Pentagon Rolls Out Evolving Strategy By JULIAN E. BARNES

View Original / WSJ / 5 Mar 14

Plan Focuses on Homeland Security and Ability to Respond to Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon rolled out long-awaited revisions to U.S. military strategy on Tuesday, displaying a renewed focus on homeland protection by emphasizing the development of cybersecurity capabilities, missile defenses and the ability to respond to natural disasters.

The military strategy, which is updated every four years, was changed to reflect the growing call for military help during natural disasters, as well as the threat of either a cyber or physical attack on the U.S.

Christine Wormuth, the deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, said the threat from a direct terrorist attack on the nation has declined, although groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula maintain the “intent and desire” to strike the U.S.

The strategy document, called the Quadrennial Defense Review, envisions allied nations playing a greater role when partnering with U.S. troops deployed abroad. Such steps include new crisis-response forces, forward deploying Navy ships and rotating ground forces in and out of overseasbases. Citing an example, Ms. Wormuth said that under the new plan, the Navy may divert some warships from an aircraft carrier’s strike group and send the smaller force to another part of the world. “What we’re looking at, again, is perhaps different ways of deploying forces overseas to get more bang for the buck,” Ms. Wormuth said.

Russell Rumbaugh, a defense expert at the nonpartisan Stimson Center, said the strategy anticipates a robust role for the U.S. military even in the face of recent spending cuts. “When you have a half trillion dollars to spend, you can do a lot,” he said. “The U.S. remains the dominant military power.”

Defense officials said the new document, which is required by Congress, is a refinement of the military strategy unveiled two years ago that promised a new focus on the Asia Pacific region. It preserves a key Pentagon strategy: having enough force to defeat one adversary while denying another adversary’s objectives. Still, some prominent Republicans criticized the approach, saying it tied U.S. national security strategy to budget politics in Washington.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif), chairman of the House Armed Forces Committee, said the strategy document “has more to do with politics than policy and is of little value to decision makers.” He said he would push legislation to require the Pentagon to rewrite the document.

The strategy, he said, was driven by the constraints of recent across-the-board spending cuts and didn’t look far enough into the future at the threats the U.S. might face.

Mr. Rumbaugh, the defense analyst, said the strategy document, commonly called the QDR, actually is dependent on congressional action to ease some spending cuts. “This QDR goes to a strange place where it explicitly says, ‘We need more money,’ ” he said.

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