Washington Times correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports that the Defense Department (DoD) is considering important changes in war planning to conform to President Obama's new strategic guidance.
Issued in January, that document details the key military missions DoD must prepare for, and describes the security environment that U.S. forces will face. It emphasizes working "in collaboration with Gulf Cooperation Council countries when appropriate to prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapon capability and counter its destabilizing policies."
U.S. Central Command believes it "can destroy or significantly degrade" Iranian conventional forces in approximately three weeks. This option could be exercised in response to Iranian strikes on U.S. and international ships and attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz, Scarborough writes.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States has fought large-scale ground wars since 9/11, Washington "will emphasize non-military means and military-to-military cooperation to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations," the strategic guidance states.
While U.S. forces in those countries will be prepared to conduct "limited counterinsurgency and other stability operations if required," it stresses that they "will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations (emphasis original)."
The Congressional Research Service (Congress' nonpartisan research arm) said the guidance "appears to call for doing less with less." It includes a willingness "to assume greater risk, without specifying the scope and scale of that risk, to accomplish simultaneous missions."
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said the strategic guidance will result in a "smaller and leaner" force that "will be fragile, flexible, ready, and technologically advanced." The force "will be prepared to confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world," he added.
Many observers remain skeptical of the administration's approach. "The problem is the enemy gets a vote," said Heritage Foundation analyst James Carafano, who said DoD officials were "just rubber-stamping the budget cuts."
"Basically, what they are doing is dumping any scenarios that require long-term commitment of forces on the ground," he said, adding that the new policies "will speed the hollowing out" of the military.