The secretary of Defense on Tuesday cautioned Americans, including those in Congress, not to ignore the rest of the globe at a time of revolution for the U.S. military.
The world’s largest defense infrastructure is changing its weapons, strategies and checkbooks, while also tending to its wounds from more than a decade of war. Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled Tuesday morning six guiding principles the department will consider as it draws down from protracted wars in the Middle East, fights Congress’ budget stranglehold and refocuses its efforts on the Pacific.
This task will require the discipline to keep attention on the future and overseas, he said.
“After more than a decade of costly, controversial, and at times open-ended war, America is redefining its role in the world,” Hagel said, while speaking at the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum. “At the same time, more Americans, including elected officials, are growing skeptical about our country’s foreign engagements and responsibilities.”[READ: Kerry Mends Saudi Fences Following Iranian Overtures, Syria Inaction]
“But only looking inward is just as deadly a trap as hubris, and we must avoid both in pursuing a successful foreign policy in the 21st century,” he said.
The U.S. presence abroad should reflect the hope and promise that has defined America, couched with a politically realistic view of the world.
The delicate balancing act in which the U.S. finds itself on the international stage is represented well this week in the foreign travel of President Barack Obama’s top counselors. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the weekend. He assured his counterparts that diplomatic overtures to Iran and increased rhetoric aimed at the western Pacific rim is not an indicator that the U.S. will forget its historic allies in the Middle East. Kerry travels next to Israel and Poland.
Meanwhile, the White House announced this week that Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Japan, China and the Republic of Korea in early December to discuss “global and regional challenges” with allies and competitors.
Hagel on Tuesday listed six key areas he will instruct his subordinates at the Pentagon to study, as the Defense Department prepares its upcoming budget for fiscal year 2015 and gets ready to release its Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated report every four years on the status and goals of the Defense Department.[READ: NSA’s Top Lawyer Says Debate Started By Edward Snowden Could Be ‘Good Thing’]
These areas include institutional reform, readiness and reevaluating how the military prepares and equips its forces. It also includes investing in technologies for 21st century battlegrounds, including cyber, space, special operations forces and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or ISR.
The Pentagon will also review balance throughout the services, including the differences between active and reserve forces, conventional versus non-conventional and troops deployed abroad versus stationed at home.
Lastly, DOD will look at the size of its employees and how it pays them, a gargantuan budget that makes up about half of overall defense spending. This could involve layoffs and cuts to benefits in the coming years.