Obama Unveiling New Military Shaped by Budget Cuts

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is unveiling a new defense plan Thursday reflecting billions of dollars in budget cuts and ending a decades-old strategy of being prepared to fight two wars at once.

The president is outlining the strategic review at the Pentagon. Joining him are Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey.

Officials say the new strategy will expand the U.S. military's role in Asia in the face of China's rise and also focus on maintaining a presence in the Middle East, where Iran remains a concern.

The plan is also expected to mark a move away from a two-war readiness strategy. The U.S. would instead be ready to fight one war, while being able to block aggressive actions elsewhere.

Panetta will announce plans to cut troop numbers, reduce civilian staff, and delay several new weapons programs, including construction of a new aircraft carrier. He also wants to find ways to cut personnel costs by reviewing military pensions and health care spending for troops and their families.

Some news reports say troop levels could be cut by 10 percent, mostly from the Army and Marines. Reports say this reduction could include soldiers stationed in Europe and some troops focused on counter-insurgency efforts in countries like Afghanistan.

Former U.S. defense official Frank Gaffney told VOA the new strategy has many problems. He said both the strategy and the budget could keep the U.S. from being able to simultaneously deal with any potential conflicts, including with China and Iran.

“It may not be up to us how many wars we have to fight. Enemies who perceive us unable to deal with more than one problem at a time may decide to collaborate and work in a simultaneous fashion that will simply over tax us. And worse, the perception that we are so weak as to be unable to deal with that sort of danger invites it.”

The Defense Department faces cuts of at least $450 billion – about 8 percent of its budget – over the next decade. However, additional cuts, totaling more than $500 billion, may be possible as Congress and President Obama seek ways to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.

The Pentagon budget for this year is about $530 billion.

Many businesses, such as weapons and aircraft makers, are expected to feel the cuts.

On Wednesday, Boeing – one of the world's largest aircraft makers – said it plans to close a plant in the central state of Kansas next year, in part because of changing market needs. Among other things, the plant converts civilian aircraft to military use for the Pentagon. About 2,000 employees at the plant would lose their jobs.