise of new powers across Asia, and changes in the Middle East (e.g., the Arab Spring).

    But no one disputed these challenges before the newest defense strategy was unveiled. Over a year ago, the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel clearly identified five global trends facing the military:

    1. Radical Islamist extremism and the threat of terrorism,
    2. The rise of new global powers in Asia,
    3. Continued struggle for power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East,
    4. An accelerating global competition for resources, and
    5. Persistent problems from failed and failing states.

    The Pentagon claims to make a much smaller military still capable under the banner of “reversibility.” As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has argued, the U.S. must not find itself in a position where it can do only one thing at once. This is obvious.

    Pentagon leaders plan to skirt the lack of capabilities through an increased reliance on National Guard and reserve forces—the same men and women who are worn out from a decade of multiple tours overseas. DoD plans to assume more risk in the active component and the capabilities that are available immediately in the event of conflict or crisis. Examples include heavy armor brigades and tactical fighter wings.

    Another tenet of the “pivot” to Asia is the transition from a military focused on manpower-intensive counterinsurgency to the light footprint doctrine of counterterrorism. Panetta has mentioned unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, and special forces as key areas that must be protected from budget cuts. They may even get more money.

    General Dempsey has called for the greater “integration of general operating forces and special operating forces.” The challenge is that special operations forces are, by definition, not scaleable. It is also unclear that a small group of highly skilled operators can sustain an operational tempo that grows every year. Also, special forces command relies upon these same forces from which to pull operators and support forces.

    For all the questions about the trade-offs needed for the Pacific “pivot” to work, such a shift might be smart planning were it not zero-sum. The irony not addressed is that transforming the American military arsenal from one designed to deter and fight wars with assured access to one designed to excel when access is challenged will not be cheap. It will definitely cost more than President Obama is planning on today.

    It is not enough to simply move more forces to Asia. The U.S. should invest strategically and focus on buying platforms and developing cutting-edge capabilities that will be important in the future—not merely those we have relied on in the past.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Obama’s New Defense Strategy: Less of the Same

    1. West Texan says:

      Congress can create whatever military size and capability they choose. Doesn't really matter what the president and his defense secretary want. They get to direct what's available to them.

    2. Anthony Middleton says:

      i agree with Ms. Eaglen, and i would go on to say that our base Military budget should be increased to four percent of GDP, we should fight to win the war in Afghanistan, and we should increase the size of our air force and navy.

    3. Tourville says:

      http://rt.com/usa/news/obama-panetta-pentagon-str

      Obama’s new Pentagon strategy: strip benefits and buy more weapons.

      How is it that you miss his going back on his Word to Our Military as to providing them
      the Medical Care Needed after 10 years of War?

      You think it's something WE should backslide on as Washington GUTS the Nation of it's Historic National Wealth Generating Capacities . . large domestic Manufacturing for Export Sales?

      You've removed our Nations Export Markets by sending the Manufacturing Plants to Foreign Governments thus stripping Our American Workforces Export Markets .. thus De Funding Our Consumer Economy – De Funding Our Nations Government at All Levels. . what Nation do you Geniuses belong to ?

    4. Jill Maine says:

      Clinton gutted the military, and now BHO is gutting the military. How are these fools considered so smart? I think America is going to be toast soon. I wonder which muslim country BHO is handing us over to?

    5. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Now, do we yet understand why Obama approved the "supercommittee" that was invented to never reach any sort of agreement and fail. Now we know.

    6. Leon Lundquist says:

      Gosh! This is sooo hard to figure out! A Third Generation Communist usurps the White House in conspiracy with hundreds of self avowed Communists. And now they are going to "improve" our Military. Do the exact opposite of what Obama is doing. That would be in the Interests of the American People. 40,000 new regulations and 10,000 that Cost over a million dollars a year. Hey! Look! The Soviets are winning the Cold War in the end, from Inside the American Government. The didn't get elected, the lied their way in.

    7. Glenn Bergen says:

      I believe the proposed defense budget is a downward spiral; we are returning from Iraq with worn out equipment. The national guard units are going to be re-equipped with modern Stryker brigade equipment and the Army Reserve units, to a lesser extent. If events in European budgetary continue in their EU agreements; then the acquisition of new aircraft , such as the F-35 JSF will get VERY exspensive for the US military when EU partners opt out of the joint agreements, when Italy can't afford to purchase the F-35. If the target goal by Obama is 4% of GDP for DoD budget, we've got problems. Remember The Brits ran out of ammunition, 3 weeks into the Lybian campaign with their MoD budget was 3% of GDP.

    8. RAH says:

      Not only does BHO want to destroy our standing in the world he wants to gut our defense spending in order to maintain his entitlement programs.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×