Thursday, October 13, 2011

With new threats, US Army must reinvent itself: Panetta

The US Army won't be fighting conventional wars against columns of tanks in the future and will have to prepare for new threats from cheaper high-tech weaponry, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.

With budget pressures bearing down on the Pentagon, Panetta challenged the "battle-hardened" generation of army officers who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade to come up with new ideas on how to counter a wide range of potential adversaries, including militant groups.

Referring to the first Gulf war in 1991, Panetta said "the reality is there aren't a lot of countries out there building massive tank armies -- it is unlikely that we will be re-fighting Desert Storm in the future.

"Instead, I see both state and non-state actors arming with high-tech weaponry that is easier both to buy and operate, weapons that frustrate our traditional advantage and freedom of movement," he told an audience of mainly retired officers at the Association of the US Army.

Panetta described what US military planners and analysts call a new "hybrid threat" that combines conventional and irregular warfare, with the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon often cited as the most vivid example.