Thursday, January 5, 2012

In New Strategy, Panetta Plans Even Smaller Army

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has concluded that the Army has to shrink even below current targets, dropping to 490,000 soldiers over the next decade, but that the United States should not cut any of its 11 aircraft carriers, according to Pentagon officials and military analysts briefed on the secretary’s budget proposals.

Mr. Panetta is to disclose the strategy guiding hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon budget cuts during an unusual Defense Department news conference on Thursday, when President Obama is to appear in the Pentagon briefing room and make remarks ahead of those by Mr. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mr. Obama has never before briefed reporters at the Pentagon, and administration officials said they did not know of any president who had.

Mr. Obama’s presence is an election-year effort to place the president squarely behind a new military strategy that will downsize the Pentagon, pivot from expensive ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocus on threats from China while not ignoring the threat of Iran.