Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of U.S. military strategy as the budget sequester takes effect. The sequester, which trims spending by roughly $500 billion over the next decade, was already existing law under the Budget Control Act of 2011 when the administration adopted the new defense strategy last year. President Barack Obama, however, had pledged that the sequester would not take effect.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, the 2011 Defense Strategic Guidance document was designed to manage $487 billion in cuts already planned for the Pentagon without the sequester. “Defense officials have stated that, were they directed to find an additional $500 billion in cuts, this [strategic] guidance would not apply, and DOD would have to shed ‘missions and commitments and capabilities that we believe are necessary to protect core U.S. national security interests.'”
Hagel’s directive, therefore, is not a new decision but one that had already been made in the event that Congress could not find agreement on alternate budget arrangements to avoid the sequester, which is divided equally between defense and other spending, though the defense budget is far less than half of total federal discretionary spending.
The strategic review will take two months, and its conclusions will feed into the process of preparing the Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014, as well as the 2015 Department of Defense budget, according to the Hill. The 2011 strategy had focused on moving the focus of U.S. military attention from the Middle East to the Western Pacific, where there are new challenges from an ascendant China. It is unclear if that would change.