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Hagel: Combating Terrorism, WMDs to Figure Into Coming Military Strategy

By Elaine M. Grossman

Global Security Newswire

Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defense secretary, addresses security and budget issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Tuesday (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images). Chuck Hagel, the U.S. defense secretary, addresses security and budget issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Tuesday (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday signaled that the U.S. military in coming years likely will act more to discourage the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, but could itself undergo a rebalancing between its conventional and unconventional arsenals.

"The challenge of terrorism has evolved as it has metastasized since 9/11," the Pentagon leader said in a keynote address at a forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Destructive technologies and weapons that were once the province of advanced militaries are being sought by non-state actors and other nations," he continued. "This will require our continued investment in cutting-edge defensive space and cyber technologies, and capabilities like missile defense … as well as offensive technologies and capabilities to deter aggressors and respond if we must."

At the same time, nation-states may continue to be roiled by crisis, Hagel said, some of which may draw a war-weary United States and other world powers back into battle.

"Natural disasters, pandemic diseases, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction all present destabilizing realities to regions and the world," he said. "Regional tensions and conflicts in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and elsewhere continue to have the potential to erupt into larger-scale conflicts drawing in the U.S., China, or Russia."

With his department is in the midst of a major four-year assessment of U.S. military strategy and force structure -- called the Quadrennial Defense Review -- Hagel laid out six focus areas for the Pentagon's planning efforts.

Among them is the mandate to strike a balance of force types -- not only between active and reserve troops, and between forward-deployed and home-stationed personnel, but also between "conventional and unconventional warfighting capabilities," said the onetime Nebraska Republican senator.

Although Hagel did not spell out a nuclear-weapons dimension in this focus area, rebalancing nuclear and nonnuclear U.S. forces may track with President Obama's administration's longstanding goal of reducing the role of atomic arms in U.S. national security strategy.

The president proposed in June to negotiate new strategic nuclear reductions with Russia to a cap of roughly 1,000 warheads on each side -- a one-third reduction beyond New START levels.

Hagel on Tuesday additionally emphasized that U.S. armed forces are just one tool available to the White House and that they must be used only in concert with diplomatic, political and economic levers.

"America’s hard power will always be critical to fashioning enduring solutions to global problems," he said. "But our success ultimately depends not on any one instrument of power. It depends on all of them."

The defense chief also used the CSIS speech to again rail against sequestration budget reductions that cut $37 billion out of the Pentagon budget in fiscal 2013 and threaten to impose another $52 billion gouge in the year ahead. Over a decade, the Defense Department could be forced to absorb $500 billion in new reductions, on top of a self-imposed $487 billion cutback during the same period.

"These cuts are too fast, too much, too abrupt, and too irresponsible," Hagel told the standing-room-only audience. "We are looking at nearly one trillion dollars in DOD cuts over this 10-year period, unless there is a new budget agreement. … DOD cannot responsibly, efficiently, and effectively plan, strategize, and implement national security policies with this cloud of uncertainty continuing to hang over it."

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