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American Forces Press Service

Guidance Guards Against All Threats, Officials Say

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 – New military strategy guidance unveiled at the Pentagon today does not change the Defense Department’s longstanding commitment to prevail against any adversary anywhere, top officials said.

President Barack Obama joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Pentagon briefing to present the 10-year plan titled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”

The plan drops the wording of a longstanding DOD paradigm for the military to be capable of fighting and prevailing in two land wars simultaneously. The new guidance stresses an agile and flexible force capable of responding to disparate and complicated threats.

“We will be fully prepared to deter and defeat aggression,” it says. “Even if we are committed to a large-scale operation in one theater, we will be able to deny an opportunistic adversary the ability to achieve its objectives in another theater.”

“Make no mistake, we will have the capability to confront and defeat more than one adversary at a time,” Panetta said at the briefing.

Dempsey said the issue should not be framed as whether the United States will fight its enemies, but how.

“That two-war paradigm has been a bit of an anchor, frankly, in trying to help us figure out the future,” he said. “We have to figure out the how without tying ourselves to paradigms that are residuals of the Cold War.”

The guidance directs the military to be able to conduct operations “across the full spectrum,” the chairman said. “It’s a matter of scope, scale, risk, reversibility -- those are issues we continue to work on as we work on this living document.”

That principle is not new, Panetta and Dempsey said.

“The structure for making defense decisions always has been, can the United States confront more than one enemy and be able defeat them?” Panetta said. “That remains the fundamental question: can we confront and defeat any enemy that confronts us? And the answer to that question, with the joint force we are creating here, is that we can.

“The nature of warfare today is that as you engage, you have to look at how you do it, what forces you use, and what exactly is involved,” he continued. “The reality is we could face a land war in Korea and at the same time, threats in the Strait of Hormuz. We have the ability with this joint force to be able to do that -- to confront them and be able to win -- and that’s what counts.”

The strategic guidance is the result of a review Obama requested to guide long-term military budget decisions. With budgets expecting to decrease by more than $400 billion – or perhaps as much as $1 trillion – over 10 years, administration officials have insisted that the cuts be done strategically to not “hollow out” the force. Pentagon leaders would not discuss specific cost-cutting measures, which they said will be revealed when Obama sends his budget request to Congress in the coming weeks.

Budget cuts will not come at the expense of U.S. strategic interests, Obama and other leaders said at today’s briefing, naming the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East as areas of top importance.

The military will increase its institutional weight and focus on enhanced presence, power projection, and deterrence in Asia-Pacific, Panetta said. “This region is growing in importance to the future of the United States’ economy and our national security,” he added, and will require improved U.S. military technologies and freedom of action.

At the same time, the military will place a premium on maintaining a presence in the Middle East to deter aggression and support political progress, Panetta said, as it continues to strengthen partnerships with key allies around the world.

The military also will continue its commitments to Europe while adapting and evolving its presence in Europe and continuing to share in NATO responsibilities, the secretary said.

The military will use “innovative methods” -- including low-cost and small-scale operations, rotational deployments and exercises -- to maintain its presence in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, Panetta said.

Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, said at a later briefing that the past 10 years of war has necessitated “pioneer approaches” around the world that will continue with small teams and strategic foreign military sales, among other things.

“We’re going to stay engaged, we’re going to keep our relationships and we’re going to keep investing,” she said.

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