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Obama Announces New Defense Strategy

Obama Announces New Defense Strategy

05 January 2012
President Obama and defense leaders (AP Images)

President Obama spoke January 5 on a new U.S. defense strategy along with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the U.S. defense leadership.

President Obama announced a new defense strategy that emphasizes U.S. strategic interests for a fast-changing world after a decade of war.

“Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” Obama said at a Pentagon briefing January 5. He was flanked by the senior U.S. defense leadership.

The new strategy reflects both a shift in global strategic thinking and the realities of a more austere national budget climate that is mandated by the U.S. Congress. The strategy is based on a comprehensive defense review by civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon, the departments of State, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. intelligence community. Obama ordered the review to guide defense planners on priorities over a decade with planned defense cuts of more than $450 billion.

The strategy “requires all elements of our national power, working together in concert with our allies and our partners,” Obama told reporters at the Pentagon press center. His briefing was the first time a president has released a new defense strategy at the Pentagon, which is the home of the U.S. Department of Defense and the armed services.

Last year, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which mandates reductions in federal spending across the entire government, including defense spending. The measure won support from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Obama said that for the United States to renew its economic strength, it must put its fiscal house in order, and budget reductions are an essential aspect of that process.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in the introduction to the strategy that the United States is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that it is time to shape a joint force for the future. He said the force that emerges will be smaller and leaner, but also agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced.

“It will have cutting-edge capabilities, exploiting our technological, joint and networked advantage. It will be led by the highest quality, battle-tested professionals,” Panetta said.

Echoing the president’s remarks, Panetta said the strategy calls for an armed force that has a global presence emphasizing security interests in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, while still maintaining defense commitments to Europe and NATO, and strengthening alliances and partnerships across other regions.

Obama said the United States will invest in the capabilities that are needed for the future, including: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny access.

Panetta said the new strategy calls for effectively operating in cyberspace, space, and across all domains; and maintaining a safe and effective nuclear deterrent. And the defense strategy makes it clear that the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering threats from far-reaching extremist groups that often capitalize on ungoverned territories.

The strategy acknowledges that no plan can predict “with absolute certainty” how the global security environment will evolve, which means the United States must maintain a broad portfolio of military capabilities.

“Wholesale divestment of the capability to conduct any mission would be unwise, based on historical and projected uses of U.S. military forces and our inability to predict the future,” the strategy says.