Thursday, January 5, 2012


Earlier today, President Obama introduced the findings of the Defense Strategic Review, designed to outline both American strategic interests and its spending priorities over the coming decade while cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the defense budget. The DSR is set to flesh out approximately $500 billion in cuts, with the potential to add another $500 billion in reductions beginning in January 2013.

The President was Joined by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey.

The President gave no specific figures nor did he announce the funding of any new initiatives or weapons systems. While outlining the overarching priorities going forward, Obama added that US might should be defined more comprehensively - including by its agility, flexibility, leanness, and preparedness for new challenges.

Some important take away points from the President's speech:

- Key commitments will remain: "vigilance" in the Middle East, maintained investment in NATO, strengthened presence in Asia Pacific.

- Replacement of large nation-building missions (Iraq, Afghanistan) with the reliance on smaller conventional forces coupled with the modernization of systems and capabilities reflecting future threats rather than outdated Cold War paradigms. This means funding programs geared toward intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterterrorism efforts, countering weapons of mass destruction, and gaining access to denied spaces.

- Amelioration of treatment given to veterans, opening opportunities to better health and mental health care, job opportunities, and integration back into society following their service.

- Emphasis on the need to rebalance the ensemble of national programs, restore America's internal resources and infrastructures, and begin to climb out of its massive debt - defense budget cuts are a major first step in achieving this balance.

None of these points were particularly surprising, as administration officials have been talking for weeks about these same themes, including the will to bolster American presence in Asia while scaling back the large missions that so thoroughly consumed the military since 9/11.

A number of questions remain as to what the specific cuts will look like and how they will be received and debated both within the US (and among Republican presidential candidates) and among America's allies:

For example, what will be the general reaction in Europe as the US shifts its focus to Asia Pacific? Will there be any notable change in troop numbers? What new expectations might the US have of its NATO allies given its turn to other areas of the world? What are possible areas of convergence for the US and Europe in emerging power zones? What challenges can be anticipated in the transatlantic alliance following this strategic shift?

More precise details of the Defense Strategic Review will follow in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned to Potusphere for the latest in these developments...

- Amy Greene