March 19, 2013
Credit: David B. Gleason
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed senior Pentagon officials to re-examine the U.S. military strategy approved last year to see how priorities may need to be adjusted due to budget cuts that took effect on March 1, U.S. officials said.
The decision, made on Friday, comes as the Pentagon struggles to cut $46 billion from this year’s defense budget and faces the prospect of an additional $50 billion per year in reductions for the next nine years.
“The Department of Defense must constantly examine the choices that underlie our defense strategy, posture and investments, including all past assumptions and systems,” Hagel said in a memorandum obtained on Monday by Reuters.
“This will be especially important in the period ahead, as both budgetary and strategic uncertainty affect our planning. We must think and act ahead of this uncertainty and not in reaction to it,” he said in the memo, which was dated on Friday.
Underscoring the uncertainty facing the department, the Congressional Budget Office warned on Monday that the Pentagon’s future plans - submitted last year before the recent budget cuts took effect - would “exceed the funding allowed ... by a large margin.”
The Pentagon would need about $550 billion a year for its five-year plan submitted in 2013, about $21 billion more each year than its initial estimates and $74 billion a year more than it was likely to get after the March 1 cuts, the CBO said.
In his memo, Hagel asked senior Pentagon officials to define for him the major strategic choices and institutional challenges facing the U.S. military in the decade ahead and what it must do to adapt.
A senior Pentagon official said the review was not a “fresh start toward a new strategy,” but would flow directly from the strategic guidance approved by President Barack Obama last year, which calls for a shift in emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region.
“The department hopes never to have to work toward the contingencies this review might identify,” the official said. If the budget cuts, under a process known as sequestration, are lifted, “those contingencies are likely to go away,” the official said.