Carter: Strategic Guidance is Compass for 2013 Budget
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 – The new defense strategic guidance has set clear priorities in a new decade for those who are finalizing the Defense Department’s 2013 budget request, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said yesterday.
Carter met with reporters after a Pentagon briefing on the guidance by President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Michele A. Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Carter.
“What's new in the strategic guidance are the clear priorities it sets for us as we finalize the budget,” Carter said. “It was the compass by which we steered the budget review leading to the president's budget [request to Congress] for fiscal year 13.”
The DOD 2013 budget request will take shape in the next two or three weeks, and the president’s 2013 budget request is due to Congress in early February.
The guidance, Carter said, describes a rebalancing of the U.S. force structure and investments toward potential challenges in the Asia-Pacific area, persistent challenges in the Middle East, and advanced capabilities for maintaining access and projecting power globally.
It describes changing the shape of the force by releasing the need for ground forces to engage in large and prolonged stability operations, he added, retaining the ability to prevail in more than one conflict at a time and preserving investment in key areas important to the future.
“This does not mean abandoning [counterinsurgency operations] or any such thing, but we do not see the U.S. conducting such [prolonged] operations on its own as likely in the future,” Carter said.
The department “will preserve the know-how and capability to regenerate forces if such a need does arise,” he added. “Wherever we can, we are making provision for such reversibility, as we call it, or readjustment in our plans.”
Reversibility, which is critical at the start of a multiyear transition in an uncertain world, the deputy secretary said, “means that as we make these momentous changes -- these $487 billion worth of changes -- they are causing us of necessity to have to stop certain things, pause certain things, slow down certain things.”
In each case, he added, “we want to, to the extent we can do so, preserve the ability to change course.”
As ground forces are reduced, for example, “we'll do that in such a way that we keep the midgrade officers that would be necessary to support a larger force in the future if we decided to reverse course,” Carter said.
“We can't afford to do that comprehensively,” he added, “but we can afford to do some of that.”
As budget-driven program changes are made, Carter said, “we want to make sure that 10 years, 15 years from now we still have an industrial base that supports our key weapon systems even if we're not able to buy in those areas at the rates or in the volume that we had planned before we were handed this $487 billion cut.”
Preserving investments in science, technology and innovation also is important, he said, “because that's the seed corn of the future.”
“We want to make sure we don't eat the seed corn,” he added.
To accommodate $487 billion in budget cuts over 10 years, Carter said, the department has had to make major changes in every category of the budget.
“When citizens see the magnitude of the task we've had to undertake to meet the $487 billion target, [they’ll] understand why we give the harsh warnings we do about sequestration. We're going very, very far with $487 billion,” he added.
A “sequester” provision of the Budget Control Act imposes another $500 billion to $600 billion in across-the-board budget cuts beginning in January 2013.
“Every strategy does have risks,” Flournoy said. “We think we've managed this in a way that the risks … are acceptable. “But I think there is a point at which, if you went too far down the road of further cuts, that statement would no longer be true.”
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