Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the new strategic guidance for the Defense Department, begins with a letter dated January 3, 2012, by President Obama. In this letter, the president states, “Our nation is at a moment of transition…. As commander in chief, I am determined that we meet the challenges of this moment responsibly and that we emerge even stronger in a manner that preserves American global leadership…. Indeed, as we end today’s wars, we will focus on a broader range of challenges and opportunities, including the security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific.” The new strategy was released by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on January 5, 2012, with emphasis that the United States will maintain a balance between readiness and the need to address budget issues and debt reduction.
The new strategy leads to a strategic inflection point after more than a decade of war. This strategic view suggests that the United States will shape a new force structure that will be fundamentally joint, that will be smaller and leaner, and that will leverage technology to be agile and flexible. The United States clearly intends to maintain a full-spectrum capability.
As NATO forces, including the United States, withdraw from Afghanistan over the next couple of years, the new strategy calls for a U.S. strategic “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” This concept involves a strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining U.S. relationships in the Middle East and Europe. Officials believe that this can be accomplished by applying some of the resources that have been dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years.