Senior Pentagon officials on Saturday will give Defense Secretary Les Aspin their vision of a post-Cold War military: smaller, reshaped to respond to regional conflicts and relying on fewer but more versatile new weapons systems, Defense Department officials said Friday.
The proposed reductions and changes in strategy are included in a comprehensive review meant to lay out a road map for the Pentagon through 1999. That review of military budgets, programs and strategies was conducted over several months to meet President Clinton's commitment to cut $88 billion more from the Defense Department's budget through that year than what President George Bush had planned.Under the plan, the Army would shrink to 10 divisions from 12, as had been planned; the Navy to 10 aircraft carriers from 12, and the Air Force to 20 fighter wings from 26.
Implicit in these force levels is a shift away from the longstanding U.S. strategy to be able to fight two big wars at once.
Instead, if conflicts broke out at the same time in two regions, decisive military force would be used to win one war while air power and a limited number of ground forces would be used to hold the line in the other until reinforcements arrived.
The effects on America's ailing military industry would be mixed. The plan calls for keeping open major shipyards in Connecticut and Virginia but canceling advanced aircraft programs and cutting $20 billion from the anti-missile program.
A high-level panel of uniformed and civilian Pentagon officials, led by Under Secretary John M. Deutch, will present the recommendations. Aspin is expected to recommend a final plan for Clinton's approval in a few weeks.
The results of the budget and program review, the second time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has revamped its military, will form the basis for a long-range policy blueprint that the armed services will use this summer when drafting proposed budgets for the next five years.
Together with the cuts begun by Bush, the changes will be the largest reduction in the size of the armed forces since the end of World War II.