Gates, US defence secretary, is due to unveil the Obama
administration’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which shifts emphasis
from the post-cold war doctrine that the US is able to fight two “major
regional conflicts” at one time.
to a December draft, the US military will restructure its forces to
“prevail in today’s wars” and buy more of the helicopters and unmanned
drones that have proved their worth in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the
draft also highlights “a multiplicity of threats”, including
cyberattacks and anti-satellite weapons, as well as terrorist groups
and the prospect of more nuclear weapon states.
“It is no
longer appropriate to speak of ‘major regional conflicts’ as the sole
or even the primary template for sizing, shaping and evaluating US
forces,” the draft says. “Rather, US forces must be prepared to conduct a wide variety of missions under a range of different circumstances.”
an apparent nod to Iran, it says that within the next decade the US’s
adversaries could include “regional powers armed with modest numbers of
nuclear weapons, as well as larger more powerful states”. Despite
President Barack Obama’s emphasis on beginning a drawdown in
Afghanistan in July 2011, the draft also envisages 75,000 US troops
will remain in the country for the “near and mid-term future”.
prospect of increased demands on the military comes as the
administration releases its 2011 budget proposals on Monday, which
analysts expect will underline growing strains on defence spending.
Mr Obama has exempted national security spending from his freeze on
discretionary spending, many experts forecast modest real-term
increases in the core budget next year before spending flattens out in
the medium term.
In practice that means substantially less money for equipment and research.
Some Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, have called for the
spending freeze to apply to the overall defence budget, which totals
more than $660bn (€476bn, £413bn) for 2010, because of the burgeoning
US budget deficit.
“It seems to me inevitable there will be a
reduced defence budget, whether it is in two years from now or four
years from now,” said Martin Indyk, director of foreign policy at the
Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. “The writing is on the
In mid-January the Defense Business Board, which advises
the Pentagon on industrial issues, said declining budgets could lead to
a substantial reorganisation of the US industrial base. A report by
the Congressional Budget Office released last week suggested that the
Pentagon’s spending plans were already underfunded. “The force remains
small, it is going to get smaller, the age of weapons systems is going
to increase and new weapons systems are going to be brought in more
slowly than under previous plans,” said Thomas Donnelly at the American
Mr Gates has pushed to rebalance spending
and cut expensive cold war weapons systems in favour of kit designed
for current operations - something that the QDR is set to continue.