U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told top U.S. Army officials to resist "parochialism" as the Pentagon seeks to cut costs and told soldiers to expect a future with a smaller force in which reserve components play a vital and operational role.
Speaking to the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army in Washington on Oct. 12, Panetta spoke directly to soldiers about their role in a future military that many experts say will be dominated by naval and air power.
"The budget and the drawdowns that we are facing obviously are going to impact the size of the military, there is no question about it. … We will need to sacrifice some capabilities and curtail some commitments," Panetta said.
"We absolutely cannot allow budget pressures to force the service into parochialism and program-survival mode. Going forward, it is my expectation that our military leaders will work with me to do what is best for the entire force, not just what is best for their service," Panetta said.
"We have to weather these budget storms as a team, putting the needs of all before the needs of one. … If we don't tackle these challenges together, we will not be able to see our way clear to remaining the best military in the world."
Panetta vowed to fight the severe cuts under discussion on Capitol Hill, specifically the provision passed into law in August that will force large automatic cuts if lawmakers fail to reach a new debt-reduction deal this fall. Panetta called that a "crazy doomsday mechanism" that takes a "goofy meat-ax approach."
Panetta said the Army should expect reserve-component troops to be a vital part of the future force.
"As we draw down from these wars, we need to keep the Guard and the Reserve operational and gaining experience. This is the best investment we've made over the past 10 years," he said. "We need to continue to be able to maintain that as a valuable asset because the reserve force has a special role to play as a force that gives the nation strategic depth in the event of crisis, access to unique civilian skill sets that can be useful in modern conflicts and as the Army's bridge to a broader civilian population."
Panetta offered his vision for the Army's future enemies.
"The reality is there aren't a lot of countries out there building massive tank armies. It is unlikely that we will be 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 of freedom of movement.
"Coming up with new ideas, with new operating principals to defeat these kinds of enemies is a challenge that I pose to this battle-hardened generation of American soldiers," he said.