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 DefenseNews.com, 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.