WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is preparing to tighten its belt, but with an election-year battle looming in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wants to stress the positive: Parts of the budget devoted to reshaping the military to fit a new global strategy will actually get fatter, he says.
But that’s unlikely to mollify Republicans who say President Barack Obama’s plan will leave the Pentagon stretched too thin to handle potential security threats in the Middle East, Asia and beyond.
Panetta is expected to outline the main areas of proposed spending cuts and increases at a Pentagon news conference Thursday, more than two weeks before the Obama administration submits its 2013 budget proposal to Congress. He will be joined by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a presentation designed to highlight the military leadership’s embrace of defense cuts.
Panetta and Dempsey are expected to cast the plan as one that reflects President Barack Obama’s strategy for reorienting the military as it recovers from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Prominent in the Obama plan is a renewed focus on Asia, where China’s rapid military modernization has raised worry in Washington and rattled U.S. allies. That, along with continued security threats in the Middle East — especially Iran — is why Panetta wants to invest more in certain air and naval assets. He also is putting a focus on cybersecurity and commando forces like those who killed Osama bin Laden last May and who swooped into Somalia on Tuesday to rescue two hostages, including an American.