Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff declared, “When you have unlimited resources, you can get involved in anything, you can buy anything you need. Now we’re in a different place.” He noted that the Defense department was already braced for $487 billion in cuts over the next decade, with another $500 billion possible is the sequester is not averted.
As such, Joint Chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey and his team are carefully assessing potential threats to national security and ranking them from “most vital to important” according to metrics laid out in the Chairman’s Risk Assessment. Through this process, Winnefeld sees “national security interests as a sharper decision-driver than just ways and means that are currently in the strategy.”
Winnefeld reports that President Obama’s strategic guidance to the military was to “put more emphasis on the Pacific” and “less emphasis on long-term stability operations” such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Or, more colorfully, “to give me fewer Iraqi Freedoms and more Desert Storms.”
Of course, that’s ultimately the call of civilian policy-makers, not those in uniform. After all, the Pentagon didn’t spend the decade after the Cold War planning on long-term stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but for two “nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts” modeled after Desert Storm and an intervention in a second Korean conflict.
What caught my attention was, that Admiral Winnefeld didn’t hesitate to label Iran as the most dangerous threat to American interests. Yet, when given two chances to discuss the Obama administration’s position on China – one question from a Chinese questioner – Winnefeld offered boilerplate. And, that includes a comment on Liaoning and its successful sea tests. I must be missing some inside-the-Beltway code or something.