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March 2012

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Defense Strategy and Budget Priorities for the 21st Century
by Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Text: http://www.cfr.org/united-states/paul-c-warnke-lecture-international-security-defense-strategy-budget-priorities-21st-century/p27595
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor

In delivering the Paul Warnke Lecture at the Council on Foreign Relations, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stated that the United States is at the end of an era in defense strategy and needs to look forward to the next era. The current era is coming to a close, he explained, with the end of the Iraq War and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. The new era will be one of "subsiding" defense budgets.

Carter claimed that the Obama administration was proceeding strategically in adjusting the defense budget, and noted that every defense program will be scrutinized in developing future defense budgets. He stressed the need to eliminate waste; to cut personnel costs; and to adjust our force structure to 21st century realities.

Although Carter mentioned the need for a "balanced package that is strategically informed," his lecture was devoid of any grand strategic conception. Grand strategy should be geared to our national security interests and the potential threats to those interests. The defense budget should reflect a careful consideration of that strategy, taking into consideration the political realities both at home and abroad.

Carter's most meaningful comments related to the need to shift resources from the Atlantic theater to the Asia-Pacific region. The devil, however, is in the details, and Carter's lecture came up short in that regard.bluestar

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