NEW: Panetta meets with British defense secretary
President Barack Obama outlines a review of Pentagon strategy
The new Pentagon plan calls for measured spending cuts
Republican critics say the plan undermines U.S. military power
President Barack Obama unveiled his administration’s plan Thursday for a leaner, cheaper military, a reflection of Washington’s fiscal belt-tightening and slower national economic growth.
The president insisted the new strategy – which eliminates the military’s ability to actively fight two major wars at once – will allow U.S. armed forces to effectively combat terrorism while confronting any new threats from countries like China and Iran.
“Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership,” Obama announced during a rare presidential visit to the Pentagon. “I firmly believe, and I think the American people understand, that we can keep our military strong – and our nation secure – with a defense budget that continues to be larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined.”
Alluding to the end of the U.S. military role in Iraq and plans to eventually withdraw from Afghanistan, Obama declared that “the tide of war is receding.”
“The question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need after the long wars of the last decade are over,” the president told reporters. “Yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know: The United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”
The president was flanked by an array of top Pentagon brass during his remarks, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Republicans immediately blasted the plan, characterizing it as a retreat from the reality of America’s global responsibilities.
The blueprint is “a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America,” said Rep. Buck McKeon of California, GOP chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “The president has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense. This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs.”
McKeon said that “in order to justify massive cuts to our military, (Obama) has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests and defy our opponents. The president must understand that the world has always had, and will always have, a leader. As America steps back, someone else will step forward.”
Among other things, Obama’s strategy singles out China and Iran, pledging to keep strategically critical sea lanes open and successfully combat missile, electronic, cyber and other threats.
“States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter