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Pentagon Plan: More Drones, Increased Presence in Asia

US stoking fears for public to support "the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific."

At a news briefing at the Pentagon today, President Obama revealed today his strategy for a new defense strategy.

“This ‘slimmed down’ plan continues the trend to rely increasingly on fighting the two wars with technology (drones) and ‘precision’ strategic bombing," stated Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University in Chico. In the preamble to the new plan, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, Obama writes:

As we end today's wars and reshape our Armed Forces, we will ensure that our miltary is agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies. In particular, we will continue to invest in the capabilities critical to future success, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; counterterrorism; countering weapons of mass destruction; operating in anti-access environments; and prevailing in all domains, including cyber.

While media has focused on fiscal tightening creating defense budget cuts, some experts question whether austerity measures have really hit the military.

Catherine Lutz, chair of the department of anthropology at Brown University, stated:

[T]he new proposal for Department of Defense base budget reductions over the next five years represents only a 4 percent decline in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, according to the Project on Defense Alternatives. And the Pentagon’s budget will remain far larger than it was ten years ago. On top of this, all of these calculations exclude, as they should not, billions in funding for the current wars.

The new defense plan also calls for an increased presence in Asia/Pacific region. From the plan:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Alice Slater, the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and member of the coordinating committee of Abolition 2000, a disarmament coalition, stated today:

On a recent trip to Australia, Obama opened a new military base there that will grow to 2,500 troops and promised that ‘we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.’ A Pentagon report warned Congress that China was increasing its naval power and investing in high-tech weaponry to extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond. What did we expect? And now having provoked China to beef up its military assets the warmongers in the U.S. can frighten the public into supporting the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific and what appears to be the threat of endless war.

The strategy outlined also entails an increase in the use of drones. “This ‘slimmed down’ plan continues the trend to rely increasingly on fighting the two wars with technology (drones) and ‘precision’ strategic bombing," stated Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University in Chico.

Slater also stated:

It seems that we are moving to a more mechanized war-fighting posture cutting out military forces below the previously planned cuts from 570,000 to 520,000 to an Army of 490,000 troops. However we will be increasing our reliance on drone attacks, that have now been used by Obama in several countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina writing for the Arms Control Association note that the strategy says nothing about the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.  They write:

Panetta said that the plan will maintain a “safe and effective nuclear deterrent,” but did not explain how many nuclear weapons will be required for deterrence or how much we can afford to keep spending to maintain and modernize that force.

However, the strategy document “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense” clearly says that “It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.”

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