Panetta: Military Will Still Be Able to Fight Multiple Wars
The so-called "two-war strategy" has been a Defense Department tenet since the end of the Cold War, but new policies announced earlier this year left some concerned that the military would no longer be prepared to engage two enemies in different parts the globe at once.
Nothing has changed, Panetta said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
"We must always remain capable of being able to confront and defeat aggression from more than one adversary at a time, anywhere, anytime,” he said. “That means if we're engaged in a conflict on the Korean Penninsula and Iran attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz, we must be capable of being able to respond decisively to both locations.”
Other defense officials have questioned the two-war strategy in the past.
In 2009, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said sizing the force to be able to fight two major combat operations was “not a realistic view of the world.” The United States was already fighting in two conflicts, he noted. “What if we have a third one or a fourth one or a fifth one? And how do you … characterize a Hezbollah that has more missiles and rockets than most countries?”
Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a 2009 Senate Armed Services committee hearing it was unlikely that the U.S. military would have to take on two simultaneous peer competitors.
As Congress attempts to wrap up negotiations to avoid sequesration, Panetta once again warned that such across-the-board cuts would eliminate more than $500 billion in funding from the department, calling it the biggest risk to implementing the new strategy.
Panetta also reiterated his opposition to changes in the defense budget that would divert savings into programs and equipment he said the military doesn’t need.
“We're down to the wire here. In these next few days, Congress needs to make the right decision and avoid the fiscal disaster that awaits us,” he said. “My hope is that they will do the right thing.”
In order to fight in two wars in the future, Panetta said the Pentagon will invest in its aircraft carrier fleet, big-deck amphibious fleet, a new afloat forward staging base and long-range strike capabilities.
“We are also making new investments in the next-generation bomber, a next-generation tanker that will afford our air forces greater mobility, and working every day to put our Joint Strike Fighter program on a firmer footing,” he continued.
The department will also expand its fleet of unmanned aerial systems and strike aircraft as well as grow its special operations forces to 72,000 by 2017, he said.
Additionally, the military will enhance its presence in the Asia-Pacific region by deploying F-22s and MV-22 Ospreys to Japan. The Joint Strike Fighter will be deployed to the Marine Corps Base in Iwakuni, Japan, in 2017, he said.
Photo Credit: Defense Dept.