* Strategy seeks better manpower use, compensation reform
* Rotational deployments instead of foreign bases
* Avoiding protracted land wars
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Nov 15 A group of national security
experts on Thursday proposed a new U.S. defense strategy they
said could be safely implemented at different budget levels,
enabling President Barack Obama to cut Pentagon spending by more
than the $487 billion agreed to so far.
The strategy, by a group of 15 defense experts assembled by
the Stimson Center think tank, proposes reducing costs by
improving manpower usage, cutting back on foreign bases, curbing
nuclear modernization efforts, reforming compensation and taking
other steps to improve efficiency within the Defense Department.
Stimson Center co-founder Barry Blechman, who led a group
that included retired Marine Corps General James Cartwright,
retired Admiral Bill Owens and scholars Gordon Adams and
Anne-Marie Slaughter, said the strategy, dubbed "Strategic
Agility," expanded on the one unveiled by the Pentagon in
"It's more an evolution than any kind of radical change,"
Blechman said in an interview. "It's a shift, a greater shift,
toward an expeditionary model of U.S. military power that moves
away from the kind of static big bases that characterized our
Cold War posture to rotational deployments of forces in and out
of regions to exercise."
The new strategy adopted by the Defense Department in
January called for a shift in strategic focus to the
Asia-Pacific region, with the removal of some military units
from Europe and more rotational deployments by U.S.-based troops
to both Europe and Asia.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been working to implement
the strategy over the past year, traveling to Asia four times
and bolstering military ties with countries from Japan to
Australia and New Zealand.
The strategy comes as the United States is cutting back on
military spending after a decade of wars and rising defense
budgets. Obama and Congress agreed last year to cut projected
defense spending by $487 billion over a decade.
The Pentagon also faces an additional $500 billion in
automatic spending cuts over a decade beginning in January
unless Obama and Congress can agree on an alternative package of
revenue increases and spending cuts. Republicans and Democrats
have both spoken out against the automatic defense cuts, but
have so far failed to reach a compromise to avert them.
The president and Congress are expected to try again to find
a compromise before year's end. But many officials say that even
if automatic cuts are avoided, Pentagon spending will have to be
Blechman said the "Strategic Agility" plan could be
implemented without jeopardizing U.S. strategic interests at
various funding levels, whether the defense budget is increased
over the next decade or cut by $500 billion as required by the
"If defense plays a part in solving the overall fiscal
crisis, it's still possible ... through implementation of this
strategy to defend our real interests in the world," Blechman
The group estimated the Pentagon could achieve up to $500
billion in savings over a decade through better manpower usage,
up to $300 billion through compensation reform and more than
$100 billion using better purchasing practices.