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Ear to the Ground

Obama Signals a Shift in U.S. Military Strategy

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Posted on Jan 5, 2012
AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Obama speaks at the Pentagon on Thursday. With him are, from left, Army Secretary John McHugh, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

On Thursday, President Obama dropped in at the Pentagon to outline some sizable changes he’s making to America’s defense strategy in this last year of his first elected term. His plans will no doubt lay him open to criticism on the campaign trail, but at least it seems to make room for the possibility of focusing funds on the home front.  —KA

The New York Times:

President Obama outlined a broad new military strategy for the United States on Thursday, one that refocuses the armed forces on threats in Asia and the Pacific region, continues a strong presence in the Middle East but makes clear that American ground forces will no longer be large enough to conduct prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an unusual appearance in the Pentagon briefing room, Mr. Obama put his mark on a military strategy that moves away from the grinding wars he inherited from the Bush administration and relies more on naval and air power in the Pacific and the Strait of Hormuz as a counterbalance to China and Iran.

Mr. Obama’s strategy embraces hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the military, making it an awkward codicil to the uneasy relationship he has shared with the military since his first days in office.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, January 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

“The 200-ton gorilla in the room is that with the wars winding down, the military
budget SHOULD be decreased.”

How very accurate.
IF - the wars were winding down. 
They will wind down only in re-election rhetoric.

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By chris massey lynch, January 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Talking of Defense and the government ... Can i point towards this clip of the CIA Asset Susan Lindauer Can Now Speaks 10 years after 2001 LINK;  I think its only fair for this to be watched ,before you make any statements about susan Lindauer.. thanks

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By jones, January 6, 2012 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Right-o.  The DoD is subject to increases in productivity due to automation just like the private sector.  Rumsfeld saw this.  Furthermore, with the advent of technologies like drones, the fighting force (and medical benefits, combat pay, support personnel, etc.) and therefore the costs associated with exercising military power can be cut back.

The 200-ton gorilla in the room is that with the wars winding down, the military budget SHOULD be decreased.

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thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, January 6, 2012 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

“This “Defense Strategic Review” sounds nearly identical to the findings and reforms of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department”

Ah yes. The man himself, the prophet.

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, January 6, 2012 at 12:21 am Link to this comment

Purely a campaign stunt, slowing the growth is not cutting.  This reminds me of his victory lap for “ending” the Iraq atrocity when he failed to get the Iraqis to change their mind about endless unaccountable occupation.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, January 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

This “Defense Strategic Review” sounds nearly identical to the findings and reforms of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department (revisit President Bush’s 2001 statements regarding his decision to hire Donald Rumsfeld). 

After the last Defense Strategic Review Sec. Def. Rumsfeld called for smaller, faster, agile forces supported by smaller, cheaper, drones and “smart” explosive vehicles.  All of this, according to Rumsfeld, would lead to a greatly reduced ‘footprint’ around the world. - Rumsfeld was almost certainly attempting to prove such could be successful in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Interesting how these Rumsfeld reforms in 21st century warfare are being publicly rolled out just as Mr. Obama begins his re-election campaign.  Or, as the President campaigned today, “Turning the page on a decade of war”. - It’s a smart, albeit cynical, political strategy.  People such as gerard, leefeller, kerry and Shenon will believe this to be a spark of the Obama Enlightenment they sought three years ago.  They will surmise that military spending cuts are in their near future.  All thanks to the politically savvy, rhetorically gifted, messiah.

I’ll say this for Rumsfeld.  He stood up to the generals with his belief that the military is subordinate to civilian control.


Rumsfeld’s battle With The Generals.  Excerpts and a few links.

Rumsfeld Widely Criticized for US Defense Reform Program
Monday, May 21, 2001

Rumsfeld-Style Military Reform
June 8, 2001

Transforming the Military
By Donald H. Rumsfeld
May/June 2002

Rumsfeld Rules With Iron Fist
The Defense Secretary’s Drive For Reform Has Alienated Many Pentagon Officials.
January 12, 2003| Orlando Sentinal

Rumsfeld Reforms Spark Generals’ Ire
Oxford Analytica 04.20.06, 6:00 AM ET

Rejecting “transformation.” The program of military reforms known as “force transformation” has proved most controversial within the Army. Transformation has required it to cut personnel, incorporate controversial new weapons and transport systems, and radically reconfigure its global basing structure—while simultaneously assuming an onerous operational burden in Iraq.

Rumsfeld’s Revolution at Defense
Brookings Policy Brief Series | # 142
July 2005

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, January 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment

Your accuracy reminds me of the special staff assigned to find the several trillion that
had disappeared in Pentagon book-keeping.  The same staff that were murdered by
the explosions after the Tomahawk made the little hole.  After the murder of which staff,
little more has been heard about the “missing” trillions.  I suspect Tim would have found
a large amount of the trillions associated with residents of a ranch in Texas.

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By Jim Michie, January 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh yeah! Right! It’s electioneering time folks, so he tells us in one breath that he’s gonna cut the obscenely bloated War budget while at the same time “promising” we’ll have the strongest war machine ever. One thing for sure, he’s got the strongest propaganda machine in the world.  Lies and the lying liars who tell them!

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By jones, January 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“American ground forces will no longer be large enough to conduct prolonged, large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like those in Iraq and Afghanistan”

They weren’t during Iraq and Afghanistan.  A quarter of troops over there were from the National Guard.  The military used its “stop loss” policy to enact a backdoor draft.  The military lowered enlistment requirements and years later was granting waivers for criminal convictions.  Obama’s decision to overturn “don’t ask don’t tell” wasn’t about civil rights, it was about meeting recruitment quotas.

$450 billion in defense cuts over a decade isn’t as big a deal as Washington makes it out to be (though it may be a big deal for certain defense contractors).  By GDP the armed forces are 1/3 of the federal budget.  Add to this the “black budget” and we’re not really looking at all that drastic of a cut back.  In FY 2000, the Office of the Inspector General found $1.1 trillion worth of unsupported accounting entries in its audit of the Department of Defense budget.  This is before Trillion with a T entered the lexicon nearly a decade later.

These cuts are a smoke-screen.  These people are gearing up for another Cold War.

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By gerard, January 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

“The defense secretary has made clear that troop reductions should be carried out carefully, and over several years, so that combat veterans are not flooding into a tough employment market and military families do not feel that the government is breaking trust after a decade of sacrifice, officials said.”
  That’s the key problem, as quoted from the article.
And not only “... so that combat vets, etc…” but so that those employed in defense industries will not all be thrown out of work at once—which would literally produce a crisis.
  What’s needed right now is the cooperation of Lockheed Martin et al to find non-murderous ways of producing things that don’t kill people.  Can they meet the challenge?  Or will they take the easy way
and continue to feed off military contracts?
  Time to raise the moral question nationwide.  But who will do it?

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, January 5, 2012 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

Cutting back on the bloated military is a good thing, from what I understand our military budget is larger then the rest of the world combined, I may be wrong on that, but it is quite large!

Repulcians will use this for some of their normal shrill anti Obama claptrap theoretic kabuki crap!

Ron Paul should embrace this, with open arms, (pun on arms?)  of course it will not be near enough cuts for him!

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