In a rare visit to the Pentagon, Obama told media that the military was facing a “moment of transition” as conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan end or draw down.
“As the conflicts end, the U.S. military will regroup and focus on broader challenges, especially as they pertain to the Asia-Pacific region,” Obama was quoted in a Pentagon press release. He added that the U.S. would also work to maintain progress in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.
“We are supporting political and economic reform and deepening partnerships to ensure regional security,” he added.
The first evidence of the new strategy is expected when the Pentagon sends its fiscal year 2013 budget submission to Congress. It is expected to show at least the beginning of sharp declines of U.S. forces in Europe and a concerted move to curtail rising personnel costs.
The defense budget will decline $450 billion over the next ten years with cuts of another $600 billion possible if Congress does not take action to reverse reductions mandated in legislation last August.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said winding down a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq is an appropriate time to re-evaluate the role of U.S. forces abroad.
“From an operational perspective,” Kirby is quoted in a Reuters account, “it’s an opportune time to look at what the U.S. military is doing and what it should be doing or should be preparing to do over the next 10 to 15 years.”
The Pentagon also released unclassified Defense Strategic Guidance on Thursday that offered broadly worded objectives and priorities.
It declared most European countries to be “producers of security rather than consumers of it,” giving the U.S. opportunity to “rebalance the U.S. military investment.”
The guidance listed the following primary missions:
• Counter terrorism and irregular warfare
• Deter and defeat aggression
• Project power despite anti-access, area denial challenges
• Counter weapons of mass destruction
• Operate effectively in cyberspace and space
• Maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent
• Defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities
• Provide a stabilizing presence abroad
• Conduct stability and counterinsurgency operations
• Conduct humanitarian, disaster relief and other operations
To satisfy those missions, the Pentagon document said a number of guiding principles must be employed including the maintenance of a “broad portfolio of military capabilities.”
The planning called for distinguishing between investments that should be made today and those that can be deferred, with the ability to make changes as conditions change.
The document stressed that maintaining a “ready and capable force” was paramount even as overall capacity is reduced.
Also stressed was the need to “reduce the cost of doing business” through “finding further efficiencies in overhead and headquarters” and “other support activities.” The directive said faith would be kept with those who serve as reductions in the growth of compensation and health care costs are made.
Other objectives include an examination of the proper mix of active and reserve components and the maintenance of an adequate industrial base and investment in science and technology.