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Defense secretary says force to get smaller, more mobile
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta greets base commanders as he arrives on Fort Bliss to visit troops and local dignitaries during a two-day stop near El Paso, Texas, Thursday. - photo by DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT - To accomplish the new mission sets for the 21st century, the United States needs a smaller, quicker, more agile military, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.

That is the basis behind the recently released strategy review that will set the stage for the fiscal 2013 Defense Department budget request.

"Our budget is, basically, designed to reinforce the new missions we are talking about and that agile, deployable and ready force that has to move quickly," Panetta said during an interview on his way to Fort Bliss, Texas.

Force structure will come down in the years to come, the secretary said, but the military will continue to be able to engage in the full range of conflicts even with spending $487 billion less over the next 10 years. The Army will get smaller, but the reduction will be slow and balanced as recommended by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Panetta said.

The way the force will be used will change under the strategy, the secretary said. While there will remain forces in Asia and the Middle East - two areas of particular focus for the United States - other areas will not be uncovered. Rotational forces - the way Army Special Forces currently deploy - will expand to conventional forces. The rotational deployments mean the military "will be in a position to cover not only the area that will be a primary focus ... but we will be able to cover the world," he said.

The new air-sea battle doctrine will allow the military to handle more than one conflict at a time. "The example I've used is if we are in a land war in Korea and Iran does something in the Strait of Hormuz - to go after that and to deal with that threat is largely going to be the responsibility of the Air Force and Navy," Panetta said. "Same if we are in Afghanistan and something breaks out in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, ... confronting that would largely be a naval and air capability."

The secretary is adamant that the budget will not be reduced on the backs of service members. He specified there will be no changes to military retirement for those serving today.

"We are going to design the requirements for any commission that looks at retirement," he said. "One of the requirements is that those already serving are fully grandfathered."

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