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Pentagon rethinking blank checks and new strategies

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/12/94058/pentagon-rethinking-value-of-major.html

excerpt:

“…Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recognized the changed thinking in an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

“The United States is unlikely to repeat a mission on the scale of those in Afghanistan and Iraq anytime soon — that is, forced regime change followed by nation building under fire,” he wrote. More likely, he said, are “scenarios requiring a familiar tool kit of capabilities, albeit on a smaller scale.”

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently ordered a review of how the military should train and equipment itself in the future, acknowledging that it’s shifting course.

“The chairman wants to look at the capability and size of the military” after Iraq and Afghanistan, spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said. “No one has codified the requirements.”

The economic downturn is driving much of the change within the Pentagon. Military spending has risen steadily since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

When former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived at the Pentagon in 2001, the Defense Department budget was $291.1 billion, or $357.72 billion in today’s dollars. The current budget is $708 billion for defense costs and funding the wars.

Pentagon planners say budget cuts are inevitable, and that the change in strategy will help make them.

“We now have to figure out what works. We used to have a practically unlimited budget. Not anymore,” said a senior military officer, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly. “There is no more room to experiment.”

After most major conflicts in U.S. history, defense spending has dropped to prewar levels within two years, accounting for inflation, said James Quinlivan, a military analyst at the RAND Corp. The ends of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t likely to make spending drop that quickly, Quinlivan said.

With no clear defeat of groups such as al Qaida, defense spending is likely to remain higher than it was before 9/11, he said.

Moreover, because of Afghanistan’s rugged terrain, it will cost the U.S. more to send troops there, and to get them out, than it did in Iraq, he said.

The wars now account for $159 billion of the Defense Department’s budget. There are 96,000 troops in Iraq and 87,000 in Afghanistan.

The shift to a lighter form of counterinsurgency also incorporates the Obama administration’s national security view, which calls for getting troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. forces are set to begin leaving Afghanistan in July 2011, and a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is to be complete by the end of that year.

It also, military strategists said, allows the United States to prepare better for a future war that would be fought against another country, not against relatively amorphous terrorist groups.

U.S. officials acknowledge that since 9/11 there’s been little training for the kind of coordinated land, sea and air battles that have characterized most of the United States’ previous conflicts. While no one wants to predict where such a war might be fought, military strategists say that U.S. troops could be involved in battles between India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, and China and Taiwan…."

by teru kuwayama at 2010-05-14 03:42:18 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→


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