Get Lean: Obama's Defense Strategy Pares Down MIlitary

Posted: Jan 05, 2012 7:44 PM

President Obama today unveiled his new defense strategy -- which includes a drastically cut budget for our nation's armed forces. He promised a 'leaner' yet capable military, to reflect the fact that "the tide of war is receding."

Just how much is it receding?

It seems we'll no longer be prepared to conduct two wars at once:

The new strategy, which critics will surely brand as a retreat, calls for being able to fight one major conventional conflict while conducting numerous unconventional operations elsewhere, such as policing actions, counterterrorism and disaster relief.

While I certainly don't want us to fight two wars, it's a bit disconcerting to think we're not capable of rousing ourselves on the chance someone attacks us while we're still engaged in Afghanistan, for example.

Indeed, Obama's defense strategy focuses on a tactic he's used over the course of his presidency: drones.

Cyberwarfare and unmanned drones would continue to grow in priority, as would countering attempts by China and Iran to block U.S. power projection capabilities in areas like the South China Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.

But the size of the U.S. Army and Marines Corps would shrink. So too might the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the U.S. military footprint in Europe.

Troop- and time-intensive counter-insurgency operations, a staple of U.S. military strategy since the 2007 "surge" of extra troops to Iraq, would be far more limited, with the force no longer sized for large-scale, long-term missions.

He's boosting our troops' numbers in Australia to counterbalance China, but Obama's reticence to have boots on the ground is clear through his greater empowerment of unmanned, computer-based attacks. Indeed, personnel numbers will take something of a hit:

Administration officials have said they expect Army and Marine Corp personnel levels to be reduced by 10 percent to 15 percent over the next decade as part of the reductions.

The Army's current strength is about 565,000 soldiers and there are 201,000 Marines, meaning an eventual loss of between 76,000 and 114,000 troops.

Whether the defense budget will suffer further cuts or not remains to be seen. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta allegedly was at odds with the White House over defense cuts this past summer, and is reportedly loathe to add more. Of course, that's all dependent on Congress acting and passing a budget to prevent automatic spending cuts -- and we know how well that's worked out so far.