Photo: AN HONORABLE GERMAN / flickr
Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of defence Ashton Carter gave a talk to the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank that develops an immense amount of defence policy in D.C. While he was there and speaking to a room full of defence insiders, wonks, academics and professionals, Carter opened up about the future of the Department of defence, specifically what’s getting the axe with recent budget cuts, which branches are getting slimmed, where the United States is concentrating its military power, and — the biggest question on everyone’s mind — what the Department of defence is going to do after we leave Afghanistan.
Here are the biggest takeaways.
- The Pentagon isn’t even bothering to prepare for the upcoming defence cuts
Remember after the debt ceiling debacle last summer, when Congress enacted mandatory, across the board cuts in defence because an agreement could not be reached? Well, the DoD is so certain that none of that will happen, they’re not even preparing for the cuts. Even more, Carter told the AEI that unless the Office of Management and Budget directs them to make plans for the cuts later this summer, they really don’t plan to. The DoD is just that confident that the cuts are bull.
- The Pentagon is putting every single thing on the table for cutting
This one isn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser for the AEI, but Carter said that with defence cuts coming up — these cuts unrelated to the sequester, just typical postwar budget contraction — nothing is safe. The DoD will review most of its programs, some existing since the Cold War, for budget constriction and cuts. While this sounds like typical budget-hawk lingo, Carter dwelled on this point for a while, and later backed it up with significant examples of material cuts on actual programs.
- They’re moving everything into the Pacific
Carter confirmed what most of us already know, that the DoD intends to move the United States armed forces into the Pacific in a huge way. But he did give huge details. The Navy is actually going to expand despite the cuts, and the Deputy Secretary says that the DoD is shifting its Naval presence to the Pacific. While cuts continue back east, the Air Force will see no cuts in Tactical Air support in the Asia-Pacific region. While the Marine Corps will significantly shrink overall, Carter said that there would be “no reduction in Marine Corps present west of the international date line,” plus a new rotation in Australia.
- What comes out ahead
One rule on what to cut came directly from President Obama him self; Don’t cut things just because they are new and thus easier to cut. Carter said that this mentality mean that things like cyber, special operations forces, unmanned systems (think drones), and space initiatives should not be cut because they were recent additions with shallow roots. In fact, Carter said, those actually came out ahead after cuts.
- What’s getting dumped
C-130’s are being largely phased out of certain theatres of national defence use in favour of newer, “multi-role aircraft” such as the F-35. The Navy will decomission many of its older ships as they become increasingly obsolete and expensive to maintain. The Army and Marines will undergo “the most titanic transitions as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down.” Both of those branches will see a decreased emphasis on counter-insurgency and a growing emphasis on a “wider spectrum of capabilities,” and needless to say a significant shrinkage in personnel.
The whole, huge speech can be found here.
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