President Obama will pay an unusual visit to the Pentagon on Thursday for the public rollout of the military's new strategy for countering emerging threats in an era of shrinking resources, according to senior military and administration officials.
Obama will speak to reporters at the start of a press conference with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president and his top military advisers will use the session to outline the results of a broad reevaluation of the security challenges facing the United States in the aftermath of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thursday's visit and comments to the media underscores the growing political fight over the administration's plan to trim the Pentagon's budget by roughly $450 billion over the next decade. The White House argues -- and Obama is virtually certain to reiterate on Thursday -- that the cuts can be made without damaging U.S. national security and stem from a careful review of the likeliest threats to the nation. Republicans, by contrast, have lambasted the planned cuts for months, arguing that the move was driven by election-year politics and the administration's preference for cutting military spending rather that entitlements and other domestic programs.
Obama has visited the Pentagon before, including trips last fall to honor those killed in the Sept 11. terrorist attacks and in June for the retirement ceremony of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But he rarely addresses reporters while there. Obama is not likely to take questions, but will instead make opening remarks and then turn the podium over to Panetta and Dempsey for a broader discussion of the new strategic guidance.
A senior U.S. official said Obama was "going to the Pentagon because he's personally led the development of the new defense strategy" in consultation with Panetta, Dempsey, and other members of the Defense Department's military and civilian leadership.
The document, a blueprint of sorts for the military in the years ahead, is expected to call for closer cooperation between the various branches of the armed forces as a way of effectively countering Iran or China despite the overall cuts to the Pentagon budget.
It will also call for devoting more attention and resources to Asia and the Pacific, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down, and argue that the size of the Army and Marine Corps can be cut by tens of thousands of troops because future conflicts are likely to be shaped by air power and naval strength, rather than ground forces.