Obama: Future Force Will be
Smaller, Agile, Ready
By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press
Washington D.C. -- (AFPS)
-- January 5, 2012 – At a moment of national transition, the United States is
reshaping defense priorities and its military force to sustain U.S. global
leadership and respond to changing security and fiscal needs, President Barack
Obama said this morning at the Pentagon.
Obama, the first president to address reporters in the
Pentagon briefing room, joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen.
Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to introduce a new
military strategy that sets priorities for a 21st-century defense.
“The United States of America is the greatest force for
freedom and security that the world has ever known,” Obama said. “In no small
measure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped
military in history -- and as commander in chief, I’m going to keep it that way.”
Even as the tide of war recedes and U.S. forces prevail in
today’s missions, he added, “we have the opportunity and the responsibility to
look ahead to the force we need for the future.”
Looking beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and long-term
nation-building with large military footprints, Obama said, the United States
will be able to ensure its security with smaller conventional ground forces and
by investing in capabilities that include intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try
to deny access.
“Yes, our military will be leaner,” he said, “but the world
must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with
armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of
contingencies and threats.”
Panetta said the department would need to make a strategic
shift regardless of the nation's fiscal situation.
“We are at that point in history,” the secretary added.
“That's the reality of the world we live in.”
But he stressed that the U.S. military will remain capable
across the spectrum.
“We will continue to conduct a complex set of missions
ranging from counterterrorism, ranging from countering weapons of mass
destruction to maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent,”
Panetta said, adding that the department will be “fully prepared to protect our
interests, defend our homeland and support civil authorities.”
The Defense Strategic Guidance document released today says
the future force will be led by the world’s finest, best cared for and battle-tested
all-volunteer military -- one that will be smaller, but that also will be
flexible, agile and ready.
The force will be leaner, further reducing the cost of doing
business and finding efficiencies in overhead, business practices and other
support activities, according to the guidance. It also will be technologically
superior, the document adds, and networked across the services as well as with
diplomatic, development and intelligence agencies, allies and partners. The
strategy also outlines a force that will be able to regenerate and mobilize for
an unpredictable future, preserving the U.S. industrial base.
“As a global force, our military will never be doing only one
thing,” Panetta said. “It will be responsible for a range of missions and
activities across the globe of varying scope, duration and strategic priority.
This will place a premium on flexible and adaptable forces that can respond
quickly and effectively to a variety of contingencies and potential adversaries.”
With the end of U.S. military commitments in Iraq and the
drawdown under way in Afghanistan, the secretary said, the Army and Marine Corps
will no longer need to be sized to support the kind of large-scale, long-term
stability operations that have dominated military priorities and force
generation over the past decade.
Continuing investments in special operations forces, in new
technologies such as ISR and unmanned systems and in space and especially
cyberspace capabilities will help the force “retain and continue to refine and
institutionalize the expertise and capabilities that have been gained at such
great cost over the last decade,” Panetta said.
Most importantly, the secretary added, “we will structure and
pace reductions in the nation's ground forces in such a way that they can surge,
regenerate and mobilize capabilities needed for any contingency.”
Building in reversibility and the ability to quickly mobilize
will be critical, he said.
“That means re-examining the mix of elements in the active
and reserve components,” Panetta said. “It means maintaining a strong National
Guard and Reserve. It means retaining a healthy cadre of experienced [noncommissioned
officers] and midgrade officers, and preserving the health and viability of the
nation's defense industrial base.”
The strategy, Dempsey said, is sound.
“It ensures we remain the pre-eminent military in the world,”
the chairman told reporters, “it preserves the talent of the all-volunteer
force, it takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war, [and] it
acknowledges the imperative of a global, networked and full-spectrum joint
The strategy calls for innovation -- new ways of operating
and partnering, Dempsey said, adding that it rebalances the defense focus by
region and mission and makes important investments in emerging and proven
capabilities such as cyber and special operations.
“Fundamentally,” the chairman said, “our strategy has always
been about our ability to respond to global contingencies wherever and whenever
they happen. This does not change. We will always provide a range of options for
our nation. We can and will always be able to do more than one thing at a time.
More importantly, wherever we are confronted and in whatever sequence, we will
All strategies accept some risk, he acknowledged.
“Because we will be somewhat smaller, these risks will be
measured in time and capacity,” the general said. “However, we have to be honest
-- we could face even greater risks if we did not change from our current
The outcome is not perfect, the chairman said, but “it gives
us what we need -- in this world and within this budget -- to provide the best
possible defense for our nation at a time of great transitions. It prepares us
for what we anticipate needing in 2020.”
The nation faces a difficult fiscal situation and in many
ways is at a crisis point, Panetta said.
“But I believe that in every crisis there is opportunity,” he
added. “Out of this crisis, we have the opportunity to end the old ways of doing
business and to build a modern force for the 21st century that can win today's
wars and successfully confront any enemy and respond to any threat and any
challenge of the future.
“Our responsibility -- my responsibility as secretary of
defense -- is to protect the nation's security and to keep America safe,” he
continued. “With this joint force, I am confident that we can effectively defend
the United States of America.”
Leon E. Panetta
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Obama Remarks Video
Panetta Speech Video
Panetta Speech Transcript
Defense Strategic Guidance
Photo Essay: Obama, Panetta, DOD Leaders Hold Briefing On New Defense Strategy
Transcript: Defense Strategic Guidance Media Roundtable at the Pentagon
Transcript: Obama's Remarks
Obama: Defense Strategy Will Maintain U.S. Military Pre-eminence