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Obama to Unveil New Military Shaped by Budget Cuts

January 05, 2012

VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil on Thursday a new defense plan reflecting billions of dollars in budget cuts and ending a decades-old strategy of being prepared to fight two wars at once.

The president will make a rare appearance at the Pentagon to join Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his joint chiefs of staff to outline this strategic review.

Several U.S. news outlets are reporting that the strategic review is expected to emphasize a U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region as a result of Washington's growing concerns over Beijing's rapidly expanding military. Another prominent part of the review is a strategy to counter Iran.

Panetta will announce plans to cut troop numbers, reduce civilian staff, and delay several new weapons programs, including construction of a new aircraft carrier. He also wants to find ways to cut personnel costs by reviewing military pensions and health care spending for troops and their families.

Some news reports say troop levels could be cut by 10 percent, mostly from the Army and Marines. Reports says this reduction could include soldiers stationed in Europe and some troops focused on counter-insurgency efforts in countries like Afghanistan.

The new strategy has many problems, according to former U.S. defense official Frank Gaffney, who says it could keep the United States from being able to simultaneously deal with any potential conflicts, including with China and Iran.

"It may may not be up to us how many wars we have to fight," Gaffney said. "Enemies who perceive us unable to deal with more than one problem at a time may decide to collaborate and work in a simultaneous fashion that will simply over tax us. And worse, the perception that we are so weak as to be unable to deal with that sort of danger invites it."

The Defense Department faces cuts of at least $450 billion, about 8 percent of its budget, over the next decade. However, additional cuts, totaling more than $500 billion, may be possible as Congress and President Barack Obama seek ways to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.

The Pentagon budget for this year is about $530 billion.

Many businesses, such as weapons and aircraft makers, are expected to feel the cuts.

On Wednesday, one of the world's largest aircraft makers, Boeing, said it plans to close a plant in the Midwestern state of Kansas next year, in part because of changing market needs. Among other things, the plant converts civilian aircraft to military use for the Pentagon. About 2,000 employees at the plant would lose their jobs.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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