Statement on Defense Strategic Guidance
Statement on Defense
As Delivered by U.S. Secretary of
Defense Leon E. Panetta, Press Briefing Room, The Pentagon, Washington, DC,
Thursday, January 05, 2012.
Source : U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense (Public Affairs).
Let me begin by thanking President Obama for coming here to
the Pentagon this morning, and also in particular to thank him for his vision
and guidance and leadership as this department went through a very intensive
review that we undertook to try to develop the new strategic guidance that we're
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta
speaks to the press about the new defense strategy as Army Gen. Martin E.
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looks on at the Pentagon, Jan.
DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
And in my experience, this has been an unprecedented process,
to have the President of the United States participate in discussions involving
the development of a defense strategy, and to spend time with our service chiefs
and spend time with our combatant commanders to get their views. It's truly
This guidance that we are releasing today, and which has been
distributed now throughout the department -- it really does represent a historic
shift to the future. And it recognizes that this country is at a strategic
turning point, after a decade of war and after large increases in defense
As the president mentioned, the U.S. military's mission in
Iraq has now ended. We do have continued progress in Afghanistan. It's tough,
and it remains challenging, but we are beginning to enable a transition to
Afghan security responsibility. The NATO effort in Libya has concluded with the
fall of Gadhafi. And targeted counterterrorism efforts have significantly
weakened al-Qaida and decimated its leadership.
And now, as these events are occurring -- and the Congress
has mandated, by law, that we achieve significant defense savings. So clearly,
we are at a turning point.
But even as our large-scale military campaigns recede, the
United States still faces complex and growing array of security challenges
across the globe. And unlike past drawdowns when oftentimes the threats that the
country was facing went away, the fact is that there remain a number of
challenges that we have to confront, challenges that call for reshaping of
America's defense priorities: focusing on the continuing threat of violent
extremism, which is still there and still to be dealt with; proliferation of
lethal weapons and materials; the destabilizing behavior of nations like Iran
and North Korea; the rise of new powers across Asia; and the dramatic changes
that we've seen unfold in the Middle East.
All of this comes at a time when America confronts a very
serious deficit and debt problem here at home, a problem which is itself a
national security risk that is squeezing both the defense and domestic budgets.
Even as we face these considerable pressures, including the requirement of the
Budget Control Act to reduce defense spending by what we have now as the number
of $487 billion over 10 years, I do not believe -- and I've said this before --
that we have to choose between our national security and fiscal responsibility.
The Department of Defense will play its part in helping the nation put our
fiscal house in order.
The president has made clear, and I've made clear, that the
savings that we've been mandated to achieve must be driven by strategy and must
be driven by rigorous analysis, not by numbers alone.
Consequently, over the last few months, we've conducted an
intensive review to try to guide defense priorities and spending over the coming
decade, all of this in light of the strategic guidance that we received in
discussions with the president and the recommendations of this department's both
senior military and civilian leadership. Both of them provided those kinds of
recommendations. This process has enabled us to assess risk, to set priorities
and to make some very hard choices.
Let me be clear again. The department would need to make a
strategic shift regardless of the nation's fiscal situation. We are at that
point in history. That's the reality of the world we live in. Fiscal crisis has
forced us to face the strategic shift that's taking place now.
As difficult as it may be to achieve the mandated defense
savings, this has given all of us in the Department of Defense the opportunity
to reshape our defense strategy and force structure to more effectively meet the
challenges of the future -- to deter aggression, to shape the security
environment and to decisively prevail in any conflict.
From the beginning, I set out to ensure that this strategy
review would be inclusive. Chairman Dempsey and I met frequently with department
leaders, including our undersecretaries, the service chiefs, the service
secretaries, the combatant commanders, our senior enlisted advisers. We also
discussed this strategy and its implications, obviously, with the president, his
national security advisers, with members of Congress and with outside experts.
There are four over-arching principles that have guided our
deliberations, and I've said this at the very beginning as we began this process.
One, we must maintain the world's finest military, one that supports and
sustains the unique global leadership role of the United States in today's
Two, we must avoid hollowing out the force -- a smaller,
ready, and well-equipped military is much more preferable to a larger, ill-prepared
force that has been arbitrarily cut across the board.
Third, savings must be achieved in a balanced manner, with
everything on the table, including politically sensitive areas that will likely
provoke opposition from parts of the Congress, from industry and from advocacy
That's the nature of making hard choices.
Four, we must preserve the quality of the all-volunteer force
and not break faith with our men and women in uniform or their families. With
these principles in mind, I'll focus on some of the significant strategic
choices and shifts that are being made.
The United States military -- let me be very clear about this
-- the United States 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. We will be fully prepared to protect our
interests, defend our homeland and support civil authorities.
Our goal to achieve the U.S. force for the future involves
the following significant changes.
First, the U.S. joint force will be smaller, and it will be
leaner. But its great strength will be that it will be more agile, more
flexible, ready to deploy quickly, innovative, and technologically advanced.
That is the force for the future.
Second, as we move towards this new joint force, we are also
rebalancing our global posture and presence, emphasizing the Pacific and the
These are the areas where we see the greatest challenges for
the future. The U.S. military will increase its institutional weight and focus
on enhanced presence, power projection, and deterrence in Asia- Pacific.
This region is growing in importance to the future of the
United States in terms of our economy and our national security. This means, for
instance, improving capabilities that maintain our military's technological edge
and freedom of action. At the same time, the United States will place a premium
in maintaining our military presence and capabilities in the broader Middle
East. The United States and our partners must remain capable of deterring and
defeating aggression while supporting political progress and reform.
Third, the United States will continue to strengthen its key
alliances, to build partnerships and to develop innovative ways to sustain U.S.
presence elsewhere in the world. A long history of close political and military
cooperation with our European allies and partners will be critical to addressing
the challenges of the 21st century. We will invest in the shared capabilities
and responsibilities of NATO, our most effective military alliance.
The U.S. military's force posture in Europe will, of
necessity, continue to adapt and evolve to meet new challenges and opportunities,
particularly in light of the security needs of the continent relative to the
emerging strategic priorities that we face elsewhere. We are committed to
sustaining a presence that will meet our Article 5 commitments, deter aggression,
and the U.S. military will work closely with our allies to allow for the kinds
of coalition operations that NATO has undertaken in Libya and Afghanistan.
In Latin America, Africa, elsewhere in the world, we will use
innovative methods to sustain U.S. presence, maintaining key military-to-military
relations and pursuing new security partnerships as needed. Wherever possible,
we will develop low-cost and small- footprint approaches to achieving our
security objectives, emphasizing rotational deployments, emphasizing exercises
-- military exercises with these nations, and doing other innovative approaches
to maintain a presence throughout the rest of the world.
Fourth, as we shift the size and composition of our ground,
air and naval forces, we must be capable of successfully confronting and
defeating any aggressor and respond to the changing nature of warfare. Our
strategy review concluded that the United States must have the capability to
fight several conflicts at the same time. We are not confronting, obviously, the
threats of the past; we are confronting the threats of the 21st century. And
that demands greater flexibility to shift and deploy forces to be able to fight
and defeat any enemy anywhere. How we defeat the enemy may very well vary across
conflicts. But make no mistake, we will have the capability to confront and
defeat more than one adversary at a time.
As a global force, our military will never be doing only one
thing. 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. Again,
that's the nature of the world that we are dealing with. In addition to these
forces, the United States will emphasize building the capacity of our partners
and allies to more effectively defend their own territory, their own interests,
through a better use of diplomacy, development, and security force assistance.
In accordance with this construct, and with the end of U.S.
military commitments in Iraq and the drawdown that is already under way in
Afghanistan, 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.
Lastly, as we reduce the overall defense budget, we will
protect, and in some cases increase, our investments in special operations
forces, in new technologies like ISR and unmanned systems, in space -- and, in
particular, in cyberspace --capabilities, and also our capacity to quickly
mobilize if necessary.
These investments will help the military retain and continue
to refine and institutionalize the expertise and capabilities that have been
gained at such great cost over the last decade.
And most importantly, we will structure and pace the
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 key. That means re-examining
the mix of elements in the active and Reserve components. It means maintaining a
strong National Guard and Reserve. It means retaining a healthy cadre of
experienced NCOs and mid-grade officers and preserving the health and viability
of the nation's defense industrial base.
The strategic guidance that we're providing is the first step
in this department's goal to build the joint force of 2020, a force sized and
shaped differently than the military of the Cold War, the post- Cold War force
of the 1990s, or the force that was built over the past decade to engage in
large-scale ground wars.
This strategy and vision will guide the more specific budget
decisions that will be finalized and announced in the coming weeks as part of
the president's budget. In some cases, we will be reducing capabilities that we
believe no longer are a top priority.
But in other cases, we will invest in new capabilities to
maintain a decisive military edge against a growing array of threats. There's no
question -- there's no question -- that we have to make some trade-offs and that
we will be taking, as a result of that, some level of additional but acceptable
risk in the budget plan that we release next month. These are not easy choices.
We will continue aggressive efforts to weed out waste, reduce
overhead, to reform business practices, to consolidate our duplicative
operations. But budget reductions of this magnitude will inevitably impact the
size and capabilities of our military. And as I said before, true national
security cannot be achieved through a strong military alone. It requires strong
diplomacy. It requires strong intelligence efforts. And above all, it requires a
strong economy, fiscal discipline and effective government.
The capability, readiness and agility of the force will not
be sustained if Congress fails to do its duty and the military is forced to
accept far deeper cuts, in particular, the arbitrary, across-the- board cuts
that are currently scheduled to take effect in January of 2013 through the
mechanism of sequester. That would force us to shed missions and commitments and
capabilities that we believe are necessary to protect core U.S. national
And it would result in what we think would be a demoralized
and hollow force. That is not something that we intend to do.
And finally, I'd like to also address our men and women in
uniform, and the civilian employees who support them, whom I -- who I know have
been watching the budget debates here in Washington with concern about what it
means for them and for their families. You have done everything this country has
asked you to do and more.
You have put your lives on the line, and you have fought to
make our country safer and stronger. I believe the strategic guidance honors
your sacrifice and strengthens the country by building a force equipped to deal
with the future. I have no higher responsibility than fighting to protect you
and to protect your families. And just as you have fought and bled to protect
our country, I commit to you that I will fight for you and for your families.
There is no doubt that the fiscal situation this country
faces is difficult, and in many ways we are at a crisis point. But I believe
that in every crisis there is opportunity. 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. With
this joint force, I am confident that we can effectively defend the United
States of America.