Washington, January 5, 2012 — President Obama and Secretary Panetta's rollout of
new strategic guidance to the Pentagon today highlighted the need for
the U.S. military to maintain its ability to confront global threats
while shifting and redeploying forces in light of an
expanded focus on the Asia-Pacific and billions of dollars of cuts to the
defense budget. CNAS experts offered the following analysis.
"Today's rollout of new strategic guidance for the Department of Defense marks a clear shift from a decade-long defense paradigm driven by the events of 9/11 and the counter-insurgency wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. It sets a clear new course - "Pivot but Hedge" -aimed at the Asia-Pacific, while maintaining focus on the Middle East, and acknowledges the requirement for U.S. forces to operate and respond to crises globally. Today's document has much to admire, foremost its willingness to set priorities and make choices - not all of which will be fully apparent until the release of the FY13 budget in the coming weeks. But it also fails to address the elephant in the room: whether this strategy can hold up under the weight of further defense cuts, especially the additional $500 billion required by sequestration. Today's report frames a realistic strategy for maintaining the United States as a global superpower, with constrained resources; but further cuts, especially approaching levels required by sequestration, would put this new paradigm at serious risk."
- Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) , Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow and co-author of Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity
"The new strategic guidance nicely balances the demands for continued U.S. global leadership with the reality of fiscal constraints. It correctly reorients U.S. military forces towards Asia, while simultaneously preparing for potential threats from the Middle East. Unlike previous strategy documents, it prioritizes among the missions that U.S. forces will be expected to conduct. Most importantly, the new strategy clearly acknowledges that predictions about the future are rarely correct, and therefore emphasizes the importance of expandability - the ability to regenerate capabilities quickly if the strategic environment changes rapidly."
- Dr. Nora Bensahel, Deputy Director of Studies and Senior Fellow and co-author of Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity
"The Obama administration's new strategic guidance assumes that the Department of Defense (DOD) will absorb $487 billion in cuts to its budget over the next decade. Yet that assumption does not match the current law of the land, sequestration, which will roughly double the amount of cuts. If sequestration occurs, DOD will not be able to execute this new guidance. In that scenario, DOD will likely further reduce capabilities that provide insurance against uncertainty while preserving capabilities that provide protection against the most pressing threats facing the nation. The new guidance seems to identify ground forces and nuclear weapons as two 'insurance' capabilities that DOD might cut further if Congress doesn't undo sequestration."
- Travis Sharp, Bacevich Fellow and co-author of Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in an Age of Austerity
"Deepening American engagement in the dynamic Far East is crucial for long-term U.S. security. During the past decade, while the United States has concentrated on land wars, Beijing has expanded its economic, political, and military influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Now that the United States is enhancing its posture in Asia, China will seek to block what some Chinese have mislabeled as America's "return" to the region. In response to China's counter thrust, the United States should focus on expanding a common agenda with China, while increasing trade with East Asia and investing in a strong Navy. Seeking cooperation from a position of strength is the prudent way to perpetuate an open, rules-based system amidst emerging powers like China."
- Dr. Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program and co-author of the forthcoming CNAS report on U.S. strategy in the South China Sea, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea
"America's allies in the Persian Gulf are worried by a potential U.S. strategic shift to East Asia. They fret the United States will abandon security partnerships in the Middle East as it sees more important priorities elsewhere amidst a resource-constrained environment. Those allies in the Persian Gulf should rest easier after today's press conference, in which the president and the secretary of defense reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf. Europe, not the Middle East, looks to be the big loser in the U.S. defense realignment. But it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the Middle East, which still going through so much turmoil. If the regime in Bahrain, for example, fails to meet the expectations of its democracy-seeking people and continues a brutal crackdown on protesters, U.S. diplomats and military planners will have a political and engineering headache on their hands as they seek other options for the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The U.S. presence in the Middle East may be a constant going forward, but the politics of the region are not."
- Dr. Andrew Exum , Senior Fellow and co-author of the most recent CNAS report on Afghanistan, The Next Fight: Time for a Change of Mission in Afghanistan
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