New Military Strategy Calls for Smaller Army

By Elisabeth Bumiller; Thom Shanker | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

New Military Strategy Calls for Smaller Army


Elisabeth Bumiller; Thom Shanker, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined a broad new U.S. military strategy, 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 U.S. ground forces will no longer be large enough to conduct prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an unusual appearance in the Pentagon briefing room, Mr. Obama put his mark on a military strategy that moves away from the grinding wars he inherited from the Bush administration and relies more on naval and air power in the Pacific and the Strait of Hormuz as a counterbalance to China and Iran.

"Now, we're turning the page on a decade of war," Mr. Obama said in his remarks. He called it "a moment of transition" that allowed him to look ahead and determine the kind of force -- a smaller one, he said -- that the nation needs in the future.

Mr. Obama's strategy embraces hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the military, making it an awkward codicil to the uneasy relationship he has shared with the military since his first days in office. In a letter accompanying the new strategy, the president wrote, "We must put our fiscal house in order here at home and renew our long-term economic strength."

But in an election year when he has been under assault from Republican presidential candidates for cutting the military budget and for what they say is his weak response to Iranian threats, Mr. Obama also said the United States would "avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, when our military was left ill-prepared for the future."

To that end, the president wrote, his administration will continue to invest in counterterrorism, intelligence gathering, cyberwarfare and countering nuclear weapons proliferation.

Mr. Obama arrived at the Pentagon early Thursday to describe the new strategy with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Officials said it was the first time in history that a president had held a news conference at the Pentagon.

He said the country needed to remain prepared. "We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past -- after World War II, after Vietnam -- when our military was left ill-prepared for the future," he said. "So, yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know -- the United States is going to maintain our military superiority."

Mr. Panetta has concluded that the Army must 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. …

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