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“The whole contracting process would probably grind to a halt,” as major adjustments are made to the budget, Adm. Roughead said.

Nuclear modernization programs also probably would cease, resulting in the Navy’s inability to finish research and development on a new submarine, he said. To maintain the force, two additional submarines would be required to make up for the failure to meet replacement deadlines.

The defense industrial base also is in trouble. Adm. Roughead said the number of major shipbuilders has declined from six to two. With 17 percent of fuel used for ships at sea derived from nuclear energy, the number of major nuclear suppliers has declined from eight to two.

Adm. Roughead warned that U.S. military power needs to be preserved because no other force in the world has its reach and capabilities.

NATO struggled during last year’s military operation in Libya and the United States had to take down Libyan air defenses, which it did in a matter of hours, he said.

“When people [in Iran] talk about closing the Straits of Hormuz, in the Arabian Gulf, no one can guarantee passage in that critical strait other than the United States,” he said.

“When we talk about the South China Sea and the East China Sea and causing cooler heads to prevail, so that some of these issues [between China and its neighbors] can be worked out, it’s the United States that provides the credible presence. No one else can do that.”

The question is whether the United States will maintain that force, and Adm. Roughead said he believes the military must be kept strong.

Obama and Arab culture

Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said President Obama in his 2009 apology tour to the Middle East violated a central tenet of Arab culture during a speech in Cairo by criticizing the United States.

Mr. Ajami told the conference that Mr. Obama’s June 4, 2009, speech to the Muslim world was laced with Koranic verses and included an apology for America’s past transgressions in an effort to curry favor with Muslims.

“On Arab soil, without knowing the wellsprings of Arab life, he told them that the Iraq war was a war of choice,” said Mr. Ajami, co-chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and International Order.

“He violated the most sacred tenet of Arab culture, the most fundamental tenet of Arab culture: My brother and I against my cousin; my cousin and I against the stranger. You never trash your own people amidst strangers. This is the first thing every child in the Arab world is told,” he said.

The Arabs may have heard what the president said, but they would never think well of people who make such criticisms, he said, noting that Mr. Obama apparently was never told this by his aides.

The Lebanon-born Mr. Ajami said as the president’s term in office is winding down, the entire engagement strategy of his administration is “in ruins.”

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