Pentagon official: U.S. budget will not allow an Asia pivot

In late 2011, while ending the direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq and planning to wind down the long U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, Barack Obama announced a strategic rebalancing of U.S. priorities toward Asia and the Pacific.

That “Asia pivot” is now in question.

First came news that the Obama administration plans to reduce the U.S. military to pre-WWII level.

Then, on March 4, 2014, a senior Pentagon official that, due to cuts to the defense budget, the Pentagon’s plans to pivot to Asia “can’t happen.”

Zachary Fryer-Biggs reports for, that Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, said the Pentagon is now reconsidering the strategy in light of the budget pressures it faces.

“Right now, the pivot is being looked at again, because candidly it can’t happen,” McFarland told Aviation Week’s Defense Technologies and Requirements conference in Arlington, Va.

The pivot, part of a larger plan to focus deployments and military ties to the Asia-Pacific region to combat the rising threat of China, has been a central tenet of Pentagon strategy as the agency looks to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

Officials have previously insisted that the pivot, or “rebalance,” would proceed regardless of funding levels due to strategic needs.

After this article was posted online, McFarland clarified her statement through a DoD spokeswoman that the pivot will still continue.

“This a.m. when I spoke at a conference, I was asked a question about the budget, that will be officially released today, and how it relates to our pivot to Asia. I was reiterating what [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel said last week: That the shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific requires us to ‘adapt, innovate, and make difficult (budgetary and acquisition) decisions to ensure that our military remains ready and capable.’ That’s exactly what we’ve done in this budget. The rebalance to Asia can and will continue.”

Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners who was in the audience during McFarland’s remarks, said, “She kind of said the obvious. It’s an observation on a reality. Europe was an afterthought, now it’s on the front burner. The reality can change until this whole thing gets settled.”

National security leaders have voiced concerns over the cost of the pivot. According to a Jan. 5 Defense News Leadership Poll, underwritten by United Technologies, 62% of respondents said “no” when asked if the rebalance was affordable.



5 responses to “Pentagon official: U.S. budget will not allow an Asia pivot

  1. A. James Gregor, Ph.D. & Professor

    The United States finds itself in the unhappy position of not being able to sustain the power projection capabilities necessary to contain a growing power that is animated by an intrinsically expansive agenda. The PRC has made no secret of its territorial preoccupations. For its own security and to address its historic grievances, Beijing plans expansion into the West Pacific, through the island barrier of Taiwan–and the island chain including the Senkaku islands–until its power extends to Guam. That would not only provide security in depth for continental China, but would salve historic grievances. To contain such an ambitious power, Washington should enhance its defensive and strategic attack capabilities–a very expensive prospect. Instead Washington has committed itself to dubious, generational social programs that will consume resources with only marginal possibilities of positive outcome. There are clearly hard choices to be made.


  2. “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” –April Glaspie. (Déjà vu, methinks… stuff’s about to get real over there shortly, bet on it.)


  3. Thank you StMA for this important post. As Dr. Gregor set forth, Washington is incompetent, ignoring China’s clear and in-your-face strategy building up their presence, with withdrawn U.S. military presence. This is absolutely idiotic given China’s actions.


  4. Mongan Methul

    The US has two options…..premeptive strike or we accept China’s rise and work together( Rome had two emperors) ..divide the world in two, China bloc and US bloc


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