By Larry Shaughnessy
The phrase is tailor-made for headlines: Pentagon budget cuts. But the new strategy announced Thursday in a rare news conference with both the president and the secretary of defense is not all about subtraction. In some areas there will be an increase in spending.
President Barack Obama called the cuts being considered "difficult ones." But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "As we reduce the overall defense budget, we will protect, and in some cases increase, our investments."
Here's a breakdown of some major changes spelled out in the strategy:
- Special Ops: Special Operations units are troops who carry out the riskiest, most difficult missions, like the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Panetta wants their budget increased. The new strategy says "we will continue to build and sustain tailored capabilities appropriate for counter terrorism and irregular warfare. We will also remain vigilant to threats posed by other designated terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah."
- Asia: Both Obama and Panetta, as they have in the past, promised to increase U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. "We'll be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region," Obama said. That would include 2,500 Marines who will be training on a base in northern Australia.
"We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests," Panetta said.
- Cyberspace: Panetta also made clear that the Pentagon must invest more in cyberdefense. "Modern armed forces cannot conduct high-tempo, effective operations without reliable information and communication networks and assured access to cyberspace."
- Troops: Panetta said Thursday that "the U.S. joint force will be smaller and it will be leaner." Making joint force smaller and leaner will mean the Army and the Marine Corps are facing a cut in their "end strength." Because the Army and Marines did the bulk of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Navy and Air Force have been cutting their end strength for years. That means any significant cuts will come from the ground forces. One way that could happen is with significant cuts in U.S. presence in Europe.
"We are going to have a smaller and leaner force," Panetta said.
- Benefits: Panetta said some savings may come from benefits for the troops. "We want to maintain the quality of benefits that flow to our troops and to their families. ... That's a key red line for us. We're going to maintain those. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to control costs in those areas as well, and that's part of what we will present as part of our budget.
All the ideas put forth Thursday are, so far, just ideas. No specifics have been proposed; that will likely happen after the President's State of the Union address. Then it would go to Congress, where, one might say, "all bets are off."
by Michael V. Hayden, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University. Hayden is an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Very little in life is truly inevitable. When briefing policy makers, I would try to point out that a lot of it wasn't even predictable (at least in any scientific sense). But surely what is happening in Iraq, the increasingly darkening clouds of sectarian division, can hardly be described as unexpected.
In late 2006, as the Bush administration was debating the so-called surge, there were few doubts that five brigades worth of professional combat power could buy down the hellish level of violence then inflicting that country. There was less certainty that even with a reduced level of violence the Iraqi government could leverage that reality to make meaningful political progress.
At one meeting I pointed out that to do so Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would have to "govern beyond his life experience." Having lived for an extensive period in exile, fearing for his life and seeing Baathists bent on his murder at every turn, he was far from a sure bet to be the kind of visionary, inclusive leader that we all thought Iraq needed. The Shiite-dominated Iraqi military and police services were also problematic, as strengthening them without the necessary political development threatened to make what Sunnis and Kurds saw as a predatory force simply more effective in their predations.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister
Police in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, said Thursday they have arrested a senior figure in the Pakistani Taliban and several other alleged terrorists. (Read also: Taliban schizophrenia?)
A police statement said Abdul Qayyum Mehsud and three other men were detained after police received an anonymous tip.
In a series of raids, police also recovered a stockpile of weapons, explosive devices and ammunition, as well as suicide jackets.
Police allege that Mehsud was formerly a bodyguard to the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike in August 2009.
Abdul Qayyum Mehsud is accused of involvement in Pakistani Taliban operations against security forces in northwest Pakistan.
The four suspected terrorists were allegedly involved in planning and executing suicide bombings, kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Karachi, which has become a fund-raising and logistical base for several militant groups. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
The probe by the Pentagon's inspector general comes after questions were raised last summer by Rep. Peter King, R-New York, who demanded investigations by the Department of Defense and CIA inspectors general into what, if any, classified information about special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were leaked to the filmmakers.
King claimed that the White House gave the filmmakers access to top White House and Pentagon officials with knowledge of the bin Laden raid. The filmmakers included Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, who made the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker."
"This alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history," King wrote last August in calling for the investigation.
"Administration officials may have provided filmmakers with details of the raid that successfully killed" bin Laden, he wrote, citing a New York Times report. FULL POST
Authorities found the bodies of 15 Pakistani security personnel in the country's northwest tribal region, officials said Thursday. The security officials had been kidnapped two weeks ago in Tank, an area south of Peshawar near the Afghan border, said Ali Sher, a senior security official. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the killings, said Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the militant group.
CNN freelance reporter and military expert Wajahat S. Khan said this latest incident shows the Taliban is suffering from schizophrenia:
"This latest round of killings indicates a multiple personality disorder if you will. It shows a diverse factionalism that is developing beneath the wider umbrella of the Taliban movement.
On the one hand we have the peace negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the US gaining traction fast. On the other hand on the Pakistani side we now have proof that there are certain elements that want to up the ante and are not interested in talking.
All of this is muddled by people like Mullah Muhammad Omar – the so-called Supreme Commander of the Afghan Taliban – who want the Pakistani Taliban to stop fighting the Pakistani government and join with his ranks to fight the US and other coalition forces operating in Afghanistan in a Jihad.
But it seems that after this incident, something now is obvious: the center of gravity of the radical hard core extremist core that aren’t interested in talking seems to have shifted from Afghanistan across the border to Pakistan."
By Charley Keyes
In Pentagon speak the policy is "2MTW": two major-theater wars. Depending where they line up, observers of the U.S. policy of being ready to fight two major conflicts simultaneously see it as either a myth or a solid-gold guarantee of world peace and U.S. military dominance.
(Read also Battleland blog's take: Mythical Canard?)
When Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta unveils his vision for U.S. military posture on Thursday, the expected decision to end the two-war posture, part of the effort to deal with the billions of dollars in defense cuts, could be one of the most controversial aspects.
Two big reasons: Iran and China.