- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Pentagon is reorienting U.S. military forces toward battling insurgents and terrorists, and on Monday released its new four-year strategy and a $708 billion defense budget request to support it.

Despite the cancellation of numerous weapons projects, the defense spending request to Congress grew by 3.4 percent from 2010, with $159.3 billion to be allocated for U.S. military missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. That war funding adds on to a base Pentagon budget of $548.9 billion.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the new strategy and budget reflect an effort to “enhance our ability to fight the wars we are in today, while at the same time providing a hedge against current and future risks and contingencies.”

“We have, in a sober and clear-eyed way, assessed risk, set priorities, made trade-offs, and identified requirements based on plausible, real-world threats, scenarios and potential adversaries,” Mr. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Quadrennial Defense Review, which was made public separately Monday and reflected the budget’s emphasis on counterinsurgency, lists China as one of the United States’ main “potentially hostile” nations, along with North Korea and Iran.

The report said the Pentagon welcomes China’s growing power and influence but warns that “lack of transparency and the nature of China’s military development and decision-making processes raise legitimate questions about its future conduct and intentions within Asia and beyond.”

The new strategy abandons the decades-long policy of maintaining large numbers of troops and weapons that could fight two major regional wars at the same time, for example in the Middle East and Asia.

The immediate priority of U.S. military strategy will be the “substantial” forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the report said, noting that the conflicts “will substantially determine the size and shape of major elements of U.S. military forces for several years.”

“In the mid- to long term, we expect there to be enduring operational requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere to defeat al Qaeda and its allies,” the report said.

Instead, the strategy focuses on a variety of “security challenges” that include threats to satellites in space and computer networks in cyberspace, as well as terrorists acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction.

“We have learned through painful experience that the wars we fight are seldom the wars we planned,” Mr. Gates said. “As a result, the United States needs a broad portfolio of military capabilities, with maximum versatility across the widest possible spectrum of conflicts.”

Top defense priorities in budget and strategy are now focused on achieving objectives in Afghanistan, where troops are being added, and Iraq, where forces are being withdrawn. Key systems to be added include unmanned aerial vehicles — drones capable of spying on targets and firing missiles — which will increase by 75 percent over the next several years.

Additionally, more helicopters will be purchased and two more Army combat aviation brigades will be created. A third area will be increasing special operations forces with 2,800 more commandos.

The Pentagon’s budget and strategy include a new emphasis on preparing to deal with failed or collapsing states by boosting security assistance, through weapons and training, with an additional $150 million.

The Pentagon also will continue to work overseas to try to halt the flow of weapons to dangerous regions and will add funds to U.S. nuclear weapons and infrastructure to modernize an aging arsenal needed to deter nuclear states.

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