Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is asking the Army to help him determine what the service will need to look like in a future of changing threats and reduced budgets, he told an audience at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Congress has mandated the Department of Defense has to cut $450 billion over the next ten years, Panetta said. Those cuts will have to be borne by the entire department, and the various service leaders should cooperate, not compete, to determine what will have to be cut, he said.
“The budget and drawdowns that we're facing obviously are going to impact on the size of the military, there is no question about it. We will need to sacrifice some capabilities and curtail some commitments. But we cannot afford to render null and void the hard-learned lessons of the last ten years of war,” Panetta said.
“And we absolutely cannot allow budget pressures to force the services into parochialism and program survival mode. Going forward, my expectation is that our military leaders will work with me to do what is best for the entire force, not just what is best for their own service. We have to weather these budget storms as a team.”
Part of the process will be to determine what sort of threats the Army needs to face in the future, Panetta said. “There aren't a lot of countries out there building massive tank armies. It is unlikely we'll be refighting Desert Storm in the future,” he said. “Instead, I see both state and non-state actors, arming with high-tech weaponry that is easier both to buy and to operate, weapons that frustrate our traditional advantage and freedom of movement.
Coming up with new ideas, with new operating principles, to defeat these kinds of enemies is a challenge I pose to this battle-hardened generation of American soldiers.
“We need the Army, and particularly we need its seasoned junior leaders to display the same creativity, the same adaptability, to defeat these hybrid threats as they've shown in dealing with counterinsurgency warfare over the past decade,” he added. “We need today's generation of battle-hardened soldiers and thoughtful leaders who know the face of modern warfare to help build out future force.”
But Panetta argued that the need for American leadership will not change, and that the Army will have to adapt to keep filling that role. “One thing we know for sure: this country, our fellow citizens, and indeed people around the world, are going to continue to look to America for leadership and to American military power for partnership and leadership in the world. My job is to make sure we're ready for that role,” he said.
“I need you to help me figure out what that Army needs to look like in the future. How does the future Army contribute to a better and stronger joint force?”