Pentagon's strategy more than cuts
.S. Navy SEALS conduct a fast-rope insertion demonstration. SEALS are Special Operations Forces which is one part of the DoD budget that may increase under Sec. Panetta's new plan. (U.S. Navy photo)
January 5th, 2012
06:38 PM ET

Pentagon's strategy more than cuts

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."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Air Force • Army • Asia • Australia • Budget • Congress • Defense Spending • Marines • Military • Nuclear • Obama • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense • Special Operations Forces • Terrorism
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. rotorhead1871

    more to follow.....we a long way from anything concrete....

    January 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  2. Dreamer96

    "Observations from a small Naval observatory" I think that was the written back in the late 1970, 1978-79, by a Pentagon Naval officer..ignored by the Pentagon..but warned that in the future we would need more, better special ops teams to fight small battles with terrorist groups..not large armies like the Soviet Union..right idea, but years to early...

    January 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  3. a guy

    I always find it slightly depressing when the military spending gets cut, but at least we're working on controlled solutions to retain out military dominance and still decrease our spending. Just about everyone needs to save what they can now days; and like it or not the military isn't exempt from that.

    January 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Reply
  4. Chris

    Point of Order: That is not a fast rope insertion... please check your facts

    January 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Reply
    • rotorhead1871

      10 and 10: ten knots at 10 are correct, they are jumping a gotta watch the civilians....

      January 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
  5. Sayan Majumdar

    @TJ, Special Forces are trained to accomplish “mission impossible”, pivotal missions (more than) once accomplished paved way for securing victory in key battles and ultimately wars.

    Special Forces have rightfully assumed more importance in the era of Low Intensity Conflicts.

    No wonder United States SEAL, Green Berets, Russian Spetsnaz GRU, British SAS, Indian MARCOS, German GSG 9 besides Israeli Commandos are highly revered in military community.


    January 6, 2012 at 7:11 am | Reply
    • michaelfury

      You forgot these guys:

      January 6, 2012 at 7:43 am | Reply
  6. TJ

    How many wars have "special" forces won? Oh, yeah, NONE.

    While I agree the services need to be paired down, reducing the levels of soldiers, sailors, and Marines to pre 9-11 levels could be done over the next four to five years in retirements, end of enlisted service obligations, etc..

    Then spend the money on increasing training quality and tempo of the ground pounders to make them more flexible and responsive to asymmetrical warfare situations, instead of wasting even more money on "special" forces.

    While killing Bin Laden was a good thing for the morale of the USA (because, after all, we love to kill bad guys), we wasted a tremendous amount of money, risked exposure of secret technologies, and created more than a little hate and discontent with our supposed ally with our little special forces stunt, all for killing one mole in an endless game of whack-a-mole.

    We need to toss all the non-lethal weapons development, and concentrate on making our troops the scariest guys on the planet. We need to stop training troops to win hearts and minds and participate in "nation building" and just let the world know that if the US has to bring our forces to bear, it will be to destroy the enemy (providing it's not phantom WMD, if you please), and leave the survivors to rebuild their own nation.

    In short, we need a leaner, meaner conventional armed force capable or terrorizing terrorists (like that? :> ), or carrying out large scale maneuver warfare against similarly armed opponents. We don't need, and can't afford, a Pentagon that goes off the deep end for "special" forces while leaving regular troops inadequately trained and equipped to manage large scale conflicts.

    Just as a reminder, How many wars have "special" forces won?

    January 6, 2012 at 12:07 am | Reply
    • Sodoff Wanker

      What an ignorant comment. It's what the capabilities bring to the fight that is important. SF don't win wars, they present options to battlefield commanders to conduct special tasks that regular military forces are neither trained nor equipped for. But for our current conflicts, SOF operators have proven to be essential in executing COIN. The possibility for a large conventional war (namely with China and Russia) is so low it doesn't make sense to keep arming and training as if this will ever be the case. If it were to occur, such a conflict would be over very quickly.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:39 am | Reply
    • sielingfan

      Two words for you, TJ. Desert One. Google it if you must.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply

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