"In an unusual appearance at the Pentagon briefing room on Thursday, Mr. Obama outlined a new national defense strategy [...]"
"Pentagon officials made it clear that the department’s priorities in coming years would be financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
From yesterday's NYT, FYI,
Obama Puts His Stamp on Strategy for a Leaner Military
Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama after speaking about military strategy at the Pentagon on Thursday.
By ELISABETH BUMILLER and THOM SHANKER
Published: January 5, 2012
WASHINGTON — President Obama has for the first time put his own stamp on an all-encompassing American military policy by turning from the grinding ground wars that he inherited from the Bush administration and refocusing on what he described as a smaller, more agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.
In an unusual appearance at the Pentagon briefing room on Thursday, Mr. Obama outlined a new national defense strategy driven by three realities: the winding down of a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a fiscal crisis demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon budget cuts and a rising threat from China and Iran.
A fourth reality, not mentioned in the briefing room, was Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign and the chorus of Republican presidential candidates who have sought to portray him as decimating the Pentagon budget and being weak in his response to Iran.
Mr. Obama, who spoke surrounded by a tableau of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in dress uniforms and with chests full of medals, underscored the national security successes of his administration — the ending of the Iraq war, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya — before declaring that the United States would downsize to a smaller ground force, get rid of “outdated cold war-era systems” and step up investments in intelligence-gathering and cyberwarfare.
He also said, in what seemed aimed at the Republicans as well as the Defense Department officials in the room, that “our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.”
Despite the pageantry, many elements of the new strategy had a “back to the future” quality and echoed the goals of a smaller but more technically proficient military advanced by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld before the Sept. 11 attacks. Those plans were soon overtaken by the need to build up ground forces for the kind of conventional wars that the Pentagon had not envisioned a decade ago.
“Conventionally it makes perfect sense to avoid fighting worst-case wars,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But the 20th century, and even the 21st century, is a warning about how well anybody can do long-term forecasting. I have listened for decades to, ‘This time we’re going to be more efficient, this time we’re going to use technology.’ ”
Pentagon officials acknowledged the risks in a strategy that declares that American ground forces will no longer be large enough to conduct prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said the Army must shrink to 490,000 soldiers over the next decade, from 570,000 — and so said they were prepared to change course if required.
In a briefing after Mr. Obama’s remarks, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the new strategy embraced “reversibility” that would allow the Pentagon to avoid “departmental hubris.” In other words, the Defense Department would begin a slow build-down of the Army that could be reversed and, in a national security emergency, it could order up a massive mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves.
Other analysts said the strategy appeared good but that without the details — specifically, what kind of budget cuts it would result in — it was hard to judge. The specific cuts are to be made public in coming weeks.
“It’s kind of an incomplete,” said Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a military expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “It’s like when you jump out of an aircraft with a parachute, the first five seconds are ‘so far, so good.’ But you’re still waiting for the chute to open.”
White House and Pentagon officials said that Mr. Obama spent a substantial amount of time with military officials on the new strategy, which they defined as six meetings he had on the strategy with military leaders and regional commanders between September and late December. Although other presidents have been deeply immersed in military policy, for Mr. Obama the time commitment appears to signal an interest in a policy that turns the page from President George W. Bush’s wars.
“Certainly it indicates a level of interest on the president’s part, over and above what we’ve seen from him before,” Mr. Krepinevich said.
The new strategy document finally defines away the Defense Department’s historic requirement to have the ability to fight and win two wars at once — a measure that one official said “has been on life-support for years.”
The strategy released under Mr. Obama in 2010 said the military was responsible for “maintaining the ability to prevail against two capable nation-state aggressors.”
In contrast, the strategy released Thursday said the military must be able to fight one war, but is responsible only for “denying the objectives of — or imposing unacceptable costs on — an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.”
Senior Pentagon officials said that viewing military requirements through something as static as the two-war model had become outdated, and that the true measurement was whether the Pentagon could field a force capable of carrying out a wide range of military actions to protect the nation’s interests.
Pentagon officials made it clear that the department’s priorities in coming years would be financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
A version of this article appeared in print on January 6, 2012, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: A Strategy for a Leaner Military, With Obama Taking the Lead.