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January 2013

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The Force of the 21st Century
By Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense
Text: http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1742
Reviewed by David T. Jones 

On 18 December, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered a 4,700 word speech to the National Press Club in Washington. Opening (and closing) with ritualistic praise for the media, Panetta offered a predictable list of perceived accomplishments (ending the war in Iraq; freeing Libya from Qadaffi; increasing stability/security in Afghanistan; and integrating intelligence and operations in striking terrorists).

Turning to the need for a new U.S. defense strategy in the face of a $487 billion reduction, Panetta outlined the strategy’s components:

— build a smaller, leaner force: the Army and Marines will decline, but emphasis remains on quick reaction;
maintain force projection where needed, particularly in Middle East and Asia Pacific regions: jointly develop Guam as a strategic hub with Japan;
— maintain global leadership by building innovative partnerships: use rotational deployments to exercise and train with other countries. Boost defense trade with “rising powers” like Brazil and India;
— remain capable of being able to confront and defeat aggression from more than one adversary at a time anywhere, anytime: this comment suggests the U.S. still accepts military policy akin to a “two war” strategy, e.g., fighting in Korea and Gulf of Hormuz simultaneously;
invest in the future, protect and prioritize key investments in technology and new capabilities, as well as being able to grow, adapt, and mobilize as needed: regarding the need to protect the industrial base, Panetta noted, the “last damn thing I can do is to contract that responsibility out to another country.”

Panetta identified two principal risks: stress on the force from 11 years of war (he emphasized downsizing must not affect readiness which he listed as a “strategic imperative”); and prospects for sequestration which he termed a “mindless mechanism” capable of wrecking incalculable damage on U.S. national security.bluestar

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