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Oct 05

The new US defense secretary weighs in:

Panetta: US military can’t make up NATO shortfalls

Facing deep budget cuts, the U.S. will no longer be able to make up for the significant shortfalls that have plagued NATO’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Wednesday, exhorting allies to work together or risk losing the ability to take on such missions.

In a carefully calibrated speech just before the opening of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting, Panetta praised the broad effort that has come together in Libya. But he said the allies must better share the security burden in order to survive global financial pressures that are slicing into defense spending.

Just three months into the job, Panetta stopped short of the blistering critique delivered by his predecessor, Robert Gates, in June, when Gates questioned the alliance’s viability and bluntly warned that it faces a “dim, if not dismal, future [more here].”

But Panetta echoed many of the same frustrations…

With the Pentagon facing $450 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years [and maybe a lot more, see also here], allies can’t assume that the U.S. will be able to continue covering NATO’s shortcomings, Panetta said. And with other countries facing similar pressures, he said the nations must coordinate cuts and pool their capabilities in order to continue.

“We cannot afford for countries to make decisions about force structure and force reductions in a vacuum, leaving neighbors and allies in the dark,” Panetta said.

…with ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in hiding and the opposition forces banging at the door of one of his strongholds, NATO can finally point to fragile progress in the 6-month-old mission.

France and Britain have now flown a third of the overall sorties and attacked 40 percent of the targets, Panetta said. Smaller nations, such as Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Romania and Bulgaria [emphasis added], have contributed airstrikes and ships for the arms embargo.

…NATO must address some of the problems that have dogged the Libya and Afghanistan military campaigns.

In Libya, he said, there has been a big shortage of intelligence and surveillance capabilities, including drones and experts who can interpret data and translate it into targeting lists.

The U.S. has had to shift drones from other critical regions in order to meet the needs of the Libya mission.

In addition, Panetta pointed to shortages of ammunition and supplies as well as refueling tankers — all gaps the U.S. had to fill…

Related:

The US, the UK and NATO: Not Much There There

More on the US defence budget from Defense Industry Daily’sRapid Fire“:


The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) published a report [PDF] that is bound to make the rounds. It starts from the premise that budget constraints are going to drive America’s defense strategy, and not the other way around. While the authors think the country should continue to pursue its post-WWII “global engagement” strategy, they believe the means to that end will have to change. They prioritize the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, while engagement in Europe, Africa and Latin America should be more limited. This translates into emphasizing naval and air forces over ground troops. The 4 budget scenarios in this report all would consider canceling or delaying major Army/Marines programs (GCV, JLTV, JTRS) and they would reinvest into older platforms (DDG-51, F/A-18 E/Fs, F-16s) over new ones (LCS, F-35) [emphasis added]. New investments would be channeled towards unmanned aerial, ground and submersible vehicles…

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

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