The FY2015 US Defense Budget, the New Quadrennial Defense Review and the U.S. Commitment to the Middle East and Asia
March 6, 2014
The United States has repeatedly made it clear that both the Middle East and Asia are its too main priorities for both defense strategy and military partnerships. The United States stated this repeatedly in the new Defense Strategic Guidance it issued in January 2012, and has done so every year since that time. There still, however, is doubt and fear in much of the Middle East that the United States may be cutting its forces and commitments to the region, “pivoting” to Asia at the expense of its partners in the Middle East, or making some kind of deal with Iran.
Secretary Hagel’s Speech at Manama on December 7, 2013.
This already has led senior U.S. officials to try to make it clear that this is not the case. Secretary Hagel stated in a speech at the Manama Conference in Bahrain on December 7, 2013 that,
I'm under no illusion, like all of you, about the daily threats facing this region or the current anxieties I know exist here in this region. These anxieties have emerged as the United States pursues diplomatic openings on some of the region's most difficult problems and most complex issues, including Iran's nuclear program and the conflict in Syria. And I want to also acknowledge and thank our partners, our allies, senior leaders in the U.K. here, and from other parts of the world who we are cooperating with in these areas dealing with these big problems.
As the Department of Defense confronts new budget constraints at home, we still have responsibilities abroad, and we take those responsibilities seriously.
Questions have been raised about America's intentions, America's strategy, and America's commitment to this region. The United States has enduring interests in this critical region of the world, and we will remain fully committed to the security of our allies and our partners in the region.
My visit to the Manama Dialogue marks the first time that a United States secretary of defense has appeared at this forum since 2008. Much has changed for the United States and in this region since that dialogue five years ago. The U.S. ended its war in Iraq, and we're now winding down our combat mission in Afghanistan.
The political landscape throughout the region has seen historic changes. Old regimes gave way in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. Across the Middle
East and North Africa, leaders have promised political reform. And the people of this region are demanding it and they deserve it. Every nation in this region
has been affected by these unpredictable cross-currents. And while each nation has experienced them differently, they remain regional challenges.
Many challenges that the region already faced, from violent extremism to failed states to proliferation, have actually intensified, and destabilizing actor, state and non-state actors alike, have adopted more and more advanced weaponry, weaponry from ballistic missiles to cyber capabilities.
As America comes out of its longest war, the U.S. military is building new strategic agility. We're building that new strategic agility in the Middle East and
elsewhere in the world. We know that our influence and our leadership depends not only on our power, but also an appreciation of its limits and on the wise deployment of our influence, as well as working closely with partners in helping them build their capacity and capabilities.
Our experiences over the last decade have challenged us to use all our tools of foreign policy, including diplomatic, economic, trade, development assistance, and military power, use these powers more effectively and more in alignment with our partners and our friends.
Two weeks ago, the president announced an interim deal in the P5-plus-one nuclear negotiations with Iran. It's only a first step, but it could be an important
step. It halts any further expansion of Iran's nuclear program, begins to roll it back in important ways and provides sweeping access to verify unfettered verification of Iran's intentions. Its purpose is to facilitate a longer-term comprehensive solution and to ensure that Iran cannot use this period of negotiations to advance its nuclear program.
We have bought time for meaningful negotiation, not for deception. All of us are clear-eyed -- very clear-eyed -- about the challenges that remain to achieving a comprehensive nuclear solution with Iran. I know that Iran's nuclear program is only one dimension of the threats Iran poses in the region. I'm briefed virtually every day about these threats. That's why we remain committed to ballistic missile defense for our partners here in the region and for Europe.
No strategy is risk-free. Diplomacy takes courage. It takes vision. But our emphasis on diplomatic tools should not be misinterpreted. We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum. Our success will continue to hinge on America's military power, the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East that we will use it. They have bound the United States together with nations of this region for decades through administrations, all administrations, the administrations of both political parties, from Eisenhower to Obama. These commitments are not open for negotiation.
As secretary of defense, it is my responsibility to maintain America's key defense relationships. And it is my responsibility to ensure that the Department of
Defense advances America's core security interests in the region. These security interests include: defending against external aggression; ensuring the free flow of energy and commerce; dismantling terrorist networks that threaten America or its allies; and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Our commitment to these core interests is absolute, and the interim agreement with Iran calls none of them into question. The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a strong military posture in the Gulf region, one that can respond swiftly to crisis, deter aggression, and assure our allies. DOD will not make any adjustments to its forces in the region or to its military planning as a result of the interim agreement with Iran.
As we have withdrawn U.S. forces from Iraq, are drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, and rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific, we have honored our commitment to Gulf security by enhancing our military capabilities in the region.
We have a ground, air and naval presence of more than 35,000 military personnel in and immediately around the Gulf. Two years after our drawdown from Iraq, the U.S. Army continues to maintain more than 10,000 forward-deployed soldiers in the region, along with heavy armor, artillery, and attack helicopters to serve as a theater reserve and a bulwark against aggression.
We've deployed our most advanced fighter aircraft throughout the region, including F-22s, to ensure that we can quickly respond to contingencies. Coupled with our unique munitions, no target is beyond our reach.
We've deployed our most advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to provide a continuous picture of activities in and around the Gulf. And we have fielded an array of missile defense capabilities, including ballistic missile defense ships, Patriot batteries, and sophisticated radar.
As part of our efforts to ensure freedom of navigation throughout the Gulf, we routinely maintain a naval presence of over 40 ships in the broader region, including a carrier strike group, and conduct a range of freedom of navigation operations. These operations include approximately 50 transits of the Strait of Hormuz over the past six months.
Earlier this year, we ramped up our minesweeping capabilities and added five coastal patrol ships to our fleet in this region. We are currently working on a $580 million construction program to support the expansion of Fifth Fleet capabilities.
Yesterday, I visited the Navy's new afloat forward staging base, the USS Ponce, a unique platform for special operations, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in areas where we do not have a permanent fixed presence. I'll also be meeting with U.S. personnel stationed at the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar, where we have representatives from our GCC partners training and working together with us. We also maintain forces and assets at home and around the world ready to deploy to the region on a moment's notice.
The United States military has made this commitment in resources, personnel and capabilities because of our nation's deep and enduring interest in the Middle East. That will not change. Although the Department of Defense is facing serious budget constraints, we will continue to prioritize our commitments in the Gulf, while making sure that our military capabilities evolve to meet new threats. Even with new budgetary constraints, the United States will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global total spending. The U.S. military will remain the most powerful in the world, and we will honor our commitments, and the United States is not retreating, not retreating from any part of the world.
A key vehicle for increasing partner capabilities is foreign military sales and financing. Over the last 20 years, the sale of advanced weapons has helped to shift the military balance in the region away from Iran and in favor of our Gulf partners, and this shift is accelerating. DOD has approved more than $75billion in U.S. arms sales to GCC states since 2007. These sales during the past six years are worth nearly as much as those made previously totally in the previous 15 years.
During my last trip to the region, we finalized agreements with nearly $11 billion that will provide access to high-end capabilities, including F-15s, F-16s, and advanced munitions, such as standoff weapons. These are the most advanced capabilities we have ever provided -- ever provided to this region. We'll continue to ensure that all of our allies and partners in the region, including both Israel and the Gulf states, have these advanced weapons.
Upgrades in military hardware have enabled the United States military to work more closely, more effectively with our partners and allies in a wide variety of joint exercises, training, and collaborative planning. American men and women in uniform, serving alongside the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of our partners in the region, are staring down the same threats, which is why we take these activities very seriously.
This year, our successful training efforts have included: Our Eagle Resolve exercise, which began as a seminar in 1999. This year, hosted by Qatar, it included naval, land and air components. It included12 nations, 2,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and 1,000 of their counterparts. Our Eager Lion exercise in Jordan this year involved 8,000 personnel from 19 nations, including 5,000 Americans from across the services. And here in Bahrain in May, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command hosted the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise, which included 40nations, 6,000 service members, and 35 ships across 8,000 nautical miles, stretching from the Gulf to the Strait of Hormuz.
Because we must keep pace with emerging threats and technologies together in cyberspace. Last year, cyber attacks on Saudi Aramco and RasGas were a serious wake-up call to everyone. As many in this audience are fully aware, Saudi Aramco, which produces 3.5 billion barrels of oil per year, suffered an attack on 30,000 of its computers. Less than two weeks later, RasGas, which distributes about 36 million tons of liquefied natural gas each year, was taken offline for days.
Such an attack could happen to any of the nations represented here today. The United States will continue to help build the capacity of partners and allies to defend their critical infrastructure from cyber attack, especially major energy, infrastructure, and telecommunications facilities.
As we strengthen our bilateral relationships throughout the Gulf, we are also committed to advancing multilateral cooperation between our allies and partners, especially through the Gulf Cooperation Council. Nations are stronger -- not weaker, stronger -- when they work together against common interests. Closer cooperation between the GCC and the United States is in all of our countries' interests. The United States has been a force for advancing Gulf cooperation since the GCC was established more than 30 years ago. This will not only continue, but accelerate in the years ahead.
Our engagement with Gulf nations is intended to support and facilitate, not to replace, strong ties within the GCC. In the council's early days, Sultan Qaboos of Oman welcomed what was hard to imagine just years before. He said, “Gulf nations thinking together, talking together, planning together, and seeing together, instead of individually.”
The United States supports this vision and is committed to supporting the GCC as an anchor for regional stability. The United States will continue to work closely with each of our partners in the GCC, but we must remain together, and we must do more to strengthen multilateral defense cooperation.
In support of that goal today, I'm announcing several new initiatives.
First, in addition to our Gulf-wide joint exercises and training, DOD will work with the GCC on better integration of its members' missile defense capabilities. We applaud the efforts of many Gulf states to acquire new and enhanced missile defense capabilities in the face of growing regional missile threat.
But the United States continues to believe that a multilateral framework is the best way to develop interoperable and integrated regional missile defense. Such defenses are the best way to deter and, if necessary, defeat coercion and aggression.
To encourage this, we propose upgrading our regular air and air defense chiefs conference to include missile defense cooperation as a very distinct agenda item. We believe doing so will allow for continued progress in missile defense and will open the door to broader cooperation and burden-sharing within the GCC.
Second, we would like to expand our security cooperation with partners in the region by working in a coordinated way with the GCC, including through the sales of U.S. defense articles through the GCC as an organization. This is a natural next step in improving U.S.-GCC collaboration, and it will enable the GCC to acquire critical military capabilities, including items for ballistic missile defense, maritime security, and counterterrorism.
And, third, building on both this event and the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, I'm inviting our GCC partners to participate in an annual U.S.-GCC Defense Ministerial. This ministerial will affirm the United States' continued commitment to Gulf security, and it will allow the U.S. and GCC member nations to take the next step in coordinating our defense policies and enhancing our military cooperation. I propose that our inaugural ministerial take place within the next six months. All of these new and ongoing initiatives will help strengthen the GCC and strengthen regional security.
FY2015 Budget Submission
The new U.S. Defense but for FY2015 and the new Quadrennial Defense Review issued on March 4, 2014, strongly reinforced these statements. The FY2015 budget overview issued by the Department of Defense stated that,
The 2014 QDR embodies the 21st century defense priorities outlined in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. These priorities include rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific to preserve peace and stability in the region; maintaining a strong commitment to security and stability in the Middle East; sustaining a global approach to countering violent extremists and terrorist threats, with an emphasis on the Middle East and Africa; continuing to protect and prioritize key investments in technology while our forces overall grow smaller and leaner; and invigorating efforts to build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships. The 2014 QDR builds on these priorities and incorporates them into a broader strategic framework.
It also stated that U.S. force planning and strategy was based upon three pillars, one of which was to,
Build security globally, to preserve regional stability, deter adversaries, support allies and partners, and cooperate with others to address common security challenges. In practice, this means continuing to rebalance our posture and presence to the Asia-Pacific while maintaining a focus on the Middle East.
The FY2015 budget request defined U.S. goals as rebalancing and sustaining its presence and posture in the Pacific and Middle East to better protect U.S. national security interests as,
In striving to achieve our pillars, the Department will also continue to rebalance and sustain our global posture. We will continue our contributions to the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, seeking to preserve peace and stability in a region that is increasingly central to U.S. political, economic, and security interests. Faced with North Korea’s pursuit of long-range missiles, and weapons of mass destruction—particularly nuclear weapons—the United States is committed to maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
As part of our broader efforts for stability in the Asia-Pacific, the United States will maintain a robust footprint in Northeast Asia while enhancing our presence in Oceania and Southeast Asia. The United States also has enduring interests in the Middle East, and we will remain fully committed to the security of our allies and partners in the region. We will continue to maintain a strong military posture in the Gulf region – one that can respond swiftly to crisis, deter aggression, and assure our allies – while making sure that our military capabilities evolve to meet new threats.
Quadrennial Defense Review
The United States went further in its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which was…Read more.
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2014 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved