Panetta has warned that a new round of defense cuts would force the Pentagon to go back to the drawing board and redesign the military strategy adopted earlier this year.
The CSBA exercise asked seven teams of defense experts - including Pentagon civilians, congressional aides and think tank scholars - to do exactly that: to re-envision the strategy approved in January assuming defense spending will be cut by another $519 billion, the amount likely under sequestration.
CSBA scholar Todd Harrison, who also worked on the project, said the most successful team, as recognized by the participants, was the one that looked at what kind of military the United States would need in 20 years and then worked backwards to decide how to achieve that goal.
Harrison said the teams generally agreed with the new U.S. military strategy, which calls for a shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific region. But several thought the Pentagon did not have the right mix of ships, aircraft, weapons and equipment to carry out the strategy, he said.
Many potential U.S. adversaries, like China or Iran, are developing missiles and other weapons aimed at preventing U.S. planes and warships from operating against them at close range. To counter that threat, the United States needs systems that can operate at longer ranges.
To fund development of those systems, some teams called for deep cuts in active duty ground forces, steep reductions in civilian defense personnel and reductions in readiness funding. Most called for reductions in the purchase of F-35 strike fighters, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system.
A majority of the teams emphasized four critical capabilities for the future: special operations forces, cyberspace assets, long-range strike bombers and unmanned aircraft and more submarine and unmanned undersea vehicles.