U.S. Defense Strategy Plan Focuses on Thwarting China, Iran

The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines must combine resources to thwart any efforts by countries such as China and Iran to block America’s access to the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf and other strategic regions, according to a draft of a Pentagon review.

The military services must work more cooperatively to pool their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and cyber-security tools, as well as operational concepts, the review is expected to say, according to an administration official familiar with the review who asked not to be identified.

The U.S. should be able to deter any emerging anti-access capabilities such as the diesel attack submarines being developed by China and the anti-ship ballistic missiles deployed by China and Iran, and if necessary, defeat them, said the administration official.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due to unveil the review tomorrow, setting policy priorities in addressing about $490 billion in budget cuts over the next decade.

The review is expected to conclude that the U.S. no longer will engage in protracted large-scale stabilization operations, as it has in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it won’t have sufficient forces to fight two major conflicts at the same time, according to the official.

Major Conflicts

Rather, the U.S. will be able to fight in one major conflict and have the ability to deploy forces to deter another potential adversary from pursuing another major conflict, said the official.

With an expected reduction in active duty personnel, the strategy will seek to emphasize more rapid availability of National Guard and reserve forces for major conflicts. The current plan calls for reducing the force in 2015 and 2016 by 27,000 GIs and by as many as 20,000 Marines. The projections were based on the U.S. military leaving Iraq, which occurred at the end of last year, and significantly reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan by 2014. Panetta may announce deeper reductions.

The strategy is expected to maintain a commitment to ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrence, according to the official.

The review also will include language that emphasizes the role of political and diplomatic efforts in deterring conflicts.

Asia-Pacific Strategy

President Barack Obama in November announced steps to expand trade and military cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations that share U.S. concerns over China’s currency and intellectual property policies and territorial claims, such as potential oil-rich areas and trade routes in the South China Sea.

The administration’s foreign policy strategy is being refocused on Asia as Obama wraps up wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said in November that the U.S. strategy in Asia “has nothing to do with isolating or containing anybody.” Discussions during a meeting between Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in November “briefly” touched on the South China Sea, where territorial disputes have raised tensions between China and its neighbors.

“China sticks to the path of peaceful development and is always a force in maintaining regional and world peace,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing in Beijing today in response to a question about the U.S. strategy. He said he had not seen the draft and that China and the U.S. must work together. “Cooperation is the only way,” he said.

While Chinese officials generally downplay offensive intentions, Iranians have threatened to use military force to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the event of an oil embargo or full conflict with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

The state-run Fars news agency yesterday cited the head of Iran’s army, Ataollah Salehi, as “warning” the U.S. not to return an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the deployment of ships in the region “will continue as it has for decades.”

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