January 05, 2012

CNAS Experts Assess New Pentagon Strategic Guidance

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

"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

- 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


Hard Choices: Responsible Defense in
an Age of Austerity
, by Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA
(Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel and Travis Sharp, October 2011

The Next Fight: Time for a Change of
Mission in Afghanistan
, by Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA
(Ret.), Dr. Andrew M. Exum and Matthew Irvine, December 2011

Driving in the Dark: Ten
Propositions About Prediction and Natural Security
, by The
Honorable Dr. Richard J. Danzig, October 2011

America's Cyber Future: Security and
Prosperity in the Information Age
, edited by Kristin M. Lord and
Travis Sharp, May 2011

The Sacrifice Ahead: The 2012
Defense Budget
, by Travis Sharp, February 2011

Vision Meets Reality: 2010 QDR and
2011 Defense Budget,
by Travis Sharp, February 2010


"Panetta to Offer Strategy for Cutting Military Budget," The New York Times, by
Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, January 2, 2011

"How the pending defense cuts could play out," Army Times, by Lance M.
Bacon, December 3, 2011

"How to Cut the Defense Budget Responsibly," Foreign Affairs, by
Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel and Travis
Sharp, November 2, 2011

"Hard Choices for Ground Forces," Defense News, by
Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel and Travis
Sharp, October 17, 2011

Click here
for more news and commentary from CNAS experts.


below to view CNAS Command Post video episodes featuring commentary from CNAS
experts on the defense budget:

"Command Post: How Can We Avoid a 'Hollow Military' This Time

"Command Post: Can We Cut Pentagon Spending Enough by
Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse?"

"Command Post: Ok...I'll Bite: Why is Cutting the Defense Budget
So Tough?"

"Command Post: What's this 'Super Committee' and Why is the
Pentagon So Scared of It?"

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for a New American Security
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