At a CAP event on January 25, Rudy deLeon, CAP Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy, said that “after an extended Pentagon review of U.S. strategic interests and defense priorities, the Obama administration recently announced its decision to shift the U.S. military toward a more agile and sustainable posture for the 21st century.”
The event, hosted by CAP and the Truman National Security Project, discussed the merits and risks of this strategy shift, and analyzed both how the strategy addresses the strategic and fiscal realities facing the Pentagon and how it will allow the U.S. military to maintain its superiority.
“This shift is centered around two key strategic adjustments,” deLeon explained. “First, an increased reliance on U.S. naval and air superiority, to project power around the globe but particularly in the Asia-Pacific, and then second, a reduction in the size of ground forces back to pre-9/11 levels.”
Moderated by deLeon, the panel discussion included contributions from Michael Breen, vice president of the Truman National Security Project; Jim Arkedis, director of the national security project at the Progressive Policy Institute; and CAP Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb.
To begin the discussion, deLeon asked each guest to speak on the topic at hand. Korb began by saying that, contrary to popular belief, “the defense budget is not being cut.” Rather, he said, the budget is rising, perhaps at a lesser rate, but it is still rising.
He said the budget needs to be cut, and that it’s important to be aware of costs and make decisions about costs—even if they are difficult ones involving personnel. “It’s good [the federal budget is] going down,” said Korb, “because it’s going to force you to make tough decisions.”
Breen agreed and said, “Strategy really ought to drive budgets, not the other way around. We ought to be budgeting for defense based on the global threat environment, America’s role in the world, and a sober assessment of what resources it will take to meet our goals.” This time around, it seems that the government is doing that.
One of the environmental changes that Breen discussed was “a hyperconnected global environment” of economics, terrorism, and military powers. He said that this calls for “a national security budget, that includes not only DOD but also includes state diplomatic capabilities, development, democracy promotion, intelligence capabilities—the full range of tools that America needs in order to achieve its foreign policy goals in this new century.”
In the same vein, Arkedis said that America faces a different world than it did before. In order for the U.S. military to meet its new challenges, he said, the country must account for “the receding tide of war; the evolving challenges [of] the global commons of sea, outer space, [and] cyberspace; antiaccess/area denial [technology, which is a key part of China’s plan to counter U.S. influence in East Asia]; and continued threats from terrorism and instability in the Middle East, Asia, and North Korea.”
Breen also said that intelligence, not concentrated manpower, is necessary to fight a “decentralized, 21st century network like al-Qaida.” He said that intelligence should come from both people and technology, and that instead of requiring big budget investments, it requires more effective training and “task organization.”
Overall, the panelists applauded the military changes proposed by the Obama administration and agreed that the United States needs to focus on meeting the challenges of the 21st century.