By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2014 – Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine H. Fox warned today against assuming a permissive environment for U.S. naval air and sea assets, saying threats continue to grow from rival military powers as well as from the proliferation of more advanced anti-ship munitions around the globe.
Speaking at a defense industry conference in San Diego, Fox said only through re-shaping and re-balancing the United States’ defense institutions will the resources be available to buy modern capabilities and invest in the next generation of electronic warfare.
As the DOD completes its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, Fox said it will continue to convey the need for American military power and leadership, but in light of the fiscal realities, the department cannot postpone further difficult decisions about the military’s size and operating costs.
“When all is said and done, an enterprise of the U.S. military’s size, complexity and global reach requires a substantial administrative and support operation,” she said.
Meanwhile, without tough choices based on strategic priorities like the maritime strategy, Fox noted, readiness and modernization will continue to suffer as security threats grow and multiply.
Overall signs point to the military getting smaller over the next five years, which Fox said is not an ideal course of action and not without its risks. “[G]iven current realities, it is the only plausible way to generate the savings necessary to adequately fund training, readiness, modernization, and avoid the prospect of a ‘hollow force’ in the future.”
Even so, Fox said the Defense Department has already committed to focusing 60 percent of the Navy’s fleet on the Pacific Command area of responsibility. “The Marines … began rotational deployments in Australia, the first of its kind since the Korean War … and up to four Littoral Combat Ships will deploy regularly to Singapore.”
In Japan, Fox noted, U.S. force posture will shift by moving several thousand Marines from Okinawa to Guam with plans to relocate the naval-air station at Futenma. “These efforts will all help maintain a well-distributed and politically sustainable force posture throughout the Pacific.”
Of China’s economic dynamism, Fox described the country’s regional and global growth as a “welcome development,” but she also emphasized the importance of carefully managing U.S. ties to strengthen transparency and trust.
“Improving that defense relationship and understanding China’s intentions is so important because of the comprehensive military modernization program being pursued by the People’s Liberation Army,” Fox said. “It is no secret that China is developing its military capabilities designed to thwart the freedom of movement of others in the region and to expand their influence.”
And in an era when China’s defense budget is increasing at around 10 percent annually, the United States – due to a variety of political and fiscal factors – is disproportionately reducing the very investments that are intended to sustain its technological superiority, Fox said.
But despite the ebbs and flows of U.S. relations with any country, she explained, the U.S. must maintain its decisive advantage against other military powers or risk the loss of influence, increase in regional rivalries and security dilemmas and even risk conflict due to miscalculation.
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleAFPS)
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